Volume 35, Issue 1
COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
| How the Feds Imprison the Innocent|
By Paul Craig Roberts
October 05, 2009 "Information Clearing House" -
of serious books seldom have cause to celebrate, but Larry Stratton and
I have two reasons to open the champagne. Crown Publishing, a division
of Random House, has announced a second printing of the second edition
of The Tyranny of Good Intentions, and the noted civil libertarian and
defense attorney, Harvey Silverglate, has just published a book
covering many of the same legal cases and vetting our conclusion that
in the United States every American is in grave danger from
unscrupulous prosecutors who target the innocent.
For two decades I have been attempting to make Americans aware that the
danger to their liberty comes not from foreign adversaries, terrorists,
or criminals, but from prosecutors, who have destroyed law as a shield
of the innocent and turned law into a weapon against the innocent. The
Tyranny of Good Intentions (the publisher's title) documents how the
legal principles that protect our civil liberties were eroded by
prosecutors even before the Bush regime obliterated what remained of
the Bill of Rights. __
The struggle has been
uphill, because neither the right wing nor the left wing is emotionally
content with the facts that Stratton and I present. Conservatives tend
to see civil liberties as liberal coddling devices for criminals and,
today, for terrorists. Predisposed to "law and order," conservatives
align with police and prosecutors. They object to accounts of police
misbehavior and prosecutorial abuse as propaganda on behalf of the
The left wing tends to see law as
a tool of oppression that "the rich" use to control the lower classes,
and liberals fret that "the rich" get off by hiring good lawyers, while
the poor and minorities are ground under. Consequently, leftists object
to the demonstration that even the very rich, such as Michael Milken,
Martha Stewart, and Leona Helmsley, and even law and accounting firms,
are victims of wrongful prosecution. Confusing wealth with villainy,
leftists cannot free themselves from the emotional predilection that a
convicted rich person must have been so guilty that not even the best
lawyers could get them off. The Tyranny of Good Intentions had a second
printing of a second edition because of word of mouth, not because of
Neither the Right nor the Left objects
to wrongful prosecution as long as the victim is a bête noire. Sir
Thomas More's question (A Man For All Seasons) - what will happen to
the innocent if we cut down the law in pursuit of devils? - rings no
warning among Right or Left. With this point made, I have come not to
praise myself and my coauthor, but to praise Harvey Silverglate.
If The Tyranny of Good Intentions cannot convince you, then perhaps
Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent can, and, if
not, then both together surely will.
Tyranny of Good Intentions is a broad stroke. It demonstrates how each
civil liberty has been eroded away. Prosecutorial abuse is one chapter
in the book. Silverglate's Three Felonies a Day focuses on how federal
prosecutors invent creative interpretations of statutes, sometimes
creating new felonies out of vague language or thin air, felonies never
legislated by Congress. Federal criminal law is today so vast and so
poorly worded that Silverglate reports, truthfully, that each of us,
every American, commits three felonies every day without knowing it.
Federal judges, an increasing number of whom are former federal
prosecutors, permit the prosecution of Americans for crimes that the
defendants did not know were crimes, crimes that never before existed
until the federal prosecutor brought the charge. The invention of
crimes by prosecutors violates every known legal principle in
Anglo-American law. Yet it has become commonplace.
Defense attorneys, a group that also increasingly consists of former
federal prosecutors, as Silverglate accurately reports, have lost
confidence that it is possible to defend a client from a federal
prosecution and see their role, not as the defense, but as negotiator
of a plea bargain that reduces the charges and prison time of the
defendant, no matter how innocent.
shows that many of the plea bargains create precedents that prosecutors
can exploit to trap more innocent victims.
reader by now is asking why prosecutors would waste time on the
innocent when there are so many real crimes. Silverglate provides
conclusive answers. For example, politically ambitious federal
prosecutors, such as Rudy Giuliani and William Weld, pick high-profile
targets to frame in order to build name recognition for political
Giuliani picked Michael Milken and
Leona Helmsley. Weld picked Boston mayor Kevin White. Giuliani went on
to be mayor of New York and a candidate for the Republican presidential
nomination. Weld went on to be a two-term governor of Massachusetts.
Leura Canary, perhaps at the urging of Karl Rove, picked Alabama
governor Don Siegelman. Michael J. Sullivan picked Thomas Finneran,
speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, and so on.
From Silverglate's book, the reader can learn how federal prosecutors
manage their frame-ups of innocents. For a targeted city or state
political figure, the prosecutor first hunts for a criminal act
somewhere in the bureaucracy. Perhaps some low-level person has
extorted a bribe for a permit. Once such a person is caught, he or she
is told that charges will be dropped if information is given that can
be used to implicate the mayor or speaker of the House or governor.
As federal district court judges now permit hearsay and uncorroborated
testimony, a totally innocent high-profile person can be snared on the
basis of testimony by a petty crook low in the bureaucracy.
This is the way America works today. Just as state and local police
cannot stand up to the FBI, elected state and local officials are
powerless in the face of their pursuit by corrupt federal prosecutors.
Silverglate himself was the attorney in some of the landmark cases that
he reports. The reader, even one with the usual illusions and delusions
that blind Americans to their predicament, will be scared by
Silverglate's documented account, case by case, of how easy it is in
"freedom and democracy" America to frame the totally innocent.
In Silverglate's concluding chapter, "For Whom the Bell Tolls," the
answer is obvious even to a naïf: "It tolls for all."
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