With the recent announcement that sealed Federal Indictments are now in place and will possibly result in one or more persons being formally charged during this upcoming week, I thought I would make the reminder that an indictment does not mean anybody is guilty of anything.
It is extremely unusual for a Prosecutor to NOT have a Federal Grand Jury indict the target. In fact, if the Grand Jury does NOT indict, the prosecutor(s) would likely ask the Grand Jury what additional evidence they would require to be ABLE to return an indictment and then go make additional efforts to collect that evidence and return and again ask the Grand Jury to indict the target at that time.
IMHO the only reason a Federal Grand Jury would not indict the target is if (for whatever strange reason) the prosecutor actually does NOT want the Grand Jury to indict. Normally in such a situation, the Prosecutor would simply not bring the case in front of the Grand Jury. So basically this would boil down to pressure being exerted upon the Prosecutor’s office to bring the case in front of a Grand Jury but at the same time the Prosecutor does not actually want an indictment. Needless to say, this would be very strange and in reality happens very very infrequently.
Another point worth remembering (which is not often times not stated) is the target of the Federal Grand Jury is not ALLOWED to present a defense. In fact there is zero defense of any kind. The target is typically not allowed to testify and may not even be aware they are under investigation for possible indictment. (Although often times due to evidence being collected and investigations being performed - the target knows pretty well what is going on but still is not allowed any opportunity to present a defense in front of the Grand Jury.) Another aspect of the Grand Jury is how the Jury members themselves are instructed to come to a decision. It neither requires a super majority of the Grand Jury nor does it require overwhelming proof to any individual member. A “true bill” (ie - indictment) is returned by the Grand Jury if more members of the voting Grand Jury vote to indict as compared to those who vote not to indict (ie - 51% required). As well, each Grand Jury member is informed that they are REQUIRED to vote for indictment if they personally decide that it is “more probable than not” that the target committed the crimes as described (ie - 51% individual decision making process).
This is quite different from an actual criminal trial where each jury member must decide that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In addition, for Federal criminal trials, it is required for all members of the jury to unanimously reach this conclusion and vote as such.
In summary, there are multiple and very real differences between a Federal Indictment and a Federal criminal conviction.
It is possible the Monday morning talk shows may not cover all of this.