April 15, 2007
A Response to Scott Turow
In a piece in the Washington Post, Scott Turow provides his take on the appropriate role of a U.S. Attorney. He mentions how U.S. Attorneys back in his day in the office resented the DOJ approvals needed in RICO cases.
Today U.S. Attorneys need main justice's approval in a lot more than just RICO cases. For example, it is needed when an attorney is indicted and when the matter relates to international affairs.
Having oversight by the central office is good. When a rogue or inexperienced prosecutor extends the lines with creative prosecutions, there needs to be one central office that provides guidance. Moreover, central coordination can provide consistency in the various offices. It would be a shame to have consistency in sentencing if the underlying charging process varies.
The problem is not with having autonomy in U.S. Attorneys' Offices. The problem is whether those within any office, whether it be in Washington, D.C. or elsewhere are separate from the political process. The political process may place them in their position, but once there - a prosecutor needs to be a "minister of justice."
It is unusual for an accused to speak to the press, and oftentimes the comments made can come back to haunt the person at trial. But this isn't stopping David Stockman from letting the press know his opinion of the prosecutors and prosecution that he is facing. Initially we saw his statement in the Wall Street Journal. The N.Y.Times also reports on Stockman's thoughts on his Indictment.
Stockman, a former Director of Management & Budget under President Ronald Reagan is charged with a 65 page 8 count indictment that includes conpiracy, fraud, and obstruction related charges. (see here). This will definitely be a case worth watching in that it is clear that the accused is well versed on the company numbers and is ready, willing, and able to take on the government on the explicit facts to be presented in the case. In so many recent prosecutions we have seen the government giving "deals" to the CFO to testify against the CEO. But here, the CEO may be different in that he may have more knowledge of the numbers than anyone in the courtroom.
Landon Thomas, Jr. of the N.Y.Times does a superb job in this article of noting the psychological toll that indictments/investigations can play on individuals.