We're talking about Bill Lerach, the retiring class-action attorney who could be on his way to jail over allegations of secret kickbacks involving the firm. This really goes back to May 2006, when a federal grand jury indicted Lerach's former firm, Milberg Weiss, and two of its partners, David J. Bershad and Steven G. Schulman. Lerach wasn't named in the indictment, but he clearly showed up under the alias "partner B." For much of the summer, Lerach has been negotiating with federal prosecutors in L.A. on what's known as a binding plea agreement, but those talks have bogged down, according to Gabe Friedman in today's Daily Journal, citing attorneys involved in the case. Under most plea agreements, prosecutors recommend a sentence to the judge, who decides on the penalty. But under binding agreements, a judge must either accept or reject the agreed-on sentence that defense lawyers hash out with prosecutors. If federal Judge John F. Walter rejects the sentence, Lerach could withdraw his guilty plea and fight the charges. You see the problem: a binding plea deal pretty much ties the judges' hands because he can only say yes or no. More from the Daily Journal (no link):
Several defense attorneys said they did not know which charges Lerach would plead to or other details of the proposed plea deal, except that it likely includes a monetary penalty and prison time. A few lawyers familiar with the situation said Lerach told close friends that he does not believe he's done anything wrong. Nevertheless, they said, he's resigned himself to serving a year or more in prison and has directed his attorneys to negotiate such terms with prosecutors.
Here's some background from the Washington Post.