March 12, 2008

The Many Sides of Eliot Spitzer

First, Scott Horton's post in today's The New Republic:
Spitz Out,
by Was the investigation of Eliot Spitzer politically motivated?
Wednesday, March 12, 2008

On Monday a friend gave me a copy of a memorandum (pdf) that Attorney General Michael Mukasey had circulated inside the Justice Department admonishing staff about how to deal with politically sensitive cases. "They must be about to bag another big-time Democrat," my friend said, jokingly. Perhaps it wasn't a joke. Within hours the wires were burning with reports that New York Governor Eliot Spitzer had been linked to a prostitution ring.
[...] All of this makes for excellent copy, particularly for the cable news networks and other outlets that feed off just this sort of tale of personal fall. But there may well be a story-behind-the-story. How did the case against Spitzer get launched? Was he brought down by a politically motivated investigation?
The integrity of our criminal justice system rests on the notion that we investigate crimes, not people. As Robert Jackson, probably the greatest attorney general of the last century, put it:
If the prosecutor is obliged to choose his cases, it follows that he can choose his defendants. Therein is the most dangerous power of the prosecutor: that he will pick people that he thinks he should get, rather than pick cases that need to be prosecuted. With the law books filled with a great assortment of crimes, a prosecutor stands a fair chance of finding at least a technical violation of some act on the part of almost anyone. In such a case, it is not a question of discovering the commission of a crime and then looking for the man who has committed it, it is a question of picking the man and then searching the law books, or putting investigators to work, to pin some offense on him.

[...] The story emerging around the fall of Eliot Spitzer suggests that the case did not start with the report of a crime. Rather it started with a decision to look into Spitzer and his financial dealings. In the course of an open-ended investigation, information about a prostitution circle surfaced. That looks abusive. An investigation like that provides no basis to acquit Spitzer. But it suggests that when his case is done, the public should be pressing some tough questions about why this investigation was launched and pushed forward.
[...] The Los Angeles Times reports that Spitzer asked that his name be taken off the money wires, which reportedly aroused suspicion. The bank submitted a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) to the IRS. The payments which totaled up to $80,000, looked suspicious, we are told, and were examined on the basis that they might be an effort to money-launder bribes. This was reported to the IRS in Hauppauge, Long Island, which in turn involved the Public Integrity Section in the Department of Justice.
[...] Spitzer is an extremely wealthy man, and his channeling of payments at the level suggested can hardly be viewed as something that raises legitimate suspicion. As money laundering goes, $40,000 to $80,000 is peanuts--not the sort of thing that would normally raise an eyebrow. Here it is not the sum involved that triggered suspicion; it is the person who made the payments.[...] Several reports about this case have suggested that it is somehow routine for prosecutors to go through the financial records of public officials to look for evidence of corruption. But in the absence of specific grounds justifying the investigation (for instance, an informant complaining about a bribe) prosecutors have no such authority. In this case, the basis for action is extraordinarily weak. Most importantly, the investigators do not appear to be looking into a crime, they appear to be investigating Spitzer in the hopes of finding something compromising.
Scott Horton teaches law at Columbia University and is a legal affairs contributor to Harper's.
So, are you interested enough to continue? Using the wayback machine, let's move to to a previous post from Sander Hicks about Spitzer’s love affair with Larry Silverstein and “relationship” with 9/11:
September 11, 2007, Sander Hicks Hits a Home Run!
9/11 Spitzer Scandal Scoop!
Spitzer's Real Scandal

“Eliot Spitzer is like the good-looking bouncer in a bar, who is secretly dealing drugs,” explained forensic microbiologist Mike Copass. We were in a San Diego bar this July, down near the water in Ocean Beach. Copass had acted as a facilitator of San Diego’s 9/11 Citizen’s Grand Jury, an extra-legal group which mounted a mock trial in April.
Copass has degrees from Stanford and Harvard, and an eager glint in his eye. Despite his preppy appearance, Copass makes some pretty radical allegations: that Eliot Spitzer acted as a firewall, preventing public disclosure of his friends’ roles in the anthrax attacks that occurred shortly after 9/11, in addition to facilitating his associates’ windfall from the bloated insurance pay-outs at the World Trade Center. He even accuses Spitzer of covering up the real perpetrators of the 9/11 attack itself.

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