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Denying the Guilty Mind: Accounting for Involvement in a White-Collar Crime (From Constructions of Deviance: Social Power, Context, and Interaction, P 287-303, 1994, Patricia A and Peter Adler, eds. -- See NCJ-151012)

NCJ Number
M L Benson
Date Published
17 pages
This study looked at the accounts given by a sample of convicted white collar offenders, focusing specifically on techniques they used to deny their criminality and on how they accounted for their adjudication as criminals.
Interviews, conducted with a sample of 30 convicted white collar offenders, were supplemented by files maintained on the offenders and by further interviews with Federal probation officers, Federal judges, assistant U.S. attorneys, and defense attorneys specializing in white collar cases. The offenders had been convicted of economic offenses committed through the use of indirection, fraud, or collusion. Offenses included securities and exchange fraud, antitrust violations, embezzlement, false claims and statements, and tax violations. The offender sample ranged from a formerly successful practitioner of international law to an individual currently self-employed as a jewelry salesman. Accounts of offenders took two general forms, justifications and excuses. Accounts shed light on motive neutralizations and vocabularies, illustrated underlying assumptions about what constituted culpable criminality versus acceptable illegalities, and demonstrated that some offenders were more successful than others in minimizing sanctions they received by virtue of the sufficiency of their accounts. The most consistent and recurrent pattern in interviews was denial of criminal intent, as opposed to the outright denial of any criminal behavior whatsoever. Offenders whose cases were not reported by the news media expressed relief at having avoided embarrassment and sometimes said that publicity would have been worse than any sentence they could have received. In court, defense lawyers frequently presented offenders as having suffered enough from the humiliation of public adjudication. On the other hand, prosecutors presented them as cavalier individuals who arrogantly ignored the law and brushed off its weak efforts to stigmatize them as criminals. Although offenders displayed various emotions with respect to their experiences, they were nearly unanimous in denying basic criminality. 27 references and 5 notes


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