David R. Henderson  

Prosecutorial Persecution

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Broadcom co-founder Henry Samueli, a Silicon Valley legend, refused to testify for the prosecution and had strong evidence that he could offer Ruehle. But he, too, had been bludgeoned into pleading guilty to a minor felony and so refused to testify for the defense. It seems that, in testimony before the SEC, Samueli had been asked more than 1300 questions. One was whether he had been involved in granting options to executives. Since he was not part of the compensation committee for executives, he had answered no. Just seventeen lines of testimony later, he realized that there was a sense in which he had been "involved" in such option grants, because he did offer recommendations to the relevant board. And there was nothing wrong with his doing that. So he corrected himself. But on that basis, prosecutors threatened him with 300 years in prison unless he pleaded guilty to a felony, which he did, in return for probation and a $12 million dollar financial penalty.
This is an excerpt from Roger Donway's just-published review of William J. Ruehle, Mr Ruehle, You Are a Free Man. The book is Ruehle's horror story about being charged with a crime and run through the legal wringer. Fortunately, Ruehle got a federal judge, Cormac J. Carney, who paid attention to the prosecutors' misconduct. I haven't read the book, although I intend to. But I did review Donway's own book on a similar case, the case of Greg Reyes, and thought it to be excellent. My review of Donway's book will be out in the Winter issue of Regulation. So I'm taking only a small risk here in recommending the Ruehle book.

Donway ends with a sobering critique of the book's title:

Bill Ruehle's book is deeply inspiring. His own moral certainty and stamina are inspiring. The brilliance and tenacity of Rich Marmaro and his legal team are inspiring. Above all, Judge Carney's passion for truth and justice are inspiring. Obviously, Bill Ruehle has attempted to capture some of that inspiration in his title: Mr. Ruehle, You Are a Free Man.

But his title is false.

I can understand how Bill Ruehle's heart must have leapt when Judge Carney spoke the words, "Mr. Ruehle, you are a free man." I can understand that those words must have sounded to him like words of grace and salvation. And so I can understand why he has taken those words for his title.

But a country in which a prosecutor calls up a defense witness's attorney and tries to bully the witness out of telling the plain truth is not a free country. A country whose prosecutors get a woman fired from her job and then "interview" her twenty-six times while threatening her with five years in prison, all in order to get the twisted testimony they want, is not a free country. A country whose prosecutors threaten one of the nation's greatest producers with 300 years in prison for an utterly minor mis-statement, unless he bends to their will, is not a free country.

Bill Ruehle's title reminds me of a cartoon that was published many years ago, during the days of the Cold War. It showed a city with a huge and looming wall--presumably East Berlin. On the walls of the city, one saw barbed wire and concertina wire and broken glass and machine-gun posts. And one saw, off in a small corner of the city, a tiny jail cell, with a guard opening its door. As the prisoner walked out of his little cell, the guard was saying to him: "We're setting you free."

Neither Bill Ruehle, nor any us, will be free men until we live in a free country.


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CATEGORIES: Regulation



COMMENTS (4 to date)

Unfortunately this kind of thing happens all too often. Conrad Black and Martha Stewart are other examples, as well as Michael Milken--the prosecutor went after Milken's father and brother to put pressure on him.

All three of the above were merely businessmen conducting their affairs legally, but someone either took a dislike to them or saw some kind of advantage for themselves in prosecuting them.

David R. Henderson writes:

@Patrick R. Sullivan,
Good point, and the someone in the case of Michael Milken was Rudy Giuliani.

jseliger writes:

The Bonfire of the Vanities lives on. One of the points of that novel is simple: as soon as a normal person steps into a courtroom or becomes enmeshed in the legal system, they have, in essence, already lost.

John Fast writes:

"PAUL JOHNSON REVIEWS Conrad Black’s prison memoir, A Matter of Principle."
"Yes, I really need to get around to writing my Due Process When Everything Is A Crime piece, which has been germinating for quite a while. However, there’s Harvey Silverglate’s Three Felonies A Day, Gene Healy’s Go Directly To Jail: The Criminalization of Nearly Everything, and Angela Davis’s (no, not that Angela Davis), Arbitrary Justice: The Power Of The American Prosecutor. All are worth reading."

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