James Van Doren spent eleven years working as a corporate attorney and then as an investment banker in New York. That career ended abruptly in 2013, when James was named as a co-conspirator in an Arkansas bankruptcy fraud indictment of a former real estate developer that James had known since childhood.
James had invested with his former friend and was one of many creditors in the bankruptcy filing, but prosecutors alleged that James had conspired to help the lead defendant hide money from his other creditors. Prosecutors had never spoken to James and were unaware that he had disclosed the money he received from the lead defendant prior to the bankruptcy filing.
James believed he was indicated by mistake and had the support of a leading Federal Bankruptcy Trustee in Arkansas who filed an affidavit in support of his innocence. Yet, like many lesser defendants in white collar cases, James was persuaded to “mitigate” his damages and enter a guilty plea in exchange for a promise of no prison.
Unable to live with this decision, James hired new counsel and moved to withdraw his plea by arguing it lacked factual basis. Such motions are rarely granted and the Court held that James’ plea invalidated evidence of his innocence. His conviction was upheld and he spent 11 months in a federal prison camp as a result of his failed effort to withdraw his plea
Though an attorney himself, James found he knew little about the mechanics of white collar conspiracy prosecutions or the dilemmas facing “lesser defendants.” His tale illustrates how professionals can fail to see how their actions can be characterized as criminal and the collateral consequences that can result. James seeks to help others understand the risks that professionals face not just from their actions at work but also from their friendships and investments. James speaks about:
- Conspiracy Law and “Lesser” White Collar Defendants
- The Perils of Plea Bargains
- Collateral Consequences for White Collar Prosecutions
- Guilt Through Association: the dangers of doing business with the wrong person and how to avoid it
James received his M.S. from the London School of Economics and his J.D. from the University of Virginia.