FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Two Systems of Justice

by RUSSELL MOKHIBER

Leandro Andrade, 52, sits in Ironwood State Prison, about 200 miles east of Los Angeles, California.

He’s there for life.

What did Leandro do wrong?

In 1995, he stole five videotapes from a K-Mart in Ontario, California.

Under the state’s three strikes law, Andrade was sentenced to life in prison.

The first two offenses were for non violent home burglaries.

In 2003, 60 Minutes ran a profile of the Andrade case.

Andrade appealed his sentence to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 2003, in a 5-4 decision, the Court decided that the sentence wasn’t cruel and unusual.

And upheld the sentence.

Okay, let’s give the justice system it’s due.

Let’s say you can be sent away for life for stealing $153.54 worth of videotapes – a misdemeanor – if your first two convictions were felonies.

Question – what about the individual CEOs who headed the nation’s largest Wall Street firms and banks?

The ones involved in tanking the country’s economy and sending it into the great recession? What about them?

Leandro Adrade is in prison for life for stealing five videotapes.

What about the CEOs of the big Wall Street firms?

Why do they go free?

To find out, I went down to George Washington University this morning.

There, the National Commission on the Causes of the Financial and Economic Crisis in the United States was holding a press conference to release its final report.

Throughout the presentation, the members of the Commission were using words like – reckless, irresponsible, risky, and imprudent – to describe the actions of these Wall Street firms and their CEOs.

But nothing about crime.

Nothing about corporate crime.

A bit strange, wouldn’t you say?

Especially since the 10 member Commission was created by the aptly named Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act of 2009.

So, we asked – why no talk about corporate crime?

Didn’t you find corporate criminal activity?

“Our mandate was to refer to the Attorney General or to the state authorities any individual that our individual our investigations showed may have violated U.S. laws – whether civil or criminal,” said Commissioner Brooksley Born. “We did make several of those referrals. But we are not going to talk about any of the details of those referrals.”

Okay, so the Commission believed there were crimes committed.

Otherwise, why would they refer cases for criminal prosecution?

If the Commission believed there were crimes committed, why didn’t they put this in their report?

Why all the talk about recklessness, and irresponsibility, and risky and imprudent behavior – but no talk about corporate criminal activity?

Why not?

Because we live a country with two systems of justice.

One for the Leandro Andrades of this world.

And one for the Wall Street banks and their executives.

And the oil companies and their executives.

A similar report was released two weeks ago about the BP oil spill.

Leading authorities on the Clean Water Act predict that the companies involved with the Gulf Oil Spill will soon be criminally charged.

But the BP Oil Spill Commission also refused to talk in the words of crime and punishment.

That kind of talk is reserved for street criminals.

Former Senator Bob Graham sat on both Commissions.

Two weeks ago, when I asked Graham whether “there should be increased resources to criminal environmental enforcement to help deter this kind of behavior,” Graham answered this way:

“When we first met with the president and he gave us our assignment, there was an understanding that our purpose was to develop the factual record upon which this event occurred, that it would be for others, specifically the Department of Justice, to determine if those facts constituted a criminal act, and if so, for what specific purpose.”

“So we did not undertake the issue of attempting to determine criminal liability. I will leave it to the readers of the report as to whether they believe they can find it in our factual program. Nor did we look specifically at the question of the resources necessary to reach a judgment as to whether a crime had been committed.”

As of this writing – in both the BP oil spill and the financial meltdown cases – no high level executives have been held responsible.

Neither Commission addressed the question of corporate criminal liability.

Or resources necessary to prosecute these corporate crimes.

Meanwhile, Leandro Andrade sits in prison for life.

I’m okay with disparities in our justice system.

We are, after all, imperfect beings.

But I’m not okay with bright, gifted people laying out the details of arguably the two largest corporate criminal cases of our times.

And not at least acknowledging the obvious.

That we have two systems of justice.

One for the corporate class from which the commissioners came.

And one for the rest of us.

RUSSELL MOKHIBER edits the Corporate Crime Reporter.

 

Russell Mokhiber is the editor of the Corporate Crime Reporter..

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
August 26, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Paul Buhle
In the Shadow of the CIA: Liberalism’s Big Embarrassing Moment
Andrew Levine
How Donald Trump Can Still be a Hero: Force the Guardians of the Duopoly to Open Up the Debates
Rob Urie
Crisis and Opportunity
Louisa Willcox
The Unbearable Killing of Yellowstone’s Grizzlies: 2015 Shatters Records for Bear Deaths
Charles Pierson
Wedding Crashers Who Kill
Richard Moser
What is the Inside/Outside Strategy?
Dirk Bezemer – Michael Hudson
Finance is Not the Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Bernie’s Used Cars
Margaret Kimberley
Hillary and Colin: the War Criminal Charade
Patrick Cockburn
Turkey’s Foray into Syria: a Gamble in a Very Dangerous Game
Ishmael Reed
Birther Tries to Flim Flam Blacks  
Brian Terrell
What Makes a Hate Group?
Howard Lisnoff
Trouble in Political Paradise
Terry Tempest Williams
Will Our National Parks Survive the Next 100 Years?
Ben Debney
The Swimsuit that Overthrew the State
Ashley Smith
Anti-imperialism and the Syrian Revolution
Andrew Stewart
Did Gore Throw the 2000 Election?
Vincent Navarro
Is the Nation State and Its Welfare State Dead? a Critique of Varoufakis
John Wight
Syria’s Kurds and the Wages of Treachery
Lawrence Davidson
The New Anti-Semitism: the Case of Joy Karega
Mateo Pimentel
The Affordable Care Act: A Litmus Test for American Capitalism?
Roger Annis
In Northern Syria, Turkey Opens New Front in its War Against the Kurds
David Swanson
ABC Shifts Blame from US Wars to Doctors Without Borders
Norman Pollack
American Exceptionalism: A Pernicious Doctrine
Ralph Nader
Readers Think, Thinkers Read
Julia Morris
The Mythologies of the Nauruan Refugee Nation
George Wuerthner
Caving to Ranchers: the Misguided Decision to Kill the Profanity Wolf Pack
Ann Garrison
Unworthy Victims: Houthis and Hutus
Julian Vigo
Britain’s Slavery Legacy
John Stanton
Brzezinski Vision for a Power Sharing World Stymied by Ignorant Americans Leaders, Citizens
Philip Doe
Colorado: 300 Days of Sunshine Annually, Yet There’s No Sunny Side of the Street
Joseph White
Homage to EP Thompson
Dan Bacher
The Big Corporate Money Behind Jerry Brown
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
DNC Playing Dirty Tricks on WikiLeaks
Ron Jacobs
Education for Liberation
Jim Smith
Socialism Revived: In Spite of Bernie, Donald and Hillary
David Macaray
Organized Labor’s Inferiority Complex
David Cortright
Alternatives to Military Intervention in Syria
Binoy Kampmark
The Terrors of Free Speech: Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act
Cesar Chelala
Guantánamo’s Quagmire
Nyla Ali Khan
Hoping Against Hope in Kashmir
William Hughes
From Sam Spade to the Red Scare: Dashiell Hammett’s War Against Rightwing Creeps
Raouf Halaby
Dear Barack Obama, Please Keep it at 3 for 3
Charles R. Larson
Review: Paulina Chiziane’s “The First Wife: a Tale of Polygamy”
David Yearsley
The Widow Bach: Anna Magdalena Rediscovered
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail