Some argue that the American justice system is corrupt and in need of reform. Others say the system is run by honest individuals just doing their job in a professional and ethical manner. In a sense, both are correct. It just depends on what portion of the judicial system you are considering.
When it comes to hard crimes, like murder, bank robbery, rape and embezzlement, the system works quite well. When politics or white-collar crimes are involved, the system can be very unfair and corrupt, indeed. Biases exist at every level of law enforcement.
We do not operate under the rule of law because enforcement and judicial decisions are made by people with biases. Police can make an arrest and not make an arrest. Have you ever been stopped by police for speeding and have the officer “give you a pass?” The law did not rule. Prosecutors call it “prosecutorial discretion” when they decide who to indict and who to let walk. Those decisions are not based on law, but personal perspectives and considerations – and all too often on political biases.
Law professor Alan Dershowitz states that a well-funded and determined prosecutor can find evidence to pursue a criminal case against anyone in America. Yes, anyone. That is worth elaborating upon. It means that you and I could be indicted for criminal activity if a prosecutor were willing to dig deep enough and spin the evidence.
Spin the evidence? Yep! In many cases, crimes and the evidence are matters of perspective and interpretation. Anyone who has sat through a court procedure, hearing the opposing arguments, will understand that dynamic. If the law ruled, how is it that crimes in different courts and different jurisdictions get extremely different results? Often, two people committing the same crime together get different verdicts. One can be convicted and one can be acquitted.
In many cases, the claim of a crime can be very subjective. For example, I once needed a loan to start a business. I presented the bank with my business plan which showed an estimate of revenues and profits which were very good, indeed. That is true of every business plan ever submitted to a lender. Unfortunately, things did not turn out as I had hoped. I lost the business and the bank lost the loaned money. This happens to banks every day.
But, what if an aggressive Horist-hating prosecutor decided that I had defrauded the bank by giving false information? Obviously, the business did not produce the revenues I had proposed. Prosecutors will tell you that it would all depend on my “intent.” How could I prove my intent was honest and sincere if an aggressive prosecutor was stating that I lied to the bank and he used the outcome of the business as proof.
When it comes to political matters, it is even worse. It does not matter if a prosecutor is a Republican or a Democrat if they are out to get you. In Cook County, Illinois (from whence I came) the Democrat machine prosecutors and judges will hang Republicans for jaywalking while overlooking vote fraud and other political crimes by Democrats. During my days as head of or advisor to various civic groups in Chicago, I have seen this corruption of the judicial system on a routine basis; prosecutorial discretion trumps any concept of that highly touted rule of law.
Another corrupt tool of the prosecutors is nothing less than Mafia-like threats, intimidation, bribery and blackmail. This is where they offer to “go easy” on a person if they “flip” and turn states’ evidence against a bigger fish to fry. They will even agree to not charge or guarantee minimum punishment to provable criminals. Where is the rule of law in that? They literally stack as many criminal charges as possible, suggesting many years of incarceration – even beyond life expectancy – to “cooperate” with the prosecutors’ goal of nabbing a more prominent individual. This has produced a crisis of false confessions and lies.
Apart from the legal chicanery, there is another sad reality. Even if you are innocent, and even if the prosecutors cannot prove the charges, they can destroy your life. They have unlimited resources at their disposal to drag you through prolonged and costly hearings. They can seize your private information. They can destroy your ability to earn an income while subjecting you to costs beyond your capability to pay. Unlike them, you do not have access to the taxpayer vault to pay for your defense. It has been reported that Rick Gates decided to cooperate with the Mueller investigation because he did not have the resource to fight. Michael Flynn, it is reported, offered to cooperate in order to exempt his son from the rule of law (meaning prosecution) and to reduce his exposure.
If you want to better understand why Trump is so angry and frustrated, consider this. What if someone said you had put something in an expense account that was not proper – maybe even accidentally. Instead of being asked to correct the error, a federal prosecutor was ordered to do a complete investigation of that mistake as an intentional crime. And what if the investigators were told to use unlimited resources to not only prove that to be a crime, but that they should dig in all directions to see what else they can uncover. You would be tied down in judicial hell for years. Your friends and business associates would be called to testify against you or risk punishment themselves. Well … you can see where this goes.
Over the years, I have seen far too many injustices within our justice system. I have seen too many times when the rule of law has been subverted to the rule of prosecutors and judges. I suppose the next thing naïve people will come to believe in is the claim that all people are equal under the law.