Monday, October 24, 2005

Is Perjury a "Technicality"?

On Meet the Press, in the context of discussing possible charges from the grand jury investigation of the leak of the status of Valerie Plame, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison stated that a perjury charge would be a "technicality" and any such charge would be an attempt by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald to justify a two-year investigation -- see the Reuters story here. As an earlier post (here) notes, this may well be the week in which Fitzgerald decides whether to seek a grand jury indictment.  The Reuters article also notes that Fitzgerald may inform one or more officials in the administration that they are targets of the investigation, a final step toward seeking an indictment.

If a perjury (or Section 1001 or obstruction of justice) charge were to be returned by the grand jury, is that just a technicality, particularly if the underlying subject matter of the investigation -- whether there was a violation of federal law from the disclosure of Plame's position as a cover intelligence agent -- is not also charged?  Lying is hardly a technical violation of the law, particularly when a person has sworn an oath to testify truthfully before a federal grand jury, and trying to diminish perjury as a "collateral" violation or otherwise unimportant denigrates the integrity of the investigative process.  As the Eighth Circuit noted in U.S. v. Lasater, 535 F.2d 1041, 1049 (8th Cir. 1976): "The grand jury performs an important function in our judicial system, as the device by which criminal investigations are conducted and criminal proceedings instituted . . . Any false testimony before a grand jury, which tends to impede its investigation, should be diligently prosecuted."  Interestingly, a claim of perjury was the basis for the first article of impeachment (here) against President Clinton, which stated:

[I]n violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has willfully corrupted and manipulated the judicial process of the United States for his personal gain and exoneration, impeding the administration of justice, in that: On August 17, 1998, William Jefferson Clinton swore to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth before a Federal grand jury of the United States. Contrary to that oath, William Jefferson Clinton willfully provided perjurious, false and misleading testimony to the grand jury . . . .

  That does not sound like a "technicality" to me. (ph)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/whitecollarcrime_blog/2005/10/is_perjury_a_te.html

Grand Jury, Investigations, Media, Perjury | Permalink

TrackBack URL for this entry:

http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8341bfae553ef00d834240f4553ef

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Is Perjury a "Technicality"?:

» Taking Perjury Seriously from ACSBlog: The Blog of the American Constitution Society
With pre-emptive spin already beginning to the effect that Patrick Fitzgerald's expected Plamegate indictments will concern "mere technicalities," (see, e.g., Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's comments here, or the "this-is-just-a-policy-dispute" argument of... [Read More]

Tracked on Oct 24, 2005 7:02:49 AM