Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Scott Says It, Part Two

Posted by Phoenix Woman on March 14, 2008

Scott Horton with another home run:

… The newspaper accounts, forming the imperfect world in which all of this is analyzed, suggest that Spitzer solicited prostitution on February 13, and there is nothing to support the idea that he was entrapped. What I argued was something different: the feds had built their case against the prostitution ring and were ready to go, but they held back in the hopes that they would bag Spitzer, too. They could have gone with the announcement back in January. But they didn’t. That’s very revealing.

In this case the feds violated some basic rules—as even John Farmer, in doing his best to defend them, acknowledges:

  • They prepared pleadings which were filled with salacious detail that served no purpose other than the public humiliation of “Client 9.”
  • They then tipped the press to the fact that “Client 9” was a New York public official, and then to the fact that he was Eliot Spitzer. Over the next 48 hours, they filled the press with copious additional details surrounding Spitzer, many of them lurid.

All of this made marvelous copy for the tabloids and helped Jon Stewart’s Daily Show to one of its funniest segments in recent weeks. (Today, however, the Times profiled the working girl at the center of the storm. I was disappointed to learn that her name was not “Cinnamon.” Alas, it is just the fake news.) But it also violated basic rules of prosecutorial ethics and can only be explained by a partisan political motive: to take down a prominent political figure of the opposition party. It was entertaining, funny, and bad for our system of justice.

[…]

The real questions begin when the Department of Justice enters the picture–after the IRS refers the matter to the Public Integrity Section. What is the measure of “normal” in a case like this? I have now looked at a long list of cases in which accusations of highly irregular financial conduct were lodged against Republican elected officials. In each of these cases, the Bush Justice Department reacted by doing nothing. No review of payments and bank records. No questions. No investigators. No warrants for wiretaps. It concluded that there was an insufficient basis to launch an investigation. In two of these cases there were extremely specific, well documented allegations–not something as nebulous as a SAR. So my reaction to arguments that the Public Integrity Section reacted with something akin to “standard operating procedure” is to say: certainly not. It took the SAR as a license to launch a major fishing expedition. And in the end it landed its fish.

[…]

In the present case, the media are actually complicit in this problem. They get a good story that helps them sell copy when prosecutors and investigators violate their ethical responsibilities and start talking about things they shouldn’t be talking about. So the media have no motive to blow the whistle on their informants, or even to criticize them. When the New York Times, which has exercised an impressive ownership of this story, runs an op-ed defending the conduct of the prosecutors—without ever having run a word raising questions about the way the case was handled—we’re entitled to call “foul.”

No doubt there are plenty of lawyers, especially former prosecutors, who will disagree with me. That’s the way our system works. Our system offers no incentives for criticizing prosecutors. They are, after all, very powerful people.

One Response to “Scott Says It, Part Two”

  1. Michael said

    Look, the Republicans are the moral police, so they must be morally superior, however fallible. This was a case of Republican moral law enforcement.

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