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.