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What does it mean that Carlos Pólit has declared himself ‘not guilty’ of the charges for which he is being prosecuted in the United States? | Policy | News

“Not guilty” (or not guiltyin English) is not the same as being “innocent”. This is how the former Comptroller General of the State, Carlos Pólit, declared himself at the hearing that began the process of presenting evidence, which is known as discovery, within the criminal investigations carried out against him in the United States. This happened on May 27, in the South District Court of Miami, Florida.

Polit faces six charges in that country: one for conspiracy to commit money laundering, three for concealment of money laundering and two for participating in private property transactions derived from criminal activities.

What is the difference between “not guilty” and “innocent”? To explain this, the jurist Jorge Zavala Egas, who has litigated in United States courts, makes a comparison between the way in which criminal proceedings are carried out in that country and in Ecuador.

“In the United States, the prosecutor begins to investigate without anyone knowing; he collects evidence until there comes a time when he thinks he has enough to file charges. With all these, he summons what is called the grand jury, which are citizens who, in reserve, listen to the prosecutor, see his evidence and determine if there are causes for him to file charges. At this stage neither the defendant nor his lawyers are present. Then, through a judge, he is notified that he has these charges and can be arrested (as happened with Pólit) ”, he expresses.

Carlos Pólit stayed with the celebrity’s lawyer and asked to be shown the evidence against him

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“In another hearing, which is the presentation of evidence or discoverythe defendant pleads ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’, and begins what we call a prosecutorial investigation: the prosecutor presents all the evidence he has, the charges, so that he can defend himself”, he explains.

“‘Not guilty’ is a formula used in Anglo-Saxon law to say ‘innocent’, but they do not mean the same thing: ‘not guilty’ means that ‘I do not accept’ the charges made against me by the Prosecutor’s Office,” he says.

“The defendant meets with his attorney and they see how many charges he could defend against based on the existing evidence. I can win you four charges and two not, for example; and you risk a penalty of so many years. But, if we collaborate with the Prosecutor’s Office and accept these from here, you can leave in less time. So you (the client) decide: go to trial for all the charges or collaborate and negotiate a sentence and place of serving the sentence that is convenient for some of them”, says Zavala Egas, who in the past was a lawyer for John Pólit, son of the former comptroller, in proceedings in Ecuador.

While the criminal José de la Gasca, who has studied the law of the United Statespoints out that the main difference lies in the principle of presumption of innocence, something that exists throughout the world.

“’Not guilty’ is the way he rejects the charges that are being brought against him. I cannot declare myself innocent because I am innocent, based on the presumption of innocence that is established in the United States and that we also have. You cannot declare something to yourself that you already are. It is assumed that you are innocent and you have an accusation that is going to try to unnerve your state of innocence to the state of guilt, ”he indicates.

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De la Gasca agrees that Pólit can choose, depending on the evidence presented by the Prosecutor’s Office, between going to trial for all the accusations or negotiating an agreement by which he pleads guilty for any of them to obtain benefits in the sentence imposed. , which can range from a reduction in the time he will spend in prison to serve arrest at home, in addition to the reparation to be paid, either with money or in goods.

On this last point, the jurist points out that the Justice of that country has a “great scope” to find hidden assets.

Investigation against former comptroller Carlos Pólit in the United States would close a circle that opened in Ecuador

Settlement benefits depend on the information provided by the defendant. The cooperation, says De la Gasca, can cover “everything” that interests the US authorities, not necessarily related to that specific case, because “perhaps they are interested in a bigger fish.” “The sessions are long, marathon. They tell you what they want to know and then they see what you can contribute”, he relates.

Zavala and De la Gasca point out that the processing of this type of case can take a few years.

Pólit has, at the moment, house arrest with an electronic bracelet and GPS. He was detained for a few weeks, but then posted a bail of $14 million: 10% was delivered in cash and the rest was guaranteed with assets owned by his family.

In Ecuador, the former official has a six-year prison sentence for being the author of the crime of concussion; this for demanding money in exchange for the vanishing of glosses from the Brazilian company Odebrecht. In addition, a call to trial is suspended in the case for illicit association Odebrecht, in which former Vice President Jorge Glas has already been sentenced. (I)

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