Monday, March 10, 2008

Sex or Crime, Spitzer Has Been Punished?

Four individuals had a criminal complaint filed against them.  Two were charged with a conspiracy to violate federal laws related to prostitution.  The other two face charges of prostitution and money laundering. (See NYTImes here) Enter client 9 - an individual unnamed in the charges. The details of the D.C. meeting involving client 9, and how the woman meeting him was to arrive are outlined in the NYTimes here.  Some of the questions that are likely to be explored in the upcoming days are:

  • Did Spitzer violate the Mann Act?  The Mann Act, 18 U.S.C. Sec. 2421, provides: "[w]hoever knowingly transports any individual in interstate or foreign commerce, or in any Territory or Possession of the United States, with intent that such individual engage in prostitution, or in any sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense, or attempts to do so, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned..." Even if this did amount to a technical violation, one has to seriously question whether consensual acts warrant prosecution.
  • Will Spitzer need to be a witness in the case against the four individuals charged with conspiracy, prostitution, and money laundering?  Will he be given immunity?  In the federal system this would be "use" immunity as opposed to "transactional immunity,"  which means that anything he said or derived from what he said could not be used against him. 
  • Was it really necessary to include all of these acts in the charging instrument? Prosecutors, obviously, knew who they were dealing with in this case.  But, on the other hand, did fairness require this to happen - should any one person be protected here more than others?

From a purely punishment perspective, and irrespective of Spitzer having any criminal culpability, it seems obvious that a "shaming" has occurred here.  Even if there was some criminal culpability, should taxpayer's dollars be spent on investigating and prosecuting this man. The higher the office holder, the longer the fall from power, and in this case it is pretty hard ground that Spitzer is landing upon.


Addendum - Check out Brian Baxter's piece at The American Lawyer here. Some thoughtful quotes from Associate Dean Patricia Salkin are in this article.

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According to reports and the indictment, Spitzer actually purchased a train ticket to bring a hooker down from NYC to Washington. Seems like a straightforward Mann Act violation, nothing "technical" about it.

As for how prosecutorial discretion should be exercised regarding Spitzer, it is interesting to think about how he might have answered the question in similar circumstances just a few years ago. Spitzer, you'll recall, had a particular fondness for bringing the high and mighty to their knees, sometimes on charges not, in and of themselves, necessarily worthy of prosecution. He particularly targeted the sanctimonious and those who declined to own up to (what he deemed) the moral repugnance of their acts.

Just sayin'.

Posted by: Andrew | Mar 10, 2008 7:09:41 PM

Customers are seldom if ever charged under the Mann Act these days -- just the pimps. Look at 18 USC 2422, however - perhaps a more pertinent provision of the Act: "enticing" a person (formerly "woman") to cross state lines for purposes of prostitution. Has a 20 year max. Still, the Mann Act has a long and sordid history of abuse for political and/or racist purposes. Charlie Chaplin, Jack Johnson, Frank Lloyd Wright, Chuck Berry were all defendants. I think the govt would be very unlikely to charge Spitzer with this. That would really smack of a political prosecutorial decision. Something they don't need more of in DC, what with the Spiegelman fiasco etc.

Posted by: Peter G | Mar 10, 2008 9:54:51 PM

The Mann Act is in question. More importantly, investigators may look at whether Spitizer used public funds for his tryst. There is a lot more of why Spitzer is the only one mentioned as Client 9. Who are Clients 1-10? And are they officials or important figures? I see more of an outcry for Spitzer to step down. But, Senator Vitter received a standing ovation when he returned to office after confessing involvement in prostitution. If the media and lawmakers want Spitzer to resign from his job for his sin committed, then frog march Vitter, Craig, and other lawmakers who got caught with their pants down. Should money be spent on Spitzer probe? The money should be allocated to investigate the crimes of Rove, Cheney, and others. Our judicial system is broken. And current investigations such as torture tapes, missing emails, KBR rapes, USA firing scandal, and others are important. There is too much focus on urgent issues instead of important issues. The investigators in this case said that they had no interest in the prostitution ring but only when Spitzer's name was on the list of clients. That should tell you something.

Posted by: SP Biloxi | Mar 10, 2008 10:47:48 PM

Re: Even if there was some criminal culpability, should taxpayer's dollars be spent on investigating and prosecuting this man?

Are you suggesting that holders of high ranking governmental offices should be immune from investigation and prosecution? Eliot Spitzer himself in his former life as a prosecuting attorney and as Attorney General spent much time investigating and prosecuting persons allegedly involved in prostitution rings, and some of them were notable in their own right.
I think it is particularly fitting that those who set themselves up as moral standard setters such as Spitzer and Larry Craig should be subject to examination when they are likely guilty of the crimes or offenses that they rail against in their public lives. He certainly cannot claim ignorance of the law as a defense in this case, can he?

Posted by: Bob E | Mar 10, 2008 10:53:21 PM

"Even if there was some criminal culpability, should taxpayer's dollars be spent on investigating and prosecuting this man".

Here we go again!Maybe we should just close down ALL criminal courts and save the taxpayers some money.Why should Spitzer not be prosecuted,and jailed if found guilty.I know of someone in NY who got three DUI's,did sixty days,and WAS BILLED for his incarceration.We should call in Rudy "RICO" Giuliani to see whether this meets the RICO standards.It sure sounds like it does to me.

Posted by: tc | Mar 11, 2008 3:31:48 PM

Regardless of the federal laws involved, Mr. Spitzer should have to fall subject to the very laws he promoted most strongly. He should be tried and subsequently convicted based New York States Sex Crimes Law and then fall subject to Megans Law. See the following website for verification.

It would be ironic and strangely fitting that the man who justified, supported & enforced a law that is similar to the French Law acted out in Les Miserables. Let him register for 20 years and feel the shame of his past go on and on no matter what he becomes later.

Posted by: Rick | Mar 13, 2008 7:07:17 AM

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