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Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent

04 Jul 2010

Pretty interesting.

This one wasn’t what I expected. I figured it was going to be something along the lines of a criminalization of everything tome, where the author laments the ridiculous growth of zoning rules and driveway corner angle restrictions. Not at all the case.

It’s written by a defense lawyer who has defended a number of white-collar clients. They include politicians, businessmen, accountants, lobbyists, and spies. Some of the cases are an interesting read.

Some of the cases in the book are pretty clear-cut, with no real issues to speak of–its just bullshit that these people got convicted. Coerced testimony (i.e. ‘cooperation’) and district attorneys that eventually become governors are a common reoccurrence. On the whole, he makes some good points. In particular, those points are that DAs are twisting existing laws to get people arrested for things that are not explicitly prohibited, and thus it’s impossible to know what’s illegal. In particular, ‘wire fraud’ and the ‘denial of honest services’ seem to include just about any conceivable act done by anyone with a certain amount of authority. People even get indicted for shredding documents with no summons issued. It’s pretty nuts.

I agree with the book on the whole; it has an aura of ‘defending the undefendable’, such as sleazy politicians and fantastically wealthy accountants at big firms. He does a good job of pointing out that some politicians get re-elected after being convicted by the feds–does the federal government have business arresting politicians that seem to be doing things acceptable in their communities?

That being said, there’s a hint of objectivism in the book that I dislike. I’ll grant that I agree that substantially all of the examples in the book represent cases where no reasonable person could have known what they were doing is illegal. But I also feel that no ethical system can be completely objective–our minds are not wired for it. If it’s 100% objective, there will be loopholes for what is strictly speaking legal but morally speaking, for most people, okay, and vice versa. But I concede that I could only draw the line of what’s subjective or not in a far worse place than a lot of people.

Thus recommended with mild reservations. I do appreciate that it was written–it’s a point of view one does not hear much of these days.