Criminal Justice

Plea Bargains Displace Trials, and Justice, in Federal Courts

Many figure that undeserved jail time is better than a draconian sentence if convicted


In mid June, under a deal with federal prosecutors, Kenneth Kassab was on the verge of pleading guilty to illegally transporting thousands of pounds of explosives when he changed his mind. A week later, he was acquitted by a federal jury.

Though Mr. Kassab maintained his innocence, he said in an interview that he had been prepared to plead guilty to avoid the risk of possibly decades in prison. His choice to face a jury came at the last minute, prompted by a judge's procedural misstep and what the 53-year-old laborer described as a decision not to tell a lie before God.