I have a client in the county jail charged with involvement in a series of armed robberies last year. His case(s) is/are not real good. I don't see anything but some prison time in this young man's future.
On Tuesday his mother called me. Her and I have had a lot of very long discussions. She trusts me. I was told her son (my client) got a letter in jail from Northwestern. The letter explained his file had been reviewed and numerous discrepancies were found. The letter went on to read that this organization is not for profit and has an outstanding success rate.
All sorts of red flags immediately went off. I know of the Center for Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern Law School. But as the name suggests, they only handle post-conviction matters. And most of those are murder cases.
How did this organization get access to his files? Why would they send a letter to someone represented by counsel? My gut reaction was to immediately call bullsh*t. And I did, but tactfully. I told the mother to tell her son to bring the letter to court this morning and I would read it.
As I suspected, the letter was not from Northwestern Law School or any organization associated with it. It was from some place called Northwestern Law Research Center. The letter was poorly written grammatically. I could tell no lawyer wrote it.
The address on the letter was no where near any law school or university. But it read as I was told. Discrepancies were found. Not for profit. Successful. Blah. Blah. Blah. I told me client I was going to go see if anyone had heard of this outfit.
It was the judge's birthday. All of the courtroom personnel were in chambers eating cupcakes and doughnuts. It was a festive mood. The judge said good morning to me and remarked about my tan.
"I don't mean to interrupt, but since everyone is here, has anyone heard of....?"
Both PD's chimed in at once. It's a scam I was told. They are out for social security numbers. Identity thieves. Really.
I turned to one of the prosecutors, "why aren't you guys all over this?" I asked, waving the letter at him. As it turns out, our Attorney General has been advised.
I felt bad for my client. He has been told for months about how bad his case is. All of a sudden he gets an official looking letter claiming his case is better than I have been telling him. He thinks an army of free lawyers are going to ride in and swing the jail door wide open.
Then I hand him back the letter explaining it's a scam and that he's still going to prison.