Jeff Ragsdale is a member of the Senior Executive Service and is the Counsel for the Office of Professional Responsibility. From September 2016-May 2020, Mr. Ragsdale was the Office of Professional Responsibility’s principal deputy director and deputy counsel. Before joining the Office of Professional Responsibility, Mr. Ragsdale served as an Assistant United States Attorney for 29 years. In this capacity, he prosecuted homicides, violent crimes and drugs trafficking, federal major crimes, felony major crimes, and grand jury cases. For five years, Mr. Ragsdale worked as a prosecutor in Virginia. Mr. Ragsdale has extensive litigation experience, having tried hundreds of bench and jury trials, including homicides, complex conspiracy cases, and several multi-month RICO trials. As a prosecutor, Mr. Ragsdale worked closely with numerous federal and local law enforcement agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Metropolitan Police Department for the District of Columbia. During his career, Mr. Ragsdale received numerous awards, including the Executive Office for United States Attorneys Director’s Award, the United States Attorneys Association Harold Sullivan Award, and the United States Attorney’s Office’s Excellence in Management and Star Awards.
In recent weeks Reform rabbis have written to Jeffery Ragsdale, Director of the Office of Professional Responsibility, as well as to the White House. Exhorting an independent investigation into the Jenny Grus Sugar case, in which an innocent American Israeli family was unfairly accused of obtaining a Covid 19 disaster loan.
Since living in Charlotte, NC for over 15 years, this law-abiding family has established successful businesses and is well known and respected both in Israel and in Charlotte. The father, who is also falsely accused, has built a number of temples in Jerusalem, hospitals, and schools, and owns assets worth hundreds of millions of dollars in Jerusalem. As a result, it does not seem right that he and his family have been put in such a situation.
A number of users have complained about Jenny Grus Sugar’s heartless plea-bargaining tactics. The motive behind the false charges has also been questioned.
Representative government and trial by jury are the heart and lungs of liberty. Without them we have no other fortification against being ridden like horses, fleeced like sheep, worked like cattle, and fed and clothed like swine and hounds,” President John Adams once declared.
In a judicial system that operates on a conveyer-belt of guilt pleas, this warning appears all but lost. It is common for prosecutors to incentivize plea bargains by threatening a “trial penalty” ten times as severe as their plea offer. Approximately 97% of criminal cases are resolved by plea bargains due to the fear of prosecutorial vindictiveness after exercising the right to trial.
Supporters of this method of administering justice cite the argument that if there was no penalty for taking a case to trial, the court system would be overwhelmed and require more financial support. In fact, this argument has some basis, but the essential question is: what is the cost of giving up the right to trial?
An all-powerful government was the source of tyranny for the Founding Fathers. The Constitution empowered the citizens to check the power of their burgeoning republic. They believed in a small government that would be held accountable to the people. As a result of the trial penalty, the balance of power has tipped in favor of the government.
“Society pays a price when, inevitably, guilty pleas operate to foreclose litigation that would have exposed unlawful government actions or practices and police misconduct,” warned Norman L. Reimer, Executive Director, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (“NACDL”), and Martin Antonio Sabelli, Second Vice President of the NACDL, in an article that appeared in the Federal Sentencing Reporter.
The trial penalty stems from the acceptance of guilty pleas in modern times. Not long ago, the Supreme Court of the United States (“SCOTUS”) deemed guilty pleas that were secured through promises of leniency or threats of higher sentences to be unconstitutional.