February 16, 2015
Judge Alex Kozinski of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has spoken of an “epidemic” of prosecutorial misconduct in California.
Both the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times have published editorials since yesterday calling for legal reform that will allow prosecutors to be held accountable for misconduct.
Further illustrating the widespread and pervasive nature of corruption in the criminal justice system, on Saturday the Baltimore Sun’s Mark Puente published an article examining how a criminal case can fall apart when the police are, shall we say, less than truthful in their affidavits submitted to courts in support of search warrants.
Baltimore drug probe crumbles after court challenge
Don’t Look a Gift Card in the Mouth
No one who steals even just one gift card intended for the underprivileged should be mayor. I don’t care how effective the mayor has been. And if I believe Baltimore City Mayor Sheila Dixon did what the recently returned indictment alleges, I will not vote for her in the next election. That’s my right. And that’s the price one pays as an elected official. She has to answer to the voters at the voting booths. But should she have to answer to the voters in a courtroom? In my mind, that turns on the strength of the evidence of her intent to steal.
In almost all public corruption cases, the primary issue is intent. It is a lot easier for a prosecutor to demonstrate intent to steal when a public official steals large sums of money from the people he is supposed to serve and protect, or conceals valuable bribes or gifts. It is a lot more difficult to establish intent to steal where the total sum allegedly stolen is barely worth stealing.
Obviously, I am putting aside the seemingly laughable allegations that Mayor Dixon was supposed to declare gifts from a private relationship on a public form. This would certainly not stop me from voting for her next time, although Mayor Dixon has put me in the uncomfortable position of having to explain to my wife why I have never bought her a fur coat. Federal ethics regulations, which are much more comprehensive and better written than Baltimore City’s, allow exceptions for gifts given because of a personal relationship, so long as those gifts are not given in exchange for any official action. Apparently, there is no evidence of any such quid pro quo here, because bribery charges are conspicuously missing from the otherwise overly inclusive indictment. The indictment alleges some apparently furtive behavior relating to some of these gifts and travel expenses, but, otherwise, little about these allegations is troubling.
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