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The latest example came Tuesday when Dutch lawyer Alex van der Zwaan was sentenced to 30 days in prison for lying to the FBI. Though his plea deal didn't explicitly require cooperation, the charge he pleaded guilty to carries a maximum five-year sentence and it's likely the attorney, whose wife is pregnant in London, risked a longer punishment if convicted at trial. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said some incarceration was necessary to deter others from lying to investigators.To be sure, defendants who admit guilt are stained with criminal convictions, forego liberties including the right to vote, put their jobs and reputation at risk – and can still wind up with tough sentences. Gates was initially charged in October in a 12-count indictment and faced well over a decade in prison, but he pleaded guilty in February to just two charges and now faces fewer than six years – or less, depending on the extent of his cooperation.Accused of lying to the FBI, and facing the possibility of a years-long sentence, he pleaded guilty in a secret court hearing and agreed to cooperate.Still, prosecutors understand that juries may look askance at sweetheart plea deals, especially with those who've been publicly demonized, and that defense lawyers may subject cooperators to bruising cross-examinations.
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