Since we began to write about federal criminal law about a year ago, we have come to realize that the federal criminal justice system itself is a moral outrage. No barriers exist at all to prevent criminal behavior on behalf of federal prosecutors and "law" enforcement officers. Once they target an individual, it is almost certain that the person either will go to prison or be nearly destroyed in the process, even on those very, very rare occasions where there is no conviction.
When we pulled up the CNN website this afternoon (Friday, March 5), what we saw literally turned our stomachs. Quickly afterward, one of us called a friend who had served time in federal prison herself, and she reminded us that early on she had predicted a conviction. Keep in mind that our friend did not believe Stewart was guilty of any crime, but rather that the nature of federal criminal charges make them hard to beat.
No doubt, at this very minute, the mainstream press is hanging onto every word of the "victorious" federal prosecutors who tried this case. Being that John Ashcroft at this moment is in intensive care in a hospital, we suppose he cannot stride up to a bank of microphones and crow to the press. However, his number two man, James Comey, the U.S. attorney who first gained the indictments against Stewart and her broker, no doubt right now is telling the awestruck press how " the system works."
Indeed, this system does work — it works as well as anything Josef Stalin created in the 1930s with his infamous "Moscow Show Trials," in which guilt was assured, and the only question was the mode of execution. In retrospect, we realize now that the Stewart trial was indeed a show trial. Most likely, Stewart had convinced herself that she would be taking part in a real trial with real evidence and an impartial jury. Even her post-trial statement, "I believe in the fairness of the judicial system and remain confident that I will ultimately prevail," reflects the navet of someone who actually believes that federal courts are real courts.
For those readers who somehow believe this was a fair verdict, and that U.S. attorneys do not engage in egregious misconduct on a regular basis, read "Win at All Costs" by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Bill Moushey. The introduction to the series says it all:
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.
In other words, while the government is sending Stewart to prison — and she surely will not win on appeal, not in this kangaroo court system — that same government has a policy of lying. Whether it involves criminal cases or whether it is about reasons why the U.S. Armed Forces are invading a hapless Third World nation, we are fed a daily stream of lies by the government.
Assume, for argument’s sake, that Steward did lie about her trade of ImClone stock. Perhaps she might have been better off telling the truth, one says, but it is also imperative from a legal point of view to note that when she told those alleged lies, she was not under oath. Furthermore, "obstruction of justice" and "making false statements," the main charges against her, run only one way. The U.S. Government has official policies in law enforcement about lying, all the way to the F.B.I. Training Manual that instructs agents to lie during criminal investigations.
Thus, we have private individuals subject to criminal charges, but government officials are immune from those same charges. What we are witnessing is nothing short of tyranny.
Yes, the media will crow about Martha "decorating her jail cell" or something like that, as though it is a big joke. Web star Matt Drudge headlined something about "summer stripes?" but in reality all of us should weep. The United States inherited the "Rights of Englishmen" from Great Britain, and it was the basis for forming perhaps the greatest system of law that ever sprang from the human mind.
Instead of building on that system, however, Americans en masse have destroyed the legal foundations of this country and thrown away our heritage of freedom with both hands. The conviction of Martha Stewart is nothing more than yet another way station to that hell known as tyranny. We hope we are not at that point yet, but after this afternoon, it looks as though no barriers are left for the total destruction of law in the United States of Amerika.
March 6, 2004
William L. Anderson, Ph.D. [send him mail], teaches economics at Frostburg State University in Maryland, and is an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. Candice E. Jackson [send her mail] is a graduate of Pepperdine Law School and is an attorney for the West Coast office of Judicial Watch.