Trust And Dishonest Prosecutors

The legal systems of advanced societies are there to maintain high levels of trust – they catch and punish the dishonest. But when the prosecutors themselves are dishonest, the system breaks down – here are two current US examples.

Judicial systems in all nations tend to despotism because their members get lifetime appointments and so become immune to social control.

Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald

He was given the job of investigating the alleged leak of Valerie Plame’s identity as a CIA agent. Now it turns out that 5 days after he began the investigation he knew:
a) Who had leaked her identity, and
b) That she wasn’t a covert agent.

Instead of winding up the investigation he created, in Ann Coulter’s restrained words:

…nothing but a perjury trap from beginning to end for anyone who misremembered anything about who told whom what about a low-level nobody at the CIA who happened to be married to a Walter Mitty fantasist.

That makes Fitzgerald a dishonest despot.

New York Attorney General Spitzer

He turns out to be one too (WSJ, $, my ellipsis):

New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer’s office quietly admitted this week that it is dropping certain civil charges against Hank Greenberg, former CEO of AIG. Here ends a monumental story of prosecutorial abuse.

Last year, as the whole world knows, Mr. Greenberg was drummed out of the insurance empire he created after Mr. Spitzer accused him of presiding over a firm that was a “black box” of accounting scandals. AIG settled with Mr. Spitzer, but Mr. Greenberg refused to roll over.

The prosecutor has (now) abandoned nearly every substantive claim he’d made against the insurance titan, claims that helped lose Mr. Greenberg his job.

…when this hoopla broke, Mr. Spitzer astounded even fellow prosecutors by threatening to indict AIG unless it fired Mr. Greenberg. Then he broke further prosecutorial codes by going on national TV to accuse Mr. Greenberg of fraud — before he’d even filed charges. It was only months later, in the media blackout of the Thanksgiving holiday, that Mr. Spitzer leaked the news that he wouldn’t pursue criminal charges. Now he’s admitting most of the civil case is also bunk.

Not that any of this matters to Mr. Spitzer now. Surfing along on a wave of prosecutorial “triumphs” — of which the Greenberg case was feted as one of those most significant — he is cruising toward the governor’s mansion. It’s getting harder to believe that many of his suits weren’t brought solely for that purpose.

So Mr Greenberg is a brave wealth creator and Spitzer is a dishonest bully, who I hope New Yorkers are smart enough not to elect.

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