FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Never Talk to the FBI

by DONALD KAUL

Here is the lesson to be learned from the fall of Martha Stewart:

Don’t ever, under any circumstances, answer questions put to you by the FBI or any other federal agent unless you have a competent criminal lawyer at your side. And it would be better if it were a very good criminal lawyer. There are other lessons to be drawn from the fate of poor Martha, but that’s the main one. You see, there is a section in the federal code, referred to as 1001 by legal eagles, that makes it a crime to lie to a federal agent. The agent doesn’t have to put you under oath. If you tell him or her a lie, you’re guilty. The federal officer doesn’t even have to tape the conversation. All he or she has to do is produce handwritten notes that indicate that you made false statements. So, if you misspeak or the agent mishears or there is an ambiguity that the agent chooses to interpret in an unfortunate (for you) direction, you’re on the hook. There’s also the possibility that you might be tempted to shade the truth a bit when an IRS agent is quizzing you about that business deduction you took for the trip to Vegas. My advice to you is: Don’t do it. To be on the safe side, when confronted by a federal agent, don’t say anything at all unless your lawyer says you have to.

It’s a shame things have come to this. It used to be that people felt it their duty as citizens to cooperate with federal authorities. That was before Law 1001.

We now live in an era of Incredible Shrinking Civil Rights. You have to protect yourself at all times.

Let’s look more closely at the case of Poor Martha the Match Girl. What did she do?

She was convicted of lying about the reason she sold her shares in a biotechnology company two years ago. She said she sold them because they had fallen to the price at which she and her broker had agreed to sell.

The government argued (and the jury believed) that she sold because her broker passed on some inside information that the stock was going to plunge in the next couple of days.

I know what you’re going to say–“insider trading.” True, it has that smell about it, but the government did not charge her with insider trading, only with lying about it.

I hate that. It seems to me that convicting someone of lying about a crime that the government isn’t willing to prove happened is unfair.

Add to that the fact that Ms. Stewart saved all of $45,000 on the stock transaction and has seen her fortune decrease by hundreds of millions because of the trial, and the penalty does not seem to fit the crime.

I think the reason the government has spent millions pursuing this two-bit case is because Ms. Stewart is famous and the case makes it look as though the Justice Department is doing a bang-up job running down crooks in high places. Also, the lifestyle lady–a political contributor to Democrats rather than Republicans, incidentally–irritated prosecutors with her haughty, arrogant attitude. (It’s always a bad idea to make prosecutors mad.)

Then too, her high-priced attorney, Robert Morvillo, lost a series of strategic gambles that left his client virtually defenseless. After the government had spent six weeks making the case against Stewart, Morvillo called only one witness in her defense and questioned him for 20 minutes.

His chief argument was that Stewart and her broker were too smart to pull a dumb stunt like this. As one juror said later, “How could we tell anything about how smart either of them was if they never took the stand?”

Ultimately, I suppose, Ms. Stewart’s downfall was precipitated by petty greed, arrogance and deceitfulness, not attractive attributes.

But I still feel sorry for her. She’s getting worse than she deserves.

DONALD KAUL recently retired as Washington columnist for the Des Moines Register.

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

May 23, 2017
John Wight
Manchester Attacks: What Price Hypocrisy?
Patrick Cockburn
A Gathering of Autocrats: Trump Puts US on Sunni Muslim Side of Bitter Sectarian War with Shias
Shamus Cooke
Can Trump Salvage His Presidency in Syria’s War?
Thomas S. Harrington
“Risk”: a Sad Comedown for Laura Poitras
Josh White
Towards the Corbyn Doctrine
Mike Whitney
Rosenstein and Mueller: the Regime Change Tag-Team
Jan Oberg
Trump in Riyadh: an Arab NATO Against Syria and Iran
Susan Babbitt
The Most Dangerous Spy You’ve Never Heard Of: Ana Belén Montes
Rannie Amiri
Al-Awamiya: City of Resistance
Dimitris Konstantakopoulos
The European Left and the Greek Tragedy
Laura Leigh
This Land is Your Land, Except If You’re a Wild Horse Advocate
Hervé Kempf
Macron, Old World President
Michael J. Sainato
Devos Takes Out Her Hatchet
L. Ali Khan
I’m a Human and I’m a Cartoon
May 22, 2017
Diana Johnstone
All Power to the Banks! The Winners-Take-All Regime of Emmanuel Macron
Robert Fisk
Hypocrisy and Condescension: Trump’s Speech to the Middle East
John Grant
Jeff Sessions, Jesus Christ and the Return of Reefer Madness
Nozomi Hayase
Trump and the Resurgence of Colonial Racism
Rev. William Alberts
The Normalizing of Authoritarianism in America
Frank Stricker
Getting Full Employment: the Fake Way and the Right Way 
Jamie Davidson
Red Terror: Anti-Corbynism and Double Standards
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, Sweden, and Continuing Battles
Robert Jensen
Beyond Liberal Pieties: the Radical Challenge for Journalism
Patrick Cockburn
Trump’s Extravagant Saudi Trip Distracts from His Crisis at Home
Angie Beeman
Gig Economy or Odd Jobs: What May Seem Trendy to Privileged City Dwellers and Suburbanites is as Old as Poverty
Colin Todhunter
The Public Or The Agrochemical Industry: Who Does The European Chemicals Agency Serve?
Jerrod A. Laber
Somalia’s Worsening Drought: Blowback From US Policy
Michael J. Sainato
Police Claimed Black Man Who Died in Custody Was Faking It
Clancy Sigal
I’m a Trump Guy, So What?
Gerry Condon
In Defense of Tulsi Gabbard
Weekend Edition
May 19, 2017
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Getting Assange: the Untold Story
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Secret Sharer
Charles Pierson
Trump’s First Hundred Days of War Crimes
Paul Street
How Russia Became “Our Adversary” Again
Andrew Levine
Legitimation Crises
Mike Whitney
Seth Rich, Craig Murray and the Sinister Stewards of the National Security State 
Robert Hunziker
Early-Stage Antarctica Death Rattle Sparks NY Times Journalists Trip
Ken Levy
Why – How – Do They Still Love Trump?
Bruce E. Levine
“Hegemony How-To”: Rethinking Activism and Embracing Power
Robert Fisk
The Real Aim of Trump’s Trip to Saudi Arabia
Christiane Saliba
Slavery Now: Migrant Labor in the Persian Gulf and Saudi Arabia
Chris Gilbert
The Chávez Hypothesis: Vicissitudes of a Strategic Project
Howard Lisnoff
Pay No Attention to That Man Behind the Curtain
Brian Cloughley
Propaganda Feeds Fear and Loathing
Stephen Cooper
Is Alabama Hiding Evidence It Tortured Two of Its Citizens?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail