Monday, March 17, 2008

Ben Stein is very wrong about the Eliot Spitzer case...

Mr. Stein, who is usually dead on and about whom I've often raved, is very wrong here about both his points.

First, he seems bothered that investigators looking for evidence of one crime, finding evidence of a different "minor" crime, investigated that offense and eventually brought charges based on what they found.

Doe Mr. Stein seriously want the reverse to happen? "Yes, we've found evidence that a man is committing a crime. But he's the Governor, so we'll just not notice". That's not the Ben Stein I have heard before.

(There are really two things here. One's easily disposed of, and that's following the investigation where it leads. It happens all the time- police stop someone who runs a red light and find the driver is drunk. Or the police ticket a car and discover a multiple murderer's identity. I'm sure Mr. Stein doesn't oppose that sort of thing, and if the $4,000 had gone to a hit man or a legislator he'd have no complaint with a murder or bribery charge.)

The real problem seems to be that the investigators dared to charge someone Mr. Stein considers important with an offense he doesn't.

I suppose if it's just a plumber with a wife and family, it's alright to wreck his life with the truth about prostitution. Or an actor- I don't recall Mr. Stein being upset when Hugh Grant's picture was all over the news. Or is it just elections, rather than families or careers, that are sacred-ish? How about a Mayor smoking crack, am I supposed to give him a pass? A Congressman's roommate who is running a prostitution ring?

Everyone stayed quiet when another Governor ordered State Policemen on duty to fetch a state employee to an hotel room for an attempt at sex. Is that the way it's supposed to work?

Mr. Stein is frightened that "a few career civil servants" did exactly what they are sworn to do- investigate and charge a crime. Even though the criminal is powerful.

But he is not scared by the idea that the same "few career civil servants" decide whether to do their duty based on their personal judgment matrices of the criminal's importance and severity of the offense?

We have people to do that, and they do it in the open, not in the DA's office in secret.

As a prosecutor, I rightly have a very limited responsibility. When investigators bring me credible evidence of a crime, I present it to the courts. That's what the people chose me (through my boss) to do, and I won't deny them that election. It's not my place.

The legislature decides what crimes are. If the people think patronizing prostitution shouldn't be a crime, they can elect legislators who agree. It isn't up to a f.c.c.s. to deny the people their laws.

Courts decide whether a particular defendant committed a crime. Judges apply the defendant/offense balance in sentencing. It isn't up to a f.c.c.s. to deny the people their due constitutional process.

Mr. Stein's second point confuses me. He says that Gov. Spitzer was "kicked out of office". He wasn't, he quit. The public knowledge of the fact that he was a patron of prostitutes had no legal effect on his position, any more that the public knowledge that President Clinton was a perjurer.

The investigators didn't nullify Governor Spitzer's election, Governor Spitzer did. He could have hung on, but unlike President Clinton he had enough sense of shame, honor, fitness, respect for the citizens, or whatever to quit.

The Aspen Daily News' motto is, "If you don't want it printed, don't let it happen".

If you don't want to be caught, don't do it. And if your man gets caught, don't blame the catchers.

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