Sunday, January 8, 2006

Collateral Consequences of an Indictment - DeLay

Indictments are mere charges against a person, and the person is presumed to be innocent. But the consequences of such charges can ruin a person.

In the case of poorer individuals, it often means that they have no counsel and can remain in jail until such time as they appear in court and counsel is appointed. (Professor Doug Colbert spoke on the problems of not having counsel at bail hearings at a conference this past week in DC held by the Association of American Law Schools.) In addition to the inherent issues  of remaining in jail, the collateral consequences here can include the loss of a job when they don't show up to work, not being able to provide for a family, and not being available to handle everyday business.  Despite the claim of a person being innocent until proven guilty, those accused of crimes can suffer immediate consequences.

Although the white collar offender often has representation, there can still be collateral consequences pre-trial. Rep Tom DeLay is getting a lesson on collateral consequences as a result of the charges levied against him. Reported in CNN here, Tom DeLay, who is under indictment in Texas, has decided not to run for the majority leader, although he says he will be back for the general election for the position he presently holds in Congress.

What caused his present announcement?  Could it be a resulting from pressure by "some House Republicans, who circulated a petition officially calling for new leadership elections in the wake of a series of ethics scandals?" (CNN) Do these individuals not recognize that people are innocent until proven guilty? Or do collateral consequences of an indictment or possible association with individuals charged with crimes suggest that people accused of crimes really are not innocent in the eyes of the public. A collateral consequence of being charged with a crime in the political world is that people want to distance themselves from the accused.


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Two comments:

1) Scanlon and Abramhoff have pled guilty to criminal charges. Could this be a case of assumption of guilt by association?

2) Regarding being charged with a crime if you are a politician and the result of people “wanting to distance themselves” from the accused.

Could this be related to the old-fashioned notion that people holding public office should be of good character, should conduct the public’s business honestly, and should serve their constituents’ interests without also enriching their own personal coffers or their political standing/influence? Isn’t this why 18 USC § 1346 was enacted?

Posted by: DJ | Jan 8, 2006 9:11:45 AM

You make sound points, although 18 USC § 1346 was enacted after the Court reversed the McNally decision that prohibited prosecutors from bringing cases premised on the intangible right to honest services. It is a statute that has been the subject of claims of vagueness and overbreadth. But even, with its expansive application, it does not punish those who have not been convicted of the crime. It is the public that punishes (indirectly perhaps) via a guilt by association. In the case of DeLay, however, there has been no conviction or plea. (esp)

Posted by: ESP | Jan 9, 2006 10:11:00 AM

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