In the town of Johnstown, Colorado, Clair Hull was a much-loved and respected member of the community. Mr. Hull was known across town for organizing the town barbeque festival, and for his service as a bishop at the local Mormon church. Mr. Hull was elected as a Johnstown councilman in 2006, and his achievements during his years there earned him a plaque on the city’s new town hall building.
That’s why it came as a particularly nasty shock to the residents of Johnstown when they learned Clair Hull had been arrested and charged with 28 white collar felony counts—including forgery, fraud, and theft. According to reports, Hull had been writing and cashing fake checks and false invoices through his business, Pioneer Specialty Foods, and a “shell company” in California. Hull’s crimes reportedly resulted in over $549,000 in losses.
“I’ve always known Clair to be a very respected and respectable man. I feel sorry for him,” Hull’s former fellow councilman, Troy Mellon, said to reporters from 7News Denver. “I hope it’s not true. The courts will decide.”
Charged with some of the most serious offenses in our criminal justice system, it should be no surprise that Clair Hull also faces some of the most severe punishments. White collar crimes are typically tried in federal court, and common penalties include lengthy prison sentences, hefty fines, home arrest, and forfeiture of money or property.
But what exactly constitutes a white collar crime? White collar crime is an umbrella term that includes a variety of financial and business-related criminal actions. This type of crime is often committed in order to obtain financial gain for oneself or a business. Some of the most common examples of white collar crimes include:
Regardless of who you are or what type of white collar crime you are accused of, you need a strategic defense. There are several commonly used and effective defense strategies for white collar crimes, including:
Lack of intent. To be convicted of a white collar offense, the prosecution must prove that you had both the intention of committing the crime and the intention to achieve the end result. If you did not commit the act voluntarily or didn’t intend the consequence achieved, you may be able to claim the valid defense of lack of intent.
Entrapment. Entrapment is one of the most common defenses to white collar crime charges. Entrapment occurs when a government official presents the opportunity for you to commit a crime that you would not commit on your own accord. You may be able to raise a successful entrapment defense if you can prove that the government enticed you to commit a crime that you had no predisposition to commit.
Duress. Duress is a legitimate defense for white collar crimes (as well as many other types of crimes) if certain requirements are met. To prove duress, you must show that you were threatened by immediate and inescapable harm or death if you did not commit the crime. In addition, the threatened harm must be greater than the harm caused by the crime. If the crime you have been accused of violates federal laws, the courts may refer to federal sentencing guidelines in order to determine penalties. In this case, you may be able to negotiate with a judge for a lighter sentence based on the type of crime you are accused of and your previous criminal record.
While there are a variety of legitimate defenses available, it is imperative that you do not try to act on your own if you are facing white collar crime charges. By attempting to defend yourself, you may inadvertently end up incriminating yourself even further.
Consult with an aggressive white collar defense lawyer, who will be able to investigate your case and determine the most effective defense strategies for your situation. With the help of an attorney, you may be able to have your case dropped before it goes to court or even before charges are filed, sparing you embarrassment and harm to your reputation. But if it does become necessary to go to court, you need an attorney who can fight fiercely to protect your reputation, finances, and freedom.