In the news we have a Mr Xavier Alvarez, a board member of the Pomona, CA, water district. It turns out that he once claimed to be a retired Marine who had been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.♠♥ About five years ago the US Congress created the "Stolen Valor Act" to punish those who claim to have earned this or that decoration, but had not actually earned the decoration or perhaps hadn't even served at all.
Well, as one might expect with the Ninth Circuit rules, it invalidates this law based upon First Amendment considerations. Granted, it is just a three judge panel and we may have the US Solicitor General appealing to the full Ninth Circuit (en banc as they say).
In my opinion someone who claims this or that decoration that he or she has not earned is someone who does not know how to cope with life as it is. They are more to be pitied than condemned. Thus, I find myself in agreement with the Ninth Circuit three member panel. It is a strange feeling.
Which brings us to Planet Blago.♦ As the news tells us, he was convicted of only one count, lying to federal agents. This is because of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001, which makes it a crime to lie to federal agents. In this article the author suggests that this includes the SEC, which is a QUANGO.
Remember Ms Martha Stewart? Remember how she went to jail. She hadn't committed a crime until she sat down with an agent of the Government, with her lawyer by her side and, allegedly told a fib. And then she was tried, found guilty and sent to jail.
It is interesting that the fabled Federal Attorney Patrick J Fitzgerald lost on the 23 substantive charges. The mind goes in two directions at this point. First one asks, "How many different things did the Illinois Governor do?" Probably not 23, but there are so many laws out there that the Federal Prosecutor was able to slice and dice the crime and go with a lot of charges. This may be good for lawyers (on both sides), but offends my sense of fairness. It calls to mind why we have much of the Bill of Rights—to protect us from the Government and overreaching Prosecutors.
The second question is why Mr Fitzgerald was not able to get a conviction on any of the 23 charges. It could be that one of the jury members was in the tank for the Governor. It could be that someone got to a juror and threatened or bribed that juror. It could be that the Federal Case was just weak. I feel no need to pick one of those. But, after all the hype one is a little let down by the failure of the Government to prove its case. The conviction for lying to a federal agent is very weak.
Back to the lying thing, as Air Force Chief of Staff Curtis LeMay used to say, "Never lie to Congress. You don't have to blurt out the truth, but never lie." Sound advice.
But, why is lying to a federal agent a crime? When it is important don't we swear in the person and if they lie prosecute them for perjury? If it is illegal to lie to a federal agent what need do we have for perjury?
I think we should drop both the Stolen Valor Act and Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001.
Regards — Cliff
♠ It is tough to keep up with the real title. Wikipedia says it is officially the "Medal of Honor", but I recall that a while back the name was changed to include "Congressional" in the name, since that is how it was understood by the people. Research is needed, but dinner is close, so this will have to hang fire.
♥ Note that version of the Medal of Honor shown in the news article is the Air Force Medal of Honor. The Department of the Navy version looks more like this one.
♦ Planet Blago is a term of art from Shepherd Smith of Fox News.
♣ It is interesting to me that in the article in The Boston Globe the prosecutor is not named. Everyone else is mentioned, except the prosecutor and the bailiff, well, and the person who swept up and emptied the trash cans.
10 months ago