Blagojevich Sentenced: He Joins the Justice Department's Smoke and Mirrors Show

Rod Blagojevich was sentenced on December 7th (Pearl Harbor Day!) to 14 years in prison. I argue in my latest “Injustice Department” piece at Forbes.com that Blagojevich was a victim of an ever-expanding federal prosecutorial apparatus. He violated no state laws, and yet found himself under the thumb of a prosecutor citing vague federal statutes. The result was Blagojevich’s having been found culpable for behavior that was not criminal, and that he had no reason to think would be construed as such. In the run-up to his sentencing where the trial judge played his assigned part in a morality play enabling unjust federal prosecutorial power, and in a last desperate attempt to lessen his punishment, Rod Blagojevich admitted responsibility. But he admitted to having committed what I deem to be non-crimes. And if a new congressional bill—the “Clean Up Government Act”—gets enacted into law, we will see a great many more unsuspecting local politicians finding themselves in the crosshairs of  an overzealous and unjust federal criminal justice system.  Today it is the pols in the DOJ’s crosshairs; tomorrow it can readily be all of us (indeed, it pretty much is already).

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'Major' free speech flap at Suffolk Law

On Veterans Day this year, Suffolk University Law professor Michael Avery generated controversy with an e-mail to fellow faculty members criticizing a care-packages-for-the-troops drive at the law school. Avery’s words upset many in the community, including an adjunct faculty member currently serving in Afghanistan, Major Robert Roughsedge.  Maj. Roughsedge was so incensed by the comments—and especially by Suffolk’s refusal to fire and/or censure Avery for them—that he resigned. Maj. Roughsedge won considerable editorial support for his position.

In our column, an excerpt of which is after the jump, Daniel Schwartz and I  argue that Major Roughsedge’s critique and resignation—far from a reasonable response to professor Avery’s e-mail—represented something we see far too often in academia, albeit more often on the speech-intolerant Left: the attempt to punish while failing to engage uncomfortable speech. Instead of debating with Professor Avery, Major Roughsedge accused Avery of spewing “hate speech,” and then Roughsedge quit the academy when Avery wasn’t fired.

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Sometimes the Tobacco Companies are Right


Sometimes we can even be thankful for tobacco companies. On November 7th, Judge Richard Leon enjoined the FDA from enforcing new regulations which would force tobacco companies to emblazon their cigarette packages with graphic images depicting the worst ravages of diseases caused by smoking. While we are hardly fans of smoking tobacco or the companies which sell cigarettes, as my research assistant Daniel Schwartz and I write on Forbes.com this week, the tobacco companies were absolutely correct in their objections, and Judge Richard Leon’s decision represents an important reminder that the First Amendment guarantees us not only the right to speak, but also the right NOT to speak (and, in particular, the right not to parrot the government’s preferred point-of-view).

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The Supreme Court: A Prosecutor's Best Friend


On October 27th, the Innocence Project, in conjunction with the Veritas Initiative and Voices of Innocence, announced a “nationwide tour seeking policy reforms to prevent prosecutorial misconduct.” Headlining the tour will be John Thompson, the man who, despite being placed on death row due to corrupt and negligent actions on the part of the New Orleans District Attorney’s Office, was stripped of his 14 million dollar judgment against the DA by the Supreme Court’s ruling in Connick v. Thompson. In our latest post on Forbes.com, my research assistant Daniel Schwartz and I discuss the ruling, and critique the notion that the prosecutor’s office deserves immunity for its horrific neglect of basic constitutional rights. As we have written elsewhere, the explosion of federal statutes has made all people increasingly at risk of facing criminal and civil charges for a host of innocuous behaviors. Surely, so-called public servants should be held to at least as high a standard as their masters, rather than be given protections that would be unheard of for normal citizens.

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What to do if the FBI wants to interview you


One of the most shocking, and under-reported, Department of Justice practices is the FBI's express policy NOT to tape-record interrogations. Not recording interrogations allows the FBI to claim itself the sole arbiter of what is, and is not, true in a witness's testimony. Such a strategy gives clear, and unfair, advantage to the prosecution, and presents problems for witnesses, defendants, and defense lawyers alike.

But there is a simple, and effective, strategy which, if implemented, can get around the pesky problem: insist on recording the interview yourself. Recently, the Massachusetts ACLU asked me to discuss what to do if the FBI decides it needs your testimony. Here is how I responded:



I have been happy to see that the ACLU video has been catching on. In a recent article on alternet.org critiquing the "surveillance state", my interview was given as pragmatic advice to those who fear they might face an FBI interview. I sincerely hope my advice helps and that, eventually, the FBI decides to reform its harmful policy.

[End of post]

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