Saturday, May 3, 2008

What Will Cooperation Bring?

Carrie Johnson's Washington Post article titled, Ex-Aide Sentenced, New Probe Emerges discusses a 6 month sentence being given to an individual who faced a possible 2 years for an embezzlement related charge.  But the telling part of this article pertains to a probe involving lawmakers using staff members for political related activities.  The problem here being that the political activities may have occurred during government paid time. So, what does an embezzlement plea have to do with this new probe?

  • Will it be a Political Investigation: The article notes that the person being sentenced is affiliated with two lawmakers who are Democrats. So a first question will be whether this investigation will be limited to one political party? With a politicized justice department in the recent past, such investigations raise concerns as whether they will be an outgrowth of the politics in the department.
  • Can't Give too Good a Deal: An individual facing 2 years gets 6 months. The government doesn't want to give too good a deal (such as no time) if they plan on using the person to testify against others.  Credibility of the individual providing the information is important, and too good a deal makes one wonder whether the person is in fact being truthful.
  • How Many Dominoes Will Fall: One has to wonder whether this plea is but one domino in a major investigation.  Will this individual provide information that will be verified by others, and will there be more pleas prior to the filing of a major indictment of a top person?
  • How High Will it Go: One problem for the government with these types of investigations -- in seeing how high you can go --is determining the knowledge of the top individuals.  Did the individuals leave such matters to those below them, did they have actual knowledge of how their staff was used, or is it a willful blindness situation, where the individual knows what is going on but just avoids being a part of the conduct to avoid criminal culpability?
  • Will it Hit a Wall: What may sometimes seem like a major investigation can sometimes fall flat when there just isn't any criminal conduct there.  Could this be the case here?

A lot of unanswered questions, but Carrie Johnson at the Washington Post is onto something worth watching.


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