Q&A with Tara Lenich, Founder of Liberty Advisors

Tell me About your Background and Liberty Advisors?

Liberty Advisors is a provider of mitigation, prison consulting, and sentencing advocate services.

As for my background, I grew up in New England and attended Colby College and Emory University School of Law. I have been involved in all aspects of the justice system, first as a prosecutor in New York for over a decade and then as a defendant in both criminal and civil cases. After a long journey, including hiring prison consultants, I spent 10 months at FCI Danbury.

After having been on both sides of the criminal justice system, my unique perspective allows me to advocate effectively and compassionately. Each client will receive my support, encouragement, and empathy.

What is sentencing mitigation?

The purpose of sentence mitigation is to share the defendant’s history and experiences in the most persuasive manner to advance the client’s best possible outcome. The process is multifaceted and often involves in-person interviews, records review, and social history investigations.

The primary role of a sentencing consultant is to ensure that the defendant and their attorneys have the information and support they need to advocate for the best possible sentence their client can receive. Two types of consultants that defense teams employ to address sentencing include sentencing advocates and mitigation specialists.

Sentencing advocates prepare individualized sentencing recommendations. We examine a client’s personal and professional background and any circumstances that may be relevant for sentencing to develop materials for submission to the court.

These materials highlight all the positive contributions a client has made over the course of their life. They will also address relevant alternatives such as: substance abuse and mental health treatment, victim restitution, community supervision, avoidance of future misconduct, and appropriate and constructive consequences.

This approach allows courts to sentence people to community-based programs that address their needs, while reserving prison and jail space for those who threaten the safety of the community. We explore options such as work release and home confinement. The goal is to identify a sentence more appropriate to each client’s circumstances and encourage probation and the judge to consider alternatives to incarceration. Defense attorneys can also use these materials in their sentencing memorandum.

Mitigation specialists are certified professionals recognized by the American Bar Association (ABA), the National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA), and the National Alliance of Sentencing Advocates & Mitigation Specialists (NASAMS). These specialists provide critical support for the accused for the most serious criminal charges.

In federal cases, mitigation experts address the statutory sentencing factors enumerated in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a). They conduct extensive mitigation investigations, which include exhaustive social history investigations, thorough records review, and detailed interviews with clients, loved ones, and collateral witnesses such as educators, neighbors, co-workers, and care providers.

An experienced sentencing mitigation consultant provides support throughout the investigation and trial to ensure that, should the client be found guilty, their defense team is fully prepared with an alternative sentencing proposal. The specialist relieves the time pressure on the defense team to develop a case for mitigation by handling the matter in advance.

What factors are considered in the sentencing process?

The court will consider many factors regarding the offense, the defendant, and comparable cases.  In the federal sentencing process, judges, probation, and attorneys will consider:

  • the nature and circumstances of the offense
  • the characteristics and history of the defendant
  • the need for the sentence to serve as punishment, to reflect the severity of the crime, and to encourage respect for the law
  • the need to deter both the defendant and others from future criminal conduct
  • the need of the defendant for medical care, education, training, or other effective correctional treatment
  • what sentences are available
  • the need for restitution to any victims
  • avoiding sentencing disparities between the defendant and others in similar circumstances with similar convictions.

These considerations are detailed in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a).

In addition to these factors, the court will consider the Pre-Sentence Report (PSR) prepared by Probation, and both the prosecution submission and the defense submission regarding sentencing.

How does Liberty Advisors work with attorneys?

Liberty Advisors is dedicated to providing comprehensive, yet unobtrusive support to both clients and their defense attorneys. This goes beyond just answering questions; it lies in preparing the accused and their loved ones for what to expect during each stage in the criminal justice process and assisting defense attorneys in providing the best possible non-legal support for each client.

Liberty Advisors manages the non-legal aspects of criminal cases, ensuring attorneys can focus on vital legal issues. Our role extends to managing client and family expectations, facilitating courtroom comfort, addressing non-legal queries, assisting the client in telling their story, coordinating character reference letters, and overall client preparation.

A vital aspect of our service involves answering non-legal questions based on firsthand knowledge of the system, thus alleviating clients’ anxiety. Guidance is offered on arrest processing procedures, expectations for sentencing day, preparations for prison, and an in-depth understanding of daily life in prison – from dietary needs to communication with the outside world. Through a balance of legal defense support and personal experience, Liberty Advisors makes the legal process less daunting.

What sets you apart from other sentencing mitigators?

Liberty Advisors takes care to reshape a client’s experience and make it less traumatizing.  However, a significant difference exists between a person who calls themselves a sentence mitigation consultant and someone with genuine skills, experience, and empathy. Working with an experienced consultant is worlds apart from hiring someone with no relevant background, certifications, professional memberships, real world experience, and understanding of attorneys’ roles and obligations.

I worked with “consultants” who did nothing to help me or my family through the grueling process of the criminal justice system. This experience inspired me to start the kind of criminal advocacy agency I wish I could have worked with.

Furthermore, I understand from my previous professional experience, what attorneys need and expect during investigations and trials. Liberty Advisors takes care to support and prepare clients and their defense teams while respecting professional standards and without providing legal advice. We collaborate with defense counsel to ensure each client receives the best possible experience.

Liberty Advisors offers comprehensive support to defense teams and their clients through each stage of the criminal justice process. We provide every client with personalized attention and every attorney with support relevant to the case. We are available to meet with clients and their families in person, not just over the phone, to make sure they have the support they need throughout this difficult period.

How can readers reach you?

Readers can email me at [email protected] or fill out a contact form on my website at www.libertyadvisorsllc.com.