citizen of a crime, they could so with virtual impunity. Those who know me, know I am not
a conspiracy enthusiast, nor do I believe there are concentration camps set up for political
dissidents. However, it has become clear to me there is a serious problem with the criminal
justice system as practiced at the federal level.
USA Today's cover story on September 23rd dealt with an investigation they undertook
in which they uncovered prosecutorial misconduct in U.S. Attorney's offices throughout the
country. The story is a scathing account of prosecutors who believe the end justifies the
means. Prosecutors willing to do everything from suborning perjury to hiding evidence
which would help prove a suspect's innocence. Americans have spent years in prison for
crimes they did not commit because of the actions of the federal government. It has happened
to rich and poor, humble and powerful. The late Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens was convicted
in a federal case of corruption and accepting bribes or favors. The conviction was thrown out
when it was discovered by the judge and defense lawyers that federal prosecutors had evidence
which could have cleared Stevens and had engaged in egregious misconduct. A federal
investigation was instituted and a report expected within weeks. This week, one of the lead
prosecutors committed suicide in anticipation of the report's release. USA Today identified
over two hundred cases in which similar misconduct occurred. What is far worse is what they
could not uncover. Ninety percent of federal indictments never go to trial. A deal is struck,
usually under threat of significant jail time if it is not accepted. The same kinds of misconduct,
lying, hiding exculpatory evidence, etc. goes on at that level; but no one knows because no
judge or cross-examination looks at the truth of federal prosecutor's statements nor at the
evidence they say they have amassed or if they have uncovered evidence which would prove
innocence of the charges.
Recently, the New York Times reported four people accused of plotting to blow up a
synagogue appear to have been set up. An e-mail from an FBI agent indicated a fear that their
case might not hold up and they needed a backup plan to convict if the first charges failed.
The FBI encouraged an informant to get one suspect to buy an illegal gun so they could charge
him with that crime if they couldn't get him on terrorism charges. The agent said they needed
a criminal charge "in their back pocket" if "things go south". The FBI was soliciting a crime
and justified it as a way to put the bad guys away if the first charges don't stick.
Neither the USA Today cover story nor the New York Times story got any traction with
the corporate media and as far as I can discern, there have been no outcries, no calls for
Congressional hearings, and no shake-up at the Justice Department.
In fact, USA Today reports that there is no evidence that any prosecutor is being accused
of any crimes or that anyone has even been seriously disciplined for these actions. A federal
prosecutor in Florida, who hid evidence and sent a man to prison for nine years, is currently
in private practice and has not ever been called to account for his actions.
Justice is supposed to be blind. It turns out it must be deaf and dumb too. The
government is so powerful it can almost do anything it wishes to anyone. It is truly
frightening to think of the abuses which have and can continue to exist.
I wish I could explain why these stories didn't get bigger play. Why didn't members of
Congress demand to know more? Why aren't the tea partiers outraged at big government
at its worst? Why do we believe accusation equals guilt? Why don't we take innocence more
seriously? What would you do if you were accused of a crime you didn't commit and were
convicted because the government conspired to hide evidence or covered up your innocence?
(For those of you who say you don't have to worry because you have never done anything
wrong, this story should give you great pause as the government asks for more and more
intrusive power into your lives and waters down the Fourth Amendment.)
Americans have had their freedom taken from them because a group of lawyers think
they are above the law. They are the good guys fighting to get the bad guys. Even after caught,
they still argue they were right and their means justified. This is a direct assault on the
structure of this nation. No one is supposed to be above the law, but no one is below it either.
Federal prosecutors have unlimited power. The only protections we have are the Constitution
and the judiciary along with aggressive defense lawyers. It turns out those protections are
weak at best. How many more innocent Americans are in prison today? How many of these
"terrorist" cases were a set-up or entrapment? Why don't Americans care? Do the ends
justify the means? What do you think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please send
them to firstname.lastname@example.org