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Bell Nunnally’s Jeff Ansley Examines Impact of Pre-trial Asset Freezes on the Defense for The Texas Lawbook

Bell Nunnally Partner Jeffrey J. Ansley recently authored The Texas Lawbook article “The Ends Do Not Justify the Means: Pre-trial Asset Freezes Increasingly Paralyze the Defense.” In the piece, Ansley dissects the impact of the federal government’s growing practice of “freezing” the assets of defendants after indictment or regulatory charges based on allegations of fraud. The article asks readers to imagine themselves facing this scenario and notes that such asset freezes make mounting a defense extraordinarily difficult for those lacking substantial means, unlike recently-cleared Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.

In criminal cases, Ansley observes that the approval of asset freezes by federal grand juries is generally a mere formality that can have a profoundly negative impact on defendants whom, constitutionally, are presumed innocent but frequently have been stripped of their financial resources. In regulatory cases, Ansley observes, the SEC is increasingly following a similar, even more streamlined practice. In addition, the piece notes that the U.S. Supreme Court recently held in Kaley v. United States that defendants whose assets have been frozen, on only the suspicion of illegal activity, have no constitutional right to a pretrial evidentiary hearing to contest that forfeiture in order to mount a defense against pending but unproven charges. The article concludes by commenting that pretrial asset freezes ultimately mean that defendants are often “denied the basic opportunity to defend themselves before the firing of the first shot at trial.”

To read the full article, please click here.

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