Burning Question: Is Prison Ahead for the Giudices?

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Joe and Teresa Giudice (Curtis Means/ACE/

Are Teresa and Joe Giudice being prosecuted because of their celebrity status? Will their status assure that they go to jail, or will their fame help them stay out? —V. Gurney, New York

In this particular instance, fame is not a good thing.

Former prosecutors and defense attorneys tell me the Giudice mess is no typical DUI bust or even a Lindsay-Lohan-esque grand theft. This is a federal case — 39 counts worth, including bank fraud, conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, and making false statements on loan applications. That's a whole new stratosphere of legal headache that celebrities rarely see.

Yes, stars ranging from Lohan to Nicole Richie have gone through state and local prosecution systems, facing the occasional blink-and-you-miss-it prison stint or, more often, probation deal. (Even Chris Brown, who admitted to using a dashboard as a brickbat against his girlfriend's face, didn't see any prison time after copping a plea with the Los Angeles County District Attorney.)

But federal cases? Not so pretty, not even for celebrities. Lil' Kim did a year and a day in prison stemming from accusations of perjury before a federal grand jury. Lauryn Hill this year was sentenced to three months in federal prison after being dragged into court on tax charges. She's actually sitting in said prison as I type this.

What does all this mean for the Giudices? Well, says former prosecutor and current defense attorney Andrew Flier, it means that:

1. The judge in their case is less likely to play ball if the Giudices end up agreeing to a plea deal. (The pair are reportedly planning to plead not guilty.)

"In a state court, I know what my client is going to get if there's a plea deal," Flier explains, "but federal judges aren't bound to plea deal decisions made between prosecution and defense. And that's scary."

2. The prosecutors involved have likely dotted every i and crossed every t. Twice.

"In a federal prosecutor's mind, they already have a conviction," Flier says. "They amount of investigation and preparation before a federal indictment is unbelievable. They do much more of a serious investigation."

3. If found guilty, at least one member of this tempestuous duo is going to have a very hard time staying out of jail or in the country, plea deal or no plea deal. Joe Giudice, an Italian citizen, could face deportation charges.

"I'm very familiar with these kinds of cases, and typically what happens — especially if there is a married couple — usually the man takes the sword right in the chest," Flier explains. "I can see them working out a result where neither of them walks away completely, but her getting probation and the husband maybe going down for a couple of years.

"Ninety-five percent of the time, the man takes the hit."

4. Their celebrity status will not mean anything. Not anything good, anyway.

"I think their fame is unfortunate for them" in a federal case, Flier says. "If they were non-public people, there would have been no press, and this could fall through the cracks a little easier. But in this case, the fame is going to be a disservice. It will work against them."

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