FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Why Indict Martha Stewart and Not Ken Lay?

by SEAN CARTER

Shortly after Martha Stewart’s indictment for obstruction of justice, perjury and securities fraud, the questions started: “Is she being unfairly singled out for a common crime? Is she the victim of a male-wing conspiracy? Can you really build a home entertainment center out of Popsicle sticks and a bottle of Elmer’s Glue?” Well, after reading the criminal indictment, I have to say that the answer to the first two questions seems to be “Yes.”

According to the federal government, Martha Stewart sold shares of a biotech company, ImClone, after receiving a tip from her broker’s assistant that the company’s CEO was selling all of his shares. Even if these allegations are true, it only proves one thing – I need a new stockbroker.

I can only dream about having such a helpful stockbroker. I can’t even get my broker to return my calls; nevertheless tip me off about bad news before it happens. When Stewart’s broker finally gets out of jail, he will have at least one client – me.

Nevertheless, if these allegations are true, then Stewart is guilty of insider trading. As a general rule, the crime of insider trading occurs when someone buys or sells shares of a company based on non-public (or inside) information.

So why wasn’t Stewart charged with this more serious crime of insider trading? I suspect the reason is because federal prosecutors aren’t convinced that they can prove her guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Instead, the SEC filed a civil complaint against Stewart for insider trading. The standard of proof in a civil action is not beyond a reasonable doubt but rather by a preponderance of the evidence. Or in other words, in the civil case, the SEC will only have to prove that Stewart likely committed insider trading.

Nevertheless, despite the fact that a civil verdict against Stewart could impose hefty fines, federal prosecutors feel they need to make more of a statement in this case. Therefore, they are charging Stewart with covering up the crime that she hasn’t been formally accused of committing.

According to the indictment, Stewart lied to investigators, falsified records and conspired with her stockbroker to concoct a bogus story. In other words, she is accused of acting like a normal human being. The most human thing in the world is to cover up our wrong doings. In fact, I think it was Ben Franklin who said, “If at first you’re not believed, lie, lie again.” Or maybe it was Bill Clinton.

And although I can’t condone Stewart’s actions, I’m not sure that they should be treated as separate crimes. For instance, let’s take the allegation that she lied to the FBI. Of course, she lied to the FBI. What sane person admits to the FBI that they’ve committed a crime? Yet, lying to investigators isn’t usually considered a separate crime. For instance, O.J. Simpson wasn’t charged with a separate count of obstruction for coming up with that ridiculous “I was in the backyard chipping golf balls in the dark” alibi.

Second, Stewart is accused of deleting phone records to prevent the FBI from learning the truth. Once again, this is pretty common. For instance, bank robbers often dump the getaway car. However, we don’t charge them with obstruction of justice for doing so. We understand that they are supposed to dump the getaway car – it’s one of the rules.

Likewise, Stewart was simply playing by the rules. The government’s job is to capture criminals and the criminal’s job is to avoid capture. However, in this case, Stewart is being charged with the crime of not helping the government convict her. This seems strange even by John Ashcroft standards.

Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not condoning insider trading. However, the government can’t seem to prove its criminal insider trading case. Therefore, it has fallen back on obstruction, perjury and securities fraud as a way to get a conviction of some kind.

But why? Is Martha Stewart a dangerous person that we must somehow get off the streets? Sure, Stewart is annoying, smug and greedy but so are most of our children. Yet, we don’t usually indict them (although perhaps we should).

The simple truth about this case is that there are lies, damn lies and obstruction of justice. Of the three, obstruction of justice is by far the most understandable. Therefore, instead of spending countless hours trying Martha Stewart, perhaps federal prosecutors could better spend that time pursuing real criminals on Wall Street like the people behind Enron, Adelphia and my stockbroker.

SEAN CARTER is a lawyer, comedian, public speaker and the author of If It Does Not Fit, Must You Acquit? Your Humorous Guide to the Law. He can be reached at www.lawpsided.com.

 

February 09, 2016
Andrew Levine
Hillary Says the Darndest Things
Paul Street
Kill King Capital
Ben Burgis
Lesser Evil Voting and Hillary Clinton’s War on the Poor
Paul Craig Roberts
Are the Payroll Jobs Reports Merely Propaganda Statements?
Fran Quigley
How Corporations Killed Medicine
Ted Rall
How Bernie Can Pay for His Agenda: Slash the Military
Neve Gordon
Israeli Labor Party Adopts the Apartheid Mantra
Kristin Kolb
The Greatest Bear Rainforest Agreement? A Love Affair, Deferred
Joseph Natoli
Politics and Techno-Consciousness
Hrishikesh Joshi
Selective Attention to Diversity: the Case of Cruz and Rubio
Stavros Mavroudeas
Why Syriza is Sinking in Greece
David Macaray
Attention Peyton Manning: Leave Football and Concentrate on Pizza
Arvin Paranjpe
Opening Your Heart
Kathleen Wallace
Boys, Hell, and the Politics of Vagina Voting
Brian Foley
Interview With a Bernie Broad: We Need to Start Focusing on Positions and Stop Relying on Sexism
February 08, 2016
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Privatization: the Atlanticist Tactic to Attack Russia
Mumia Abu-Jamal
Water War Against the Poor: Flint and the Crimes of Capital
John V. Walsh
Did Hillary’s Machine Rig Iowa? The Highly Improbable Iowa Coin Tosses
Vincent Emanuele
The Curse and Failure of Identity Politics
Eliza A. Webb
Hillary Clinton’s Populist Charade
Uri Avnery
Optimism of the Will
Roy Eidelson Trudy Bond, Stephen Soldz, Steven Reisner, Jean Maria Arrigo, Brad Olson, and Bryant Welch
Preserve Do-No-Harm for Military Psychologists: Coalition Responds to Department of Defense Letter to the APA
Patrick Cockburn
Oil Prices and ISIS Ruin Kurdish Dreams of Riches
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, the UN and Meanings of Arbitrary Detention
Shamus Cooke
The Labor Movement’s Pearl Harbor Moment
W. T. Whitney
Cuba, War and Ana Belen Montes
Jim Goodman
Congress Must Kill the Trans Pacific Partnership
Peter White
Meeting John Ross
Colin Todhunter
Organic Agriculture, Capitalism and the Parallel World of the Pro-GMO Evangelist
Ralph Nader
They’re Just Not Answering!
Cesar Chelala
Beware of the Harm on Eyes Digital Devices Can Cause
Weekend Edition
February 5-7, 2016
Jeffrey St. Clair
When Chivalry Fails: St. Bernard and the Machine
Leonard Peltier
My 40 Years in Prison
John Pilger
Freeing Julian Assange: the Final Chapter
Garry Leech
Terrifying Ted and His Ultra-Conservative Vision for America
Andrew Levine
Smash Clintonism: Why Democrats, Not Republicans, are the Problem
William Blum
Is Bernie Sanders a “Socialist”?
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
We Can’t Afford These Billionaires
Enrique C. Ochoa
Super Bowl 50: American Inequality on Display
Jonathan Cook
The Liberal Hounding of Julian Assange: From Alex Gibney to The Guardian
George Wuerthner
How the Bundy Gang Won
Mike Whitney
Peace Talks “Paused” After Putin’s Triumph in Aleppo 
Ted Rall
Hillary Clinton: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Gary Leupp
Is a “Socialist” Really Unelectable? The Potential Significance of the Sanders Campaign
Vijay Prashad
The Fault Line of Race in America
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail