Posts Tagged ‘Prosecution Misconduct’

Grassroots Civic Action Is Best Hope To Correct Federal Prosecution Abuses, Says Author Harvey Silverglate In DC Radio Interview Jan. 28

January 28, 2010

Informed and pro-active citizens are the nation’s best hope to correct increasing abuses of power by federal prosecutors, according to my radio interview today with Harvey Silverglate, author of the pioneering new book Three Felonies A Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent.   

Silverglate spoke live on the DC Update edition of My Technology Lawyer Radio, archived at www.MyTechnologyLawyer.com/update.

Silverglate, a Boston-based litigator for 42 years, showed how the federal executive branch abuses power via selective prosecution under hard-to-understand statutes.  The book is winning praise from experts across the political spectrum.  His book deserves the attention of anyone in the country worried that loss of constitutional rights affects politics and business.

Silverglate explained the book’s title thus: The average professional is unaware that he or she has likely committed several federal crimes each day.  Why unaware?  Modern federal criminal laws have exploded in number, and become impossibly broad and vague.

In gripping detail, his book shows unfair prosecutions in different fields affecting ordinary people, as well as Martha Stewart-level celebrities.  In congressional testimony last fall on the problem, Silverglate said:

I was readily able, from my own litigation experience as well as from research done on other cases, to pinpoint myriad inappropriate prosecutions of many an unwary innocent citizen in the medical  community, the medical device and pharmaceutical manufacturing industry, investment houses, bankers, lawyers, accountants and auditors, academics, artists, newspaper reporters, merchants, as well as public officials.  

Won’t judges and defense attorneys protect defendants from unfair treatment?   Silverglate responded to the question on today’s show from my co-host Scott Draughon by saying that too many judges and prosecutors began their careers in a “culture” that assumes that those who are accused must be guilty.  So, Silverglate said, 95% of defendants then plead guilty, in part because so many defense attorneys are former prosecutors accustomed to “processing” clients through the system rather than fighting for them.

His advice for defendants seeking the right attorney?  He suggests seeking help from attorneys active in civic groups compatible with the defendant’s perspectives, not simply experienced courthouse players.

Three Felonies A Day author Harvey Silverglate is counsel to Boston’s Zalkind, Rodriguez, Lunt & Duncan LLP. He is co-founder and board chairman of the Foundation for Individual Rights Education (Fire), a columnist for the Boston Phoenix and a Cato Institute fellow.  His congressional testimony last fall is available here.  In 1999, he co-authored The Shadow University. For details, visit here. Three Felonies a Day is available via Amazon.com here.

Siegelman DoJ Paralegal’s Story: From Justice Dream Job To Nightmare

September 13, 2009

As federal prosecutors prepared in 2006 for the corruption trial of Alabama’s former Gov. Don Siegelman, Justice Department paralegal Tamarah Grimes thought she was progressing well in her career. She was past beginner stage after three years at the Middle District U.S. Attorney’s office helping prepare federal cases in the state capital of Montgomery.

Indeed, she was the government’s top in-house paralegal in one of the country’s most important federal prosecutions, which targeted an iconic former governor along with one of their state’s richest businessmen.

But a year later, the prosecution’s all-out effort to convict Siegelman and HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy brought Grimes to a career crisis as a legal professional.

Tamara Grimes

Tamarah Grimes

In July 2007, Grimes stepped forward to allege that her colleagues had violated basic legal protections to ensure a fair trial. She claimed, for example, that that prosecutors had communicated with jurors and that pro-conviction jurors had privately strategized by email outside the jury room to obtain guilty verdicts — all without required notification to the defense.

Also, she complained of being the victim of sexually offensive comments by colleagues, particularly in an off-site prosecutors’ office that was entirely devoted to what they called “The Big Case.”

In using the authorized procedures for such complaints, she turned her career dream into a nightmare. What follows is her story. It led to more than a year of threats that she would be prosecuted herself for denying that she had made audiotapes of colleagues.

After she wrote the Obama administration’s Attorney General Eric Holder on June 1 outlining misconduct allegations and asking for his help the Justice Department fired her seven days later for failure to retain a security clearance – which DoJ itself had removed in 2008. At the same time, she was regarded elsewhere as one of the nation’s leading whistleblowers for shedding light on the Siegelman conviction, which has become the most controversial criminal prosecution of the entire Bush administration.

“I did nothing to justify termination,” she told KNOW. “I was a loyal, exemplary employee with no discipline problems and many performance-based awards prior to my complaints during the prosecution of the Scrushy/Siegelman matter.”

But in July 2007, Grimes stepped forward precisely when her office was basking in the victory against Siegelman, Alabama’s leading Democrat for two decades after election as attorney general in 1978. Her criticism had the potential to ruin all the hard work of convicting him.

**********
For the full story, read the September edition of KNOW: The Magazine for Paralegals. My article is entitled, “From Justice Dream Job to Nightmare…Exclusive Interview With Tamarah Grimes, Justice Department Paralegal…Why This Whistleblower Was Dissed & Dismissed.”