What Rep. Rangel’s Non-Indictment Says About Our System:
As a recovering federal prosecutor, I see an occasional injustice that I might not have seen when I was with the US Attorney’s Office in the District of Maryland. A businessman, for instance, is wrongfully targeted and subsequently suffers from the toll such an investigation takes on both his personal and professional life. Or, a defendant is named in an indictment which should not have named him at all. Even if acquitted, that defendant loses his reputation, his friends, and his money, among other things. While such injustices exist, only clients, their families and their attorneys seem to take note.
I also see the occasional injustice of seeing those who should be targeted and should be indicted avoid either one or both. These injustices should dishearten a greater number of us, because they say more about us generally than individually. While a defendant’s wrongful indictment suggests something about a renegade individual prosecutor or law enforcement officer, the failure to seek to obtain a grand jury indictment says something about the system itself. So far, with respect to Representative Charles Rangel, the system has seemingly failed us.
Today, Rep Rangel stepped down from his chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee. The question is, when will he be “stepped back,” which, in Maryland, means handcuffed and sent to prison. Certainly, in my opinion, a review of his alleged actions suggests that the evidence may warrant such action.
If Representative Rangel were (merely) Mr. Rangel, how long would it take a prosecutor to seek in indictment for tax evasion based on, as reported by The New York Times, his alleged failure to report rental income earned from a villa he owns in the Dominican Republic, or his alleged receipt of gifts related to his rental of four rent-controlled apartments for less than market value? The answer in part would be “before the statute of limitations runs.”
But all is not lost. At least the system seems to be working in North Carolina, where ex-Sen (now “Mr.”) Edwards appears to remain the target of a federal grand jury for his alleged improper use of campaign funds. Only time will tell if Mr. Edwards goes from the target of an investigation to a defendant in an indictment. If so, I suspect that few would see an injustice in that.