Trials and Tribulations

This week there was what I consider to have been extensive unwarranted attention given to the murder trial in South Carolina of Alex Murdaugh. Unwarranted because it seems to me this is at best a matter of local or regional interest.  In the end, those who followed it learned one important lesson for all the coverage they saw or read: Do not carry your cell phone around when engaged in murdering your wife and son because, if you do, you leave a digital footprint easier to trace than Hansel and Gretel’s breadcrumb trail.

Alexis de Tocqueville long ago wrote of Americans’ fascination with courthouse trials, calling it “another theater.” That was even before sensational television coverage, and while I do not pretend to understand this, I suppose it’s related to desire in our national character to see evil punished and justice done.

I understand more clearly that the media covers some criminal cases -- usually the more sensational ones -- which do not involve prominent Democrats more than it covers others. On the other hand, I get it that when the target is a prominent Republican, especially anyone in any way connected with Donald J. Trump, the coverage of the cases is far from objective and ignores the strengths of the defense. So I was heartened to see that General Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, has sued the Department of Justice for $50 million in damages for its malicious prosecution of him in 2017. Paul Svab offers up a useful summary.

The case against Flynn was riddled with contradictions and inconsistencies. FBI agents had already decided to close his case by early January 2017, but higher-ups intervened to keep it open on the justification that Flynn may have violated an obscure and antiquated law called the Logan Act by discussing with a Russian ambassador the priorities of the incoming administration during the transition period. DOJ officials at the time rejected the legal theory. The 1799 Logan Act, which prohibits certain kinds of unauthorized diplomacy, may in fact be unconstitutional, several lawyers previously told The Epoch Times. It has never been successfully prosecuted, much less aimed at an incoming national security adviser.

The supine press carried government-generated damaging leaks accusing Flynn of illegal conduct in discussions -- as are perfectly normal -- with a Russian official during the transition. Then the FBI by deliberate plan sandbagged him in an “informal interview” for which he was unprepared and threatened his son with prosecution if he did not plead guilty to the manufactured charges against him.

The DOJ dropped the charge in 2020, after then-Attorney General William Barr ordered an outside prosecutor to review the case. Then-head of the District of Columbia U.S. Attorney’s Office Timothy Shea concluded that it seemed the FBI’s purpose for interviewing Flynn was to “elicit… false statements and thereby criminalize Mr. Flynn.”

The judge overseeing the case refused to dismiss the charges until Trump ultimately pardoned Flynn in 2020.

Flynn charges not only malicious prosecution but as well that the government abused legal process in threatening prosecution of his son if he did not plead guilty.

He alleges he was damaged greatly by the government’s improper conduct and on that point, there can be no contest:

“He was falsely branded as a traitor to his country, lost at least tens of millions of dollars of business opportunities and future lifetime earning potential, was maliciously prosecuted and spent substantial monies in his own defense, and has suffered and will continue to suffer mental and emotional pain for the rest of his life, in addition to other pecuniary harms such as costs, fees, attorneys’ fees, and other losses.”

While we’re on the issue of crimes, President Biden has just pulled off a fancy side step that presages his understanding that soaring crime and lack of law enforcement is weighing down his party, a party increasingly on tenterhooks as two senators are out of commission, Pennsylvania’s John Fetterman because of “depression” and California’s Dianne Feinstein hospitalized with shingles.  (Bluntly, the Republicans control the House and now the Senate is in a 49-49 tie with several Democrat senators signaling some dissent from the party’s more left-wing initiatives.)

The background is a bit complicated but not very hard to understand. Under the Constitution, the District of Columbia is a federal district over which, even though Congress has ceded some powers to local government, it retains a good deal of control. A far-Left majority city council passed a criminal “reform” act which, among other things, reduces sentences for some crimes and requires jury trial for even misdemeanors. The District is small. There are many needs for jurors -- Federal and District grand juries , certain civil cases and District and federal felony trials. Many potential jurors are ineligible because of age, prior felony convictions, non-citizen status, and such. And yet that task would be made impossible if juries also had to be empaneled to hear the countless misdemeanor cases that occur here. And this doesn’t even consider the already overwhelmed judges and court system. This move was designed to utterly break down the criminal justice system in the District of Columbia.

The mayor opposed this and vetoed the proposed new criminal code.

The City Council overruled her veto. Congress (House and Senate) voted it down as well when it came before it for ratification into law. A significant number of Democrat congressmen joined Republicans to vote this down, but 81 percent of them thought it a grand idea to turn the Nation’s Capital into another Portland, Seattle, or Los Angeles. Before the vote President Biden threatened he’d overrule any congressional effort to scuttle the District’s law. But when it came to that, he folded and let the congressional thumbs down stand. Surely, he folded because he knew the issue of rampant crime, fostered by nonsense like failure to prosecute criminals and defunding the police, has little support outside the DNC cloakroom, and he wanted to deflect any 2024 election claim that he was soft on crime.

Jim Geraghty reports that the party is “melting down” in fury at Biden’s action.

First, Biden managed to reach his decision after 81 percent of House Democrats had voted to keep the District’s criminal-code overhaul in place, and now, some of those House Democrats are seething and spitting hot fire over Biden’s unexpected stance. Secondly, Biden is telling progressives that the entire narrative on crime hasn’t changed, that “restorative justice” is a loser, and that ordinary voters are genuinely scared about rising crime rates and voting accordingly.

It's always a good thing when realism takes a victory lap, but don’t believe for a moment this is a permanent Democrat or Biden shift to law and order.

Image: Micheal J. Ramirez

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