Essay Writing Samples

Essay on White Collar Crime

Within criminology, there are many definitions and labels applied to various crimes. Crime itself is a term that encompasses a broad range of actions ranging from arson to murder. This sample criminology essay explores the case of United States v. Metter, a famous case involving white collar crime in the country.

There are many types of crime that exist in the world today. Everything from arson to blue collar crimes to murder falls within the field of criminology. Crimes of this nature tend to have many superfluous and clear-cut dynamics that allow the federal government to properly render decisions. One type of crime that has often prompted much debate and discussion is white collar crime.

Defining white collar crime

Within the field of criminology, white collar crime was initially defined by sociologist Edwin Sutherland in 1939 as a crime committed by a person of propriety and high public status in the course of his profession. Sutherland’s study of white collar crime was prompted by the view that criminology had mistakenly focused on socioeconomic determinants of misdeeds, such as the history of one’s family and echelon of wealth. His description is somewhat obsolete for students of the criminal law arena at the present time.

As white collar crime began to capture the awareness of prosecutors and the public eye in the middle of the 1970s, the expression came to have many diverse definitions than what Sutherland has originally purported. Studies have shown that crimes we usually deem white collar are committed by persons of an elevated social class, thus although the term white collar crime is a misnomer, it continues in prevalent convention (Strader, 2002). Despite the different definitions that have risen over the last few decades, our perception of white collar crime still falls within the realm of financial matters, the majority of the time.

United States v. Metter

The case, United States v. Metter, is a perfect example of a white collar crime. The facts of the case were as follows: allegedly the defendant Michael Metter, who was the president and chief executive officer of Spongetech Delivery Systems, participated in a deceptive scheme relating to common stock transactions.

“In May and November 2010, the government secured warrants to seize computers from Spongetech’s offices and Metter’s house and data from Metter’s personal email account. All told, law enforcement recovered the contents of sixty-one Spongtech hard drives, including Spongetech’s email server, the contents of four of Metter’s personal hard drives, and a snapshot of activity on Metter’s email account” (“United States v. Metter,” 2012).

In doing so, the grand jury was able to render an indictment against Metter and six codefendants’ for fraudulent activity.

Email account and evidence suppression in Metter’s white collar case

The email account, collectively known as seized materials, did not go through a forensic review by the government as the other collected items did. Metter filed a motion in May of 2011 to suppress these seized materials and argued the protections guaranteed in the Bill of Rights were not heeded.

“Metter argued that the government’s delay in conducting a forensic review constituted an unreasonable execution of the warrants that authorized seizure of that evidence, in contravention of the Fourth Amendment. The government argued that the delay was not unreasonable. The district court sided with Metter, thus causing the government to file an appeal” (“United States v. Metter,” 2012).

So can it be said that Metter was correct in his appeal? Did the government truly drop the ball? The answer to both questions poses an ethical argument specifically because of the fact that white collar crimes are often difficult to detect in general and there has to be more the circumstantial evidence for a conviction.

Metter’s crimes and the impact on the judicial system

White collar crime has for some time caused much of a firestorm within the legal arena.

“White collar crime remains very difficult to detect. Unlike street and common property crimes, white collar crimes are usually committed in the privacy of an office or home; usually, there is no eyewitness, and only on occasion is there a smoking gun. The government’s ability to identify white collar crimes is sometimes hampered by a lack of resources and expertise” (Strader, 2002).

Since he was being charged in a criminal court, and criminal law requires stricter evidence than civil court, Metter’s reasoning for filing a motion with the district court was about the lack of thoroughness of the government. It can be reasoned that Metter did not want the government to seize the materials.

“The government, he argues, represented several times in the proceedings before the district court that it had not yet conducted a review of the seized materials, indeed, this was the basis for Metter’s suppression motion. And because the government did not review the seized materials, he continues, the U.S. Attorney had no basis upon which to rest her certification of substantiality and materiality. The government argued in reply that the suppressed evidence of the seized materials was substantial proof of Metter’s guilt in the fraud of the common stock” (“United States v. Metter,” 2012).

In other words, Metter’s argument here is that because the government did not act when they were supposed to, they were not entitled to use the seized materials against him. This was precisely Metter’s reasoning for filing a motion with the district court about the lack of thoroughness of the government. It can of course be reasoned that Metter did not want the government to seize the materials.

“The government, he argues, represented several times in the proceedings before the district court that it had not yet conducted a review of the seized materials, indeed, this was the basis for Metter’s suppression motion. And because the government did not review the seized materials, he continues, the U.S. Attorney had no basis upon which to rest her certification of substantiality and materiality. The government argued in reply that the suppressed evidence of the seized materials was substantial proof of Metter’s guilt in the fraud of the common stock” (“United States v. Metter,” 2012).

Ethical debate regarding white collar crimes and Metter’s case

In examining the facts of this case, there will be readers who will fall on both sides of the argument. Was it ethically right for the government to hold onto the seized materials in spite of their faults? Yes and no. Yes, because they were seized; no, because they should have been on the case immediately checking into all facts and evidence.

The background of the case does disclose such a venture by the government but denotes that the government did somehow let the seized materials slip by them in their forensic analysis. This allowed an opening for Metter to file a motion with the district court and he should have. It can be noted that anyone in Metter’s case would have probably executed the same activity had an indictment been against him/her.

Government’s lack of judgment

Even though Metter had been indicted on fraud, there was still reason for the district court to uphold his motion initially to suppress the seized materials. There was substantial basis because of the government’s failed attempt to show extensive proof of fraud with the other pieces that were anecdotal.

One of the most interesting facets of white collar crime is “that prosecutors have enormous discretion in deciding whether to bring a criminal case and in deciding what charges to bring if they do decide to indict. As white collar statutes are so broad and vague, the task in defining the particular crime falls in the first instance to prosecutors and in turn, the courts” (Strader, 2002).

With white collar crime being so vague and generic in its presentation across the legal system, it is striking that the government was not better prepared to handle a potential appeal by Metter to get the seized materials suppressed.

Emails and seized material entered into argument

As a result of the appeal by the government, the seized materials intended for visual arguments in the case were allowed entry into the case against him. Was this fair and reasonable for an appeal to be granted? It was reasonable, perhaps; but not necessarily fair. The district court upheld the appeal by the government based on several documented cases where similar areas of mishap had occurred and evidence was still allowed to be used against the defendant. Argumentation towards this viewpoint of the court being in favor of the government is an obvious one being that government will always side with government.

It becomes a rather every man for himself model. The ethics are not considered in that argument. If argumentation were being provided on behalf of Metter, there were serious ethical violations with the seized materials because the government did not do their due diligence to find the needed evidence against him. The case, US v. Metter, is a perfect example of the extent that the law can use against someone who involves themselves in a white collar crime. While the scope of these types of crimes is extremely broad, that does not stop the laws from being enforced when backed up with other cases where statutes have been more narrow and precise.

References

Strader, J. K. (2002). Understanding White Collar Crime [Publication]. Retrieved from LexisNexis website: http://www.lexisnexis.com/lawschool/study/understanding/pdf/WhiteCollarCh1.pdf

United States v. Metter [PDF]. (2012, May 17). Retrieved from V|Lex website: http://federal-circuits.vlex.com/vid/united-states-metter-412976786

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