A process tutorial on criminal complaints vs. indictments

From the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Public Affairs:

A surprisingly large number of print and broadcast reports continue to state that the public officials and private individuals charged on July 23 were INDICTED. That’s wrong. They were charged in Criminal Complaints, and although it may seem like a minor thing, there is a significant legal and process difference.

(The criminal Complaints and press release have been available online since July 23: http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/nj/press/2009releases.html )

The next step is to present the cases to a grand jury for indictment. Under the law, we have 30 days from the filing of a criminal complaint to do that. Routinely, however, continuance orders are entered by agreement of the parties. A continuance order usually gives the government another 30 days to indict the case. Those orders can be extended by agreement.

The only next court appearance for any of the defendants — barring a violation of terms of bail and release — would come upon indictment. It is only then that a defendant is arraigned on that indictment before the U.S. District Judge to whom the case will proceed. At that time, a defendant enters his/her formal not guilty plea, a trial date is set (often tentative), and discovery orders (a calendar for the required timely sharing of evidence) are entered.

So, for the time being, we do not anticipate any further announcements. In the event there is a development, I will if appropriate issue an advisory in advance.(Editor’s note: Anyone charged may plead guilty at any time, before or after indictment. That means a court appearance may come up unexpectedly.) We also cannot comment on when we intend to seek an indictment.

Finally, several broadcast and Internet reports have said that 44 public officials were charged/indicted. Obviously, that’s incorrect too since about 15 of them on the money laundering side of the investigation were not public officials.

A process tutorial on criminal complaints vs. indictments