Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Eric Holder and Prosecutorial Misconduct

It seems that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder wants federal prosecutors to be ethical, and he has really ramped up the effort. Yes, he required that U.S. attorneys attend a half-day seminar on fulfilling their constitutional duties of turning over evidence to the defense. Wow! That guy really has a sense of his obligations, does he not?

The new USA Today series on prosecutorial misconduct in the U.S. Department of Justice (sic) seems to have Holder a bit worried, as it makes his department look bad. However, before there was USA Today, there was the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which published a devastating series in 1998 on DOJ misconduct.

What is significant here is that Holder was Deputy Attorney General under Janet "Waco" Reno, one of the most dishonest and venal prosecutors ever to hold any position of authority in this country, and much of the PG's series deals with the wrongdoing of the Reno DOJ. Reno's conduct as a prosecutor in Florida (even before she ordered the biggest U.S. Government massacre of civilians since Wounded Knee a century before Waco) made Chris Arnt and Len Gregor look to be honest professionals. I'm not kidding. Reno was so bad that Dorothy Rabinowitz actually won a Pulitzer Prize writing, in part, about Reno's lies and prosecutorial misconduct.

Bill Moushey, a hard-working son of a police officer, is a blue-collar sort of guy who has a good moral compass and a real heart for people wrongly charged. The opening paragraphs to his series says it all, not only about the series, but how Moushey sees the substance of wrongdoing:
Hundreds of times during the past 10 years, federal agents and prosecutors have pursued justice by breaking the law.

They lied, hid evidence, distorted facts, engaged in cover-ups, paid for perjury and set up innocent people in a relentless effort to win indictments, guilty pleas and convictions, a two-year Post-Gazette investigation found.

Rarely were these federal officials punished for their misconduct. Rarely did they admit their conduct was wrong.

New laws and court rulings that encourage federal law enforcement officers to press the boundaries of their power while providing few safeguards against abuse fueled their actions.

Victims of this misconduct sometimes lost their jobs, assets and even families. Some remain in prison because prosecutors withheld favorable evidence or allowed fabricated testimony. Some criminals walk free as a reward for conspiring with the government in its effort to deny others their rights.
What is the fundamental problem here? Lies. It is NOT somehow a lack of "ethical" training on behalf of federal prosecutors.

Prosecutors don't lie because they missed a half-day seminar on ethics. No, they lie for one of two reasons:
  • They are fundamentally dishonest, or are pathological liars;
  • They know that (1) they probably won't get caught and if they ARE caught (2) nothing will happen to them.
My sense is that there are a couple of dynamics. First, and most important, people who enjoy bullying others will naturally gravitate to being federal prosecutors. These people really love the prospect of destroying the lives of others. I'm not kidding; they LOVE it. It's fun, at least for them.

Second, the "go along to get along" culture of the DOJ assures that people who actually have a conscience either will capitulate and become what they have hated or they will leave (or be driven out by the bad guys). Thus, the bad people are left and they dominate the system.

For that matter, one does not have to be a federal prosecutor to be abusive. Like the feds, state prosecutors have absolute immunity, so they really don't have to worry if they lie, hide evidence and the like, even if they are caught. Hey, they're just "doing their jobs," right?

Anyway, when faced with Mr. Moushey's series, Holder took a much different view of things, writing a letter to the P-G. You can read Holder's missives, but I like what the P-G said at the end of his letter:
Editors' note: The Justice Department was repeatedly given the opportunity to express its views on these and other cases before and during publication of the series. In every case cited here, the department refused.
This is quite significant, for Mr. Moushey knew that these particular cases were problematic and he wanted to make sure he had the right information. However, Holder's strategy was to stonewall all requests, and then afterward claim that the series was defective because it had some "wrong" information.

In other words, Holder was not interested in getting at the truth. Instead, he gave the usual platitudes such as:
Federal prosecutors work around the clock putting criminals behind bars. Their work has helped reduce the national crime rate for more than six years in a row. And they are among the most respected and trusted lawyers in the nation.
I read something like that, and say to myself: What crap! It reminded me of a question and answer session I once had with the former Sen. Jim Sasser of Tennessee.

I asked Sasser why it was that Congress exempted itself from laws it imposes on the rest of us. (There actually was a Constitutional reason for it -- to keep Congress separate from the control of the executive branch, but Sasser didn't know that answer.) In reply, Sasser told me that members of Congress were great people, some of the greatest people he had known.

The translation: "We don't have to obey laws because we are great people." Sorry, folks, that dog won't hunt.

So, while I am glad to see (once again) the exposure of crimes committed by federal prosecutors, nonetheless, Holder's response leaves me cold. The guy has NO INTENTION at all of doing what is right. Instead, he creates an illusion that the feds finally have learned their lessons and they will do better next time.

Yeah, all it takes is three hours in an "ethics" seminar. I'll believe THAT when I see it.


KC Sprayberry said...

Ethics courses are all good and well, if the individuals taking them actually have ethics to begin with. Funny how you chose this subject to write on today. Last night, I had a long IM discussion with an individual who is exposing local corruption. His blog and website feature a man with a bag over his head. Why? Not because he's hiding from the truth; rather, he's hiding from local officials who are doing whatever they can to find out who he is. Last night, after his FB page had a two day discussion about the anomalies ordinary citizens found in the Parker investigation, this man received an email from the sheriff's son, himself a cop with Rossville or Ringgold. This 'good cop' son, following in his father's footsteps, identified 3 men who they believe the individual is and then pointed out how their lives could become 'miserable'. For what reason? None other than local law enforcement and prosecutors want to shut up a group of people trying to force those in charge of seeing to justice into cleaning up their act. We even made jokes about how this person might end up, such as the dump truck squash or perhaps another 'suicide' at the local jail, or a bullet riddled body - the victim of a drug deal gone bad - or even a quick trip off the side of a ridge. All joking aside, this man's discourses have hit a raw nerve but it won't stop him or the rest of us. We saw problems with not only the Craft case but with Echols, James Combs, Brad Wade, John Mulkey, Tri-State Crematory, and the Parker investigation but at the time had no way to vent our feelings about how we felt about the lack of truthfulness and fair trials exhibited. As I told this man last night, we will not shut up nor will we go away. The 21st century has united people of like minds and we are far greater than those hiding their criminal activities behind laws that should have never been passed. The only way to get rid of these people is to vote them out of office, and continue voting out those who refuse to act in a manner that is acceptable.

William L. Anderson said...

Yep, cops in the LMJC know that they are the law, and that no one will do anything to corral them. When I lived in Walker County, I always had heard about the corruption but never got to see it firsthand.

I'm not at all surprised that the sheriff's son would make an outright threat, and then claim he can make every bit of wrongdoing be "legal." That is the way these people think.

Anonymous said...

Thank's Mr Anderson for another great post. That is why the prison's are full, half of them are innocent. Thank, KC. you have a
way with words. Keep it coming we are going to get them out.

KC Sprayberry said...

I wonder if this particular crime will come to trial or if the DA will decline to prosecute? This happened in Dade but move east one county and change the name and you have the Parker situation all over again. But this good old boy is part of the system. Sure don't see his buddies actually letting this go much further.

Doc Ellis said...

Shared. Thank you.

liberranter said...

Second, the "go along to get along" culture of the DOJ assures that people who actually have a conscience either will capitulate and become what they have hated or they will leave (or be driven out by the bad guys). Thus, the bad people are left and they dominate the system.

I'm sure it goes without saying that this also characterizes "police forces" and those who inhabit them, be they federal, state, county, or local.

justiceseeker51 said...

Where I'm from, their names are: Brian Wright
Tommy Weddle
Commonwealth and County Prosecutors.
They all live in their little *kingdom*

Cyril said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cyril said...

Bill, I was listening yesterday (?) to a Fresh Air interview with a retired FBI negotiator who has written a book about his career. When questioned about Waco he basically said, "We spent days negotiating with the Davidians and it was working. We had coaxed out a couple dozen children and their mothers and were hopeful we could at least get all of the women and kids out of there. Then the powers that be cut us out of the loop and decided to do things that directly contradict any standard operating procedures for hostage negotiation. The negotiators all left, the FBI behaved like buffoons and scores of people died." I wonder who made the decision to abandon negotiation....? reno, reno, reno...

The website that K.C. is talking about is The LaFayette Underground at Check it out.

William L. Anderson said...

I'm sure that the end result was exactly what Reno and her bosses, Bill and Hillary Clinton, wanted to happen. Notice that the popularity of all three of them went sky high afterward?

We are talking about people who were willing to immolate little children so they could be their political jollies. There were lies and coverups on that one to last a lifetime.

Of course, if one mentioned Waco after the Oklahoma City bombing, that was bad. "Oh, you want federal workers to be blown up." Notice that Clinton quickly blamed anyone who was making noise about government abuses -- and the strategy worked well.

Anonymous said...

KC would you post the link for this blog and/or facebook?

Anonymous said...