Beware of Prosecutors

Beware of prosecutors:  they don't like to lose.  Scooter Libby today became at least the third high-profile person in recent memory to be successfully prosecuted for lying about something that wasn't a crime. 

Bill Clinton, Martha Stewart, and Scooter Libby were all prosecuted for perjury charges that were really tangential to the original case.  In all three cases, prosecutors, hot to not be left empty-handed when pursuing a high-profile target, fell back on prosecuting perjury charges related to non-crimes once their core case fell apart.  Only Bill Clinton escaped jail, escaping with what was effectively jury nullification -- no one seems to deny he was guilty of perjury, but his jury (the Senate) couldn't bring itself to impose a ridiculously harsh penalty for lying about something entirely unrelated to any crime and which in a reasonable world would not even have been allowable questioning under oath. 

  • Mesa EconoGuy

    Yes, and Martha Stewart, at one time a licensed broker, had full knowledge of insider trading rules and prohibitions, yet the prosecution was unwilling (unable) to mount a credible case for her primary offense.

    That’s how f8%&@#&^d up our legal system is now, thanks to The Association of Trial Lawyers of America (and the Democratic Party, their greatest supporter/beneficiary).

    This case was almost reverse jury nullification – it was jury creep, with jurors apparently seeking charges against people unrelated to these charges and allegations. That’s scary, too.

  • Frank Ch. Eigler

    People tend to forget the "underlying crime" involved in the Bill Clinton case: the alleged sexual harrassment of many women around him.

  • Scott

    Have to second Frank's comment: Clinton lied about having sex with subordinates in his office in a case about sex with subordinates in his office. Not tangential at all.

  • Actually, Martha Stewart was convicted of the creepy crime of lying to the feds. She wasn't under oath, and her lie was that she was innocent - a right guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination. Perjury is at least legitimately a crime - lying while under oath.

    Lying to the feds, or to anyone, to say you're innocent, has to stay legal, though. Otherwise, they'd know you were guilty when you didn't declare your innocence. Since only the innocent could lawfully claim their innocence, the law against lying to the feds denies people the right to defend themselves (a right people have even if they are lying). Clinton perjured himself to avoid looking guilty in the Paula Jones case, trying to avoid both embarrassment and a higher settlement payout. Libby did perjure himself probably mostly to save political face and maybe because he feared prosecution should his guilt be discovered.

    Martha Stewart I feel bad for. Lying or not, she was defending herself from criminal accusations. I do not have sympathy for Clinton or Libby.

  • bloodrage bob

    all of which means that the *prudent* person, when being asked questions by ANY federal employee/agent, (not just fbi), should refuse to say anything at all to them without having a lawyer present. as i (sorta) understand it, martha was prosecuted for saying "i'm not guilty". she believed it; she thought it was true....but the feds decided that she was wrong, ergo she lied, ergo prosecute her.

    am pretty sure this was not what the founders had in mind when they started the country.

    am also pretty sure refusing to answer fbi questions will irritate/inconvenience them, maybe even hinder some of their investigations. too bad for them. i'll bet martha & scooter wish mightily they'd told the feebs to take a hike, rather than being cooperative good citizens.