A Monster Fed by Ignorance, Corruption and Paranoia

A Monster Fed by Ignorance, Corruption and Paranoia

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Link: From the Independent.ie and posted Sunday September 14, 2008

The US government succeeds in over 90 per cent of its prosecutions, which indicates that the system is a stacked deck. US criminal justice is based on the plea bargain, which is essentially the exchange of immunity or a reduced sentence for inculpatory perjury against targeted people. It is an evil and repulsive system based on intimidation, suborned falsehoods, and impoverishment. Irish, British and Canadian prosecutors using these tactics would be disbarred.

The prosecutors routinely try to freeze assets of targeted people, ex parte, on the basis of affidavits they know to be fraudulent. They did so with me. Few people can afford to go the distance with the Justice Department, and are conducted to their confinement by the Judas Goats of the public defender service, pawns of the prosecutors, understaffed, and paid on the basis of supposed merit by the judges, most of whom are also ex-prosecutors. The longer the trial, the more certain it is that the jurors will be unqualified to sort out the facts, especially as they cannot consult the transcripts, and must rely on their memories.

The Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth constitutional amendments — guarantees of due process, the grand jury as an assurance against capricious prosecution, no seizure of property without just compensation, access to counsel, an impartial jury, speedy justice, and reasonable bail — were all assaulted by the prosecutors in my case. We didn’t know the grand jury was sitting and never saw a record of its activities. The proceeds of the sale of an apartment I owned in New York were seized on the basis of what the jury later recognised as a false affidavit, in order to frustrate my ability to pay the retainer required by my lawyer.

I had to go to less well informed and qualified counsel. The US government has been harassing me for five years, and I had to post bond in the outrageous and almost unheard of amount of $38m.

All of the principal government witnesses had negotiated their testimony in exchange for immunities or a reduced sentence, and all lied repeatedly and were implicitly disbelieved by the jurors. Although not conversant with complicated commercial matters, and having to rely on their recollections of evidence in a four-month trial (although two of them slept through most of the case), the jurors threw out 80 per cent of the entirely false allegations against us.

I have no complaint with my present surroundings, but thoughtful Americans may want to reflect on why this country has eight to 12 times as many incarcerated people per capita as Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom.

Up to the Seventies, the US was a reasonably liberal country in these matters and had about as many imprisoned people per capita as those countries, had a prison system that gave some attention to rehabilitation, and an active prison reform movement.

The US media has for decades hyped the violent crime problem out of all proportion to its real importance. This was almost the only way for local news programs to attract viewers. Virtually all politicians went berserk hammering crime as an issue. Absurdly repressive laws tumbled forth: Mandatory Minimums, the Three- Strike Rule, “Truth in Sentencing”, and the artificially inflated mystique of the death penalty as a macabre ritual of moral and social purification.

The consequence of this was that designated crimes received draconian sentences, with no discretion to the judges to alter them. A third conviction, no matter how trivial or far apart the convictions were, is grossly over-penalised, and no federal sentence could be reduced by more than 15 per cent.

Despite all the fear-mongering about violent crime, for the first time since Prohibition, there were more Americans imprisoned for non-violent than for violent crimes. Only four per cent of three-strike prisoners in Los Angeles were violent. In the whole country, only 15 per cent of the nearly 2.5 million prisoners are repeat violent offenders.

Prison reform collided with the feminist movement, which claimed that violence against women was out of control and was tacitly sanctioned by a large part of male America. The bloody riots in San Quentin and Attica prisons in the early Seventies caused the confusion in the public mind of prison reform with black radicalism and the blood-curdling ambitions of Bobby Seale, Eldridge Cleaver, Angela Davis, and other black extremists, and brought down a heavy backlash on all accused and confined people.

The crime rate declined as the 20 years of Reagan, Bush Sr, and Clinton were basically full-employment, inflation-free decades of huge job creation, and because police techniques were improved and numbers of police increased. The politicians sold the public the bunk that they were responsible for bringing down crime by conducting a war on crime and a war on drugs based on more arrests, high conviction rates, more imprisoned people and longer sentences.

The drug trade was, in fact, a perfect case of supply-side economics, as the price has come down through greater supply, product quality has improved, and there has been no reduction in demand, despite the imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of small fry easily replaced by the drug trade kingpins.

The War on Drugs has cost $750bn and has almost nothing to do with violence. Drugs are involved in one third of property crimes, but only five per cent of violent crimes. People growing 1,000 marijuana plants get mandatory life sentences. The Congress declined money requested by the Clinton administration for more methadone treatment, though it is 15 times more effective than imprisonment for reducing drug use, and hugely less expensive.

The public happily approved countless state referenda authorising bond issues for building new prisons. When this cut into welfare and education budgets, and the public in many states voted down the special prison-building bond issues, the state governments gave long-term leasebacks to private sector companies that built the prisons, and guaranteed them a high occupancy level and rental payments whether the facilities were full or not. This saddled the states with an effective average interest rate of 37 per cent, but excused the politicians from an insupportable referendum or the dread appearance of being soft on crime.

Tens of thousands of shareholders of Wackenhutt and Corrections Corporation of America and other prison companies demanded more and more prisons and prisoners, and steadily more absurdly draconian laws.

The prison companies hire former prison and security officials as executives and directors, including former directors of the FBI and CIA. The correctional officers are militantly unionised, and their unions are rivalled only by the National Rifle Association as the most effective political lobbying organisation in the country over the past 30 years. Overflow prisoners are shipped from one state to another, and often housed in abominable conditions.

To establish federal jurisdiction, charges are ridiculous inter-state technicalities like wire fraud. Charges come in large bunches, as jurors are normally reluctant to give their government nothing at the end of a long trial. Unconscionable delays are allowed for prosecutors to hand over documents, defence witnesses are frequently intimidated, while government witnesses are ring-fenced from the defence and carefully scripted, and exempted from prosecution for perjury.

Summaries of interviews with potential witnesses are withheld from them and are frequently falsified. Impossibly vague statutes arm the prosecution with the ability to threaten anybody with unfounded but dangerous charges.

I was convicted of not giving “honest services” to our company, although this was never defined; the company suffered no economic loss, and there was no evidence to support the charge.

Prosecutions in the US have become steadily more numerous, are almost always at least partially successful, and the political class, from left to right, claim success against crime through righteous severity. The public was screaming for blood, judges were named or elected on the basis of their propensity to aid the prosecutors and become, with few exceptions, the zeitgeist in robes.

Almost no one can afford to fight it out, as defendants are denied the ability to pay counsel by spurious asset seizures. Unconstitutional laws like RICO and CAFRA (seizure of assets under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations Act and Civil Assets Forfeiture Reform Act, gross misnomers), were enacted and misapplied. Both were thrown at me, including the uniquely American concept of civil racketeering.

Prosecutors sit immediately in front of the jury in court, making faces at and flirting with jurors like schoolchildren, have the last word in trials, and benefit from huge procedural advantages.

The concept of the criminal defendant’s day in an impartial court receiving justice that is blind to all but the evidence, with the sides equally balanced and weighed by Solomonic judges and Chestertonian juries, has been hollowed out to a farce with a few trappings of justice decorating a state-prosecution steamroller.

In California, from 1977 to 1998, the number of prison employees multiplied by six (to 24,000) and of prisoners by eight (to 160,000, a higher number than the UK, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands and Singapore combined, which have 11 times California’s population). Since then, the number of California’s prison employees has grown from one-fourteenth of its employees to one third, and the prison budget has exceeded the state’s university budget.

Five million African-Americans have been disenfranchised because of their legal records, and we are now getting back to the level of black disenfranchisement that prevailed prior to Lyndon B Johnson‘s Civil and Voting Rights Acts of 1965. The per capita number of blacks to whites in prison is 10 times greater. More than a third of American black males between 20 and 29 are under some form of criminal justice supervision.

The population of the US mental hospital system has declined by 90 per cent in 35 years, as these people were just tossed into the prison system. Unemployment figures were improved by putting 1,500,000 unemployed people into prison and employing 750,000 mainly unskilled workers, many of whom would also otherwise be unemployed, to watch them.

Imprisonment has become a discreditable substitute for racial segregation, chunks of the welfare system, treatment of mental illness, and amelioration of the effects of drugs on American society. The prison industry in the States has become a horrible, gigantic Frankenstein monster, involving hundreds of billions of dollars annually, feeding on public ignorance and paranoia, political corruption and cowardice, and with the rails greased by the endless media portrayal of heroic police, prosecutors and judges, and uniformly horrible and psychotic criminals.

The myth has been built up that property must be defended as fiercely as people’s persons. Because Congress and the administrations funked on disparity of wealth, the totemistic persecution of a few prominent people who strayed into the cross-hairs, like Martha Stewart and Michael Milken, was substituted for a comprehensive public policy debate about why there are 45 million poor people in such a rich country, and what to do about it.

In our case, while obviously innocent people have been convicted of a few of the false charges that were brought, in the briefly holy name of corporate governance, our company’s share price has descended from $21 when I departed it, to 18 cents. The Canadian company, for which I offered $7.60 per share in 2005, has been plunged into bankruptcy and is worthless. The court-protected defenders of the public shareholders have obscenely enriched themselves with hundreds of millions of dollars, while destroying these fine companies and vapourising $2bn of shareholder value. Splendid titles have deteriorated in the UK, the US, and Canada. Such is the current state of American corporate governance. The courts and regulators of the US (and Canada) are complicit in this debacle and they will have much to answer for.

America is becoming a prosecutocracy and a carceral state. In a democratic country, the people are always right, and if the American people are happy with their justice system, their will is sovereign. But the majority of Americans, massed at their great public spectacles, hand over heart, singing their splendid patriotic anthems, have no idea how far their justice system has putrefied.

When the number of victims of official injustice and their families and supporters become so numerous and aroused that every congressman receives 50 messages a week from them, change will be possible. That is democracy too, but as long as these problems are not addressed, the human and moral damage to American society will become steadily more severe.

Time and sober analysis are already revealing that it is that system, and not I, that has been disgraced in these legal travails.

1 comment

  1. A Monster Fed by Ignorance, Corruption and Paranoia | National Cannagraphic Magazine @Cannagraphic.com http://bit.ly/a40o1J

  2. Persona Personified

    Feb 4, 2010


    A Monster Fed by Ignorance, Corruption and Paranoia | National Cannagraphic Magazine @Cannagraphic.com http://bit.ly/a40o1J

  3. Mich De

    Feb 5, 2010


    A Monster Fed by Ignorance, Corruption and Paranoia | National Cannagraphic Magazine v:@Cannagraphic.com #mmot http://su.pr/1xwIOC

  4. Kaitlyn

    Jul 8, 2010


    A Monster Fed by Ignorance, Corruption and Paranoia | National Cannagraphic Magazine @Cannagraphic.com http://bit.ly/a40o1J

  5. Lane

    Oct 7, 2011


    A Monster Fed by Ignorance, Corruption and Paranoia | National Cannagraphic Magazine @Cannagraphic.com http://t.co/BrPWgv7N

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