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Point the Finger, Cast the Blame: A Novel Pre-Sentencing Strategy In The International Baby Selling Case

Theresa Erickson, the San Diego attorney who pled guilty to charges related to an alleged baby-selling ring, is set to be sentenced later today.  Despite her guilty plea, it appears that Erickson and her lawyers have adopted a scorch the earth strategy, blaming everyone but herself in advance of her sentence.  Distancing herself from her plea agreement where she had to demonstrate remorse and early acceptance of responsibility is truly a bizarre tactic given that she is about to appear before a judge that has previously expressed his disgust at what transpired. From the Los Angeles Times:

It seemed as if the case had been concluded without undue rancor: In exchange for a guilty plea, prosecutors would recommend home detention instead of prison, although that decision is left to the judge. But as sentencing has approached, Erickson’s attorney has launched an attack on the U.S. attorney, the federal probation office, and the local media, starting with the prosecutors’ characterization of the case as “baby-selling” rather than wire fraud.

The result of the prosecutor’s actions, attorney Ezekiel Cortez said in a document filed with the federal court, has been to produce a “mob mentality” that could lead U.S. District Judge Anthony Battaglia to sentence his client more harshly than was imagined when Erickson signed her plea agreement. Based on interviews with prosecutors, the local media produced “an onslaught of negative and misinformed media coverage” that puts Erickson at “an unfair disadvantage” at sentencing, according to the same document.

Cortez declined to comment, which an aide said is consistent with his policy of never talking to reporters. The federal prosecutors also declined. But in pre-sentencing documents, prosecutors said Erickson has shown no remorse, tried to shift blame to her co-defendants, and continued to insist that she was only trying to help desperate couples start families….

Within hours of signing a plea agreement on Aug. 9, Erickson posted a “defiant statement on Facebook that contradicted her guilty plea made under oath,” prosecutors said. “I have never taken advantage of parents, children, donors or surrogates who otherwise would remain vulnerable to the underbelly of this industry,” the statement read. “I live my life by doing the right things for the right reasons and sometimes you just have to do what is right.”

Prosecutors have not sought to nullify any of the adoptions nor to charge surrogates with knowingly participating in the scheme.

Its hard to see how this “strategy” could result in anything other than an extended sentence and we will, of course, be following this story as it develops throughout the day. More background information on Ms. Erickson’s various endeavors can be found here and here.


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