Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Scooter and Martha and Paris, Oh My!
An examination of ‘justice’ for the rich and especially the powerful

Unless one were in a coma over the last 3 months it would be impossible to miss the myriad stories on Paris Hilton, especially the manufactured furor over her release from jail after a total of one day. Many of the loudest haranguers were from the retributive punitive conservatives, oddly enough, the very same group who howled the loudest over Scooter Libby’s conviction and applauded the loudest at the commutation of his sentence.

What is often missed in all the fulminating over the ‘light’ treatment of Paris Hilton is the following:
  1. The ‘crime’ for which Paris was convicted was a misdemeanor; literally, “An offense less serious than a felony.”;
  2. Paris was jailed for ‘operating a vehicle on a suspended license’; not DWI, not for an accident involving property damage or personal injury;
  3. With the immense and intense degree of jail overcrowding, it is illogical to jail someone who poses virtually no danger of flight.
  4. A sentence of ‘home detention’ would have been more than sufficient a punishment, especially for a notorious ‘party girl’ who would have been put ‘out of the loop’ for the time of her detention.
In the case of Martha Stewart the ‘common knowledge’ is that she was convicted and imprisoned for violating SEC rules. Of course, like the large percent of the American public who still believe that Saddam Hussein was guilty of either planning or funding the 911 terrorists, this ‘common knowledge’ is wrong. What Martha Stewart was actually convicted of was of lying to the FBI. This was not lying to a grand jury. This was not perjury on the stand. In both those cases, the offense is lying while under oath! In Martha’s case, the misstatements or lies were made to the FBI during an interview; not in a deposition, not a court action, but an interview with the FBI. As opposed to depositions and court actions, Martha did not have a chance to review her records and could, very plausibly, have made a mistake in recollection, a defense far less plausible in a deposition, grand jury appearance or a trial.

In the case of the infamous Scooter Libby, he was actually convicted of multiple instances of perjury and obstruction of justice. The reichwing echo chamber’s spurious claim that ‘there was no underlying crime’ is simply fallacious and fanciful. By that self same standard, the perjury which formed the basis for the impeachment of Bill Clinton was indeed perjury which did not rest on any ‘underlying crime’. The lie in deposition of Bill Clinton was of a personal nature and involved a consensual sexual encounter and there was no crime or possible crime that this lie was made to obscure. Scooter Libby, by contrast, lied under oath to a grand jury so as to obstruct a criminal investigation and so committed repeated acts of perjury which are felonies.

Bush’s commutation of Scooter Libby is a continuation of Scooter’s obstruction of justice. Now that Scooter has been freed of the possibility of becoming 350 lb. Bubba’s girlfriend in prison, he has absolutely no motivation to reveal the identities of those above him in the chain of command who were involved in or perhaps even initiated the release of top secret information the release of which seriously compromised national security.

In summation what we see is that simply being rich and notorious, like Paris Hilton and Martha Stewart, is not sufficient to have relatively innocuous charges treated appropriately. In fact, the notoriety of the two women may well have led to their cases being treated disproportionately harshly. In Paris’s case we have a bubble headed bleached blonde being treated like a hardened criminal. In Martha’s case we have a high visibility, powerful woman who, interestingly enough, was a Democrat, being treated much more harshly than Republican ‘white collar’ criminals whose crimes were far more egregious and resulted in far wider damage to the public at large. In the case of I. Scooter Libby, convicted of multiple serious felonies, the underlying crimes that he was perjuring himself to cover seriously damaging the intelligence community and national security, he will get to go scot-free; not even serving as much jail time as Paris did even at the time of her first, premature, release.

So, the motto must be: “Being rich is wonderful. Being famous is nice. Knowing where the bodies are buried…priceless!”

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