Thursday, May 14, 2009
The Justice Department Needs
To Enforce The Law Of The Land
Collegial Deference Makes Them An Accomplice After The Fact
Simply put, those who would enforce the law must live by it. A front-page dispatch out of Washington, D.C. in last Wednesday’s New York Times stated, “An internal Justice Department inquiry has concluded that Bush Administration lawyers committed serious lapses of judgment in writing secret memorandums authorizing brutal interrogations, but they should not be prosecuted according to government officials briefed on its findings.”
The report, which was prepared by the Office of Professional Responsibility, the Ethics Unit within the Justice Department, indicated that the Feds might relegate their responsibility to identify and punish those attorneys who blatantly authorized and justified serious violations
of Constitutional guarantees, to state bar associations, and, would likely involve little more than reprimands, went a long way to con-
firm the two-tiered justice system most Americans believe we have been living under for some time.
The Obama Administration needs to push for a Justice Department that ordinary citizens will have reason to believe will dish out equal penalty and punishment for equal offense. After all, Constitutional guarantees are the bedrock of our democracy, the rules of the game. If the promise of change is what prompted the majority of Americans to install an African-American man with a Muslim-sounding name in the
White House, Constitutional violations and Executive Privilege, the like of which the Bush/ Cheney Administration thrived on for eight years, simply will not do.
We all quickly came to understand what the Right meant by “Law And Order.” It simply meant that those in power were above the law and would give the orders. And, make no mistake, the so-called trickle-down Republican philosophy was never more effective than in the realm of law enforcement. Here, in Westchester, we were exposed to the penultimate model.
Former United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, one Michael J. Garcia, precisely three years ago, May 12, 2006, took the unprecedented measure of releasing the telephone number of a so-called “Corruption Hotline” 1-877-ENDGRAFT, as he put it, “through which members of the public can call and report potential abuses of the public trust by public officials.”
Judging by the extraordinarily low number of public integrity arrests and prosecutions in Westchester, as well as the five counties immediately north and west named in Garcia’s original announcement, one might logically conclude that we were as clean as a whistle, and that there were few calls, given that one can count on the fingers of one hand the number of public integrity cases indicted and convicted by
the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, for the County of Westchester, “the suburbs north of New York City,” as then-President Bush had defined the geographic scope of his area of concern.
One would surely conclude that agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, manning the hotline, were like the Maytag Man, waiting for the phone to ring. But, in fact, the opposite was true.
We learned from scores of readers who did phone in that they had been repeatedly told by FBI agents that they were “swamped with calls and couldn’t handle any more.”
So what happened? By comparison, Chris Christie, the United States Attorney, appointed by Bush in 2001 to deal with corruption in New
Jersey, had, by 2008, convicted or taken guilty pleas from more than 125 corrupt public officials; most of them going to prison. What was Mr. Garcia doing with the flood of information pouring into his hotline? We have no way to know for sure.
However, we do know that he attended the retirement party given for former Dobbs Ferry Police Chief George Longworth, the same corrupt
police chief who eyewitnesses in the Richard DiGuglielmo case, testified personally harassed them, together with all three of his detectives, and treated them like suspects until they broke down and changed their original accounts with respect to the self-defense shooting of
bat-wielding perpetrator Charles Campbell to accounts that conformed with what DA Jeanine Pirro wanted them to say.
We do know that on at least two separate occasions Garcia was entertained at the Hamptons Villa of Westchester DA Janet DiFiore, whose refusal to prosecute a rogue, violent Yonkers police officer, and another from Sleepy Hollow, has caused federal prosecutors to step in and do so. In the Yonkers incident, not only did DA DiFiore fail to prosecute the violent, abusive cop, but, in fact, proceeded instead to prosecute
Irma Marquez, the innocent, severely injured victim, even after viewing a videotape of the incident. She did the same in the Rui Florim
case, involving a near-fatal beating by six off-duty Yonkers cops, as well as in numerous, similar, documented cases without any reprimand or acknowledgement of wrongdoing, from Garcia’s Of-fice.
Call it collegial deference, selective prosecution, whatever lightweight term you wish. In plain language, it is injustice; a two-tiered system of enforcement; federal prosecutors protecting and covering up the misconduct of their state counterparts, and their cronies. Westchester is rife with corruption and serious issues of public integrity; and, yet, there has been in-finitesimally little production in that area of criminal activity from the United States Attorney’s Office.
Taxpayers are disillusioned; quick to believe “They’re all in bed together.” They cannot understand the lack of accountability from federal, state, and county government officials, and law enforcement agencies as, all the while, they are being bled dry with taxes to support the
corruption. The “Trickle-Down Effect”, the “Them v Us” reality at a time when families are losing their homes, and putting food on the table, has become harder and harder, is the more intolerable while many police officers are making $250,000 and more, and part-time County commissioners, such as Reggie LaFayette, are getting $155,000, plus all they can steal from one slush fund or another.
The Justice Department must enforce the law of the land, holding persons, particularly those in positions of power and authority, to account if this Nation is to come through this difficult period intact. The majority of hardworking reasonable individuals must not become convinced, as too many already have, that the ‘Promise of America’, a good life for one’s family, is merely a myth, no longer supported by
While many, particularly in New York, already acknowledge the corruption and greed that has clearly taken control of the State Court System; and, with it, much of state and municipal government, many still hold out hope that the federal government, the Department of
Justice, particularly under the Obama Administration, will fulfill its mandate and prosecute crime and malfeasance everywhere without malice or favor.
To do less would be to invite societal collapse. William Pitt said it quite bluntly; “Where Law Ends, Tyranny Begins.”