Last week, I sat in a federal courtroom as my friend, former Republican Rep. Bob Ney, was sentenced to 30 months in prison. As I took my place on the bench reserved for family and friends, a woman smiled and introduced herself as the lead prosecutor's sister. Two young girls, and an older woman who was probably the mother of the prosecutor, accompanied the woman. They were all perched proudly on the front bench.
This was clearly the prosecutor's big case. She had bagged not only a member of Congress but a House Republican chairman and she had the cheering section commensurate with the conquest. Now that is what you call in the business, a ''big fish.'' I was horrified that the prosecutor was so proud of putting this ''big fish'' in jail that she had invited the family. The government got their House chairman and accomplished this by getting grand jury testimony from former staffers who have not been charged and who clearly had motivation to make the boss look bad while they secured a ''get out of jail free'' card. This horse trading of course is done courtesy of the prosecutors. The Ney case was taking place in exactly the same courthouse that is housing another big government trial designed to enhance the career of another career prosecutor, Mr. Fitzgerald, in the Lewis ''Scooter'' Libby case.
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While both of these cases involve high-profile government employees, there are many differences between the two. One, Ney pleaded guilty and Libby is going to take his chances with a trial. Two, Ney was abandoned by the power structure, and Libby has been fortified by it. He has raised over three million dollars and has a vice president in his corner who is willing to testify for him. Former Rep. Ney had no money to go to trial and so was forced to cop a plea, even though most believe he would have likely been exonerated had he gone to trial. You are only entitled to a fair trial if you can afford the trial.
What is so astounding is the amount of taxpayer money involved in these ''career making'' prosecutions. The Libby case is a particularly egregious abuse of money. I say this not as a fan of Mr. Libby and his former boss, Vice President Dick Cheney, but as a concerned citizen. Someone leaked the fact that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA. That is a fact that everyone agrees on. The question in this case began as who leaked what first, was it done to harm her husband's findings on weapons of mass destruction as it related to ''yellow cake uranium'' in Niger, and did Libby lie about it?
After several months of research, investigations and wringing of hands in the prosecutor's office, it turned out that the only ''criminal'' question out of the three turned out to be ''lying.'' From that point, the case quickly began to center on the question of did Libby lie to the grand jury about who he told what to? He was not charged under any law for revealing her name but he has been charged for perjury. Give me a break. Libby is a bright lawyer who clearly knew that leaking information was not a crime. He knew that he could not be charged under the espionage law. So, what possible incentive would he have to lie? To cover up for the vice president? Cover up what? Assuming he was covering for Mr. Cheney, then what would Cheney have been charged with?
It seems as if Libby may use the defense that he had honestly forgotten who he said what to. Many of my liberal friends think he is out and out lying. They don't like what Libby stands for and what he did in terms of promoting the bogus ''Casus Belli'' for the Iraq invasion. I agree with them, it would be a lot better for the country if Libby and Cheney and the rest of them were never anywhere near the West Wing of the White House. But, to spend two years of Fitzgerald's time and our taxpayer money for a perjury charge that started out with an investigation in a matter that was not even criminal is completely crazy.
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The average American taxpayer pays about $5,000 in income tax. Assuming that the trial costs at least 3 million dollars for the federal government to prosecute, then 600 Americans would have worked a full year because someone may have lied about something that was not criminal and the individual most likely forgot whom he said what to. How many of us think we told our spouses or children something and didn't, how many of us wrote a check for something and can't remember what it was for?
This is justice? It is a media trial. The prosecutors have used our tax dollars to go on a fishing trip in order to make their own careers. It is time to bring some sanity to the court system. Perjury cases as well as cases where underlings are allowed to embellish the truth in order to save their own necks, (think Sammy the Bull), have two winners, the media and the prosecutors.