Usually we can count on the U.S. Justice Department to begin at least one really dumb prosecution each week. This week followers of silly cases have two whoppers to watch. Which one is a bigger waste of time and taxpayer money? You choose.
Sports fans no doubt consider the perjury trial of former major league baseball pitcher Roger Clemens to be a complete waste of time. Clemens, a Cy Young Award winner, and former star for the Boston Red Sox, the Blue Jays and later, the New York Yankees, is accused of lying when he told a Congressional committee that he never used steroids. Two former friends, his ex-personal trainer, and ex-best-friend-forever, fellow pitcher Andy Pettitte, say otherwise. They claim he used steroids and HGH to prolong his career.
Why was Clemens testifying before Congress to begin with? Politicians look big and bad when they haul in athletes and movie stars, to rough them up before the cameras. Guys who never got past little league get a chance to humiliate all-stars.
The goal is to get the star to either admit to something (unlikely), deny it (Clemens’ choice) or take the 5th Amendment on camera. Lots of people think anyone who takes the 5th is guilty.
That’s why it’s against the law to pull this stunt in a courtroom. The prosecutors can’t put the defendant on the stand and make him exercise his constitutional right to remain silent in front of the jury. Congress doesn’t does operate under the same laws, nor, apparently, under any moral equivalent. All’s fair in love, politics and baseball.
But that doesn’t mean the tens of thousands of investigators’ hours, and millions of taxpayer dollars, have to be wasted on this nonsense. This is actually the second time this case has been tried. The first time the Judge was forced to declare a mistrial because the prosecutors disobeyed his order, and introduced evidence that the judge had excluded.
Congressional “show trials” are designed to embarrass witnesses, and make two-bit congressmen famous for 15 minutes. Criminal prosecutions just add to the show.
If the medical history of a retire baseball pitcher doesn’t interest you, maybe the sexual shenanigans of former presidential candidate John Edwards will. The Just-Us Department is prosecuting Edwards for campaign law violations relating to his mistress and love child.
Edwards, if you recall, is the low-life Democratic presidential candidate who had a child out-of-wedlock with his videographer, Rielle Hunter, who reported told him he was “hot.” Not as hot as his wife would get, who at the time was in public battle with end stage cancer.
As crazy as Edwards’ love life seems, his scheme to hide his affair was even crazier. Actually, an affair could be hidden, but in this case, there was a baby.
So, Edwards convinced his friend and young campaign aide, Andy Young, to claim that he – not Edwards – actually fathered Hunter’s baby. Edwards also convinced Young, who was married himself, to let Ms. Hunter and child move in with Young and his wife.
Now there’s a lot of things we do for our bosses, but claiming paternity for their out-of wedlock kids, and taking the boss’s mistress home to live is a bit much. It might have worked, but according to former-friend Young, Ms. Hunter was an ungrateful houseguest, who treated the Youngs like her servants.
This story make for great reality TV, but what’s this got to do with the United States criminal code? Sure Edwards is a world-class jerk, but if you don’t see a crime here, you’re not alone. The prosecutors are trying to one-up Edwards in creative scheming.
The so-called crime goes like this: Hunter and child needed living expenses, and so Edwards turned to his supporter Rachel “Bunny” Mellon, a wealthy philanthropist who had previously given to his campaign.”Bunny” funneled personal checks to Hunter through her interior decorator. Now, the U.S. Attorney says that these payments to Hunter violated federal campaign finance laws.
According to the government’s theory, Edwards’ campaign was based on his image as a devoted family man. Any money spent establishing or protecting that image is a campaign expense. So Bunny’s payments to Hunter were actually unreported campaign contributions. Needless to say, this theory of campaign finance law has never been used before. (And if the jury has any brains, will never be used again)
Meanwhile back in real life, thanks to the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizen’s United case, we are seeing a tsunami of secret corporate campaign cash drowning our democracy. Will anything be done about the millions spent anonymously to subvert our free elections? Not unless the story involves sports or sex.
Why is the government going after Clemens and Edwards? There are no probably some specific factors at work, but in general, with violent crime down over 50% from its peak, these cases – and of course, marijuana cases – are what the feds need to keep busy.