Countless people, including a former federal prosecutor, seem oblivious to one of the greatest abuses, outrages, and tragedies of our criminal justice system: innocent people are forced to plead guilty every day.
Indeed, the Innocence Project alone has exonerated 31 people who spent a combined 150 years in prison on guilty pleas. That is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
This horrific injustice is solely attributable to the unchecked power of prosecutors who now function as prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner. They have unfettered discretion, no supervision, no limits, and most federal judges defer to them at every turn.
There are two judges who I know do not simply defer. One is Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, the judicial hero of my book who will preside tomorrow over the proceedings against Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn.
The second is federal judge Jed Rakoff who wrote an article several years ago entitled Why the Innocent Plead Guilty. As Judge Rakoff wrote: “[I]t is the prosecutor, not the judge, who effectively exercises the sentencing power, albeit cloaked as a charging decision.”
General Flynn is the quintessential example of why the innocent plead guilty.
General Flynn knew the FBI had a complete recording of the conversation about which they came to question him. Comey deliberately and oh-so-cleverly dispatched the agents in an ambush interview against all protocols to set him up in their efforts to destroy Donald Trump. In addition, it appears Mueller has suppressed significant evidence exonerating Flynn and destroyed other evidence, as I have written.
Yes, Flynn entered a guilty plea. But like many others, including a disproportionate number of young minority men who have no resources whatsoever, that does not mean that he did anything wrong. All it means is that he — like so many others — saw no other way out.
When the full might and weight of the federal government — especially the immeasurable hubris and endless funding of the “special prosecutor” and his relentless armored team are brought to bear against an individual — there is no choice.
The beating you take with a guilty plea is less than the beating you take if you — like Paul Manafort — dare to fight, find yourself in the literal torture of solitary confinement, and have your friends, family, and business associates harassed, threatened, and indicted. Prosecutions in Mueller’s and Weissmann’s prior inquisitions have extended 10 years. Several defendants pleaded guilty upon threat of facing their third trial.
Michael Flynn had to sell his house, has insurmountable legal fees, was undoubtedly threatened with life in prison, and a prolonged trial on a massive multi-count indictment that would, if nothing else, tarnish his reputation forever.
Like many of my clients, I’m sure they threatened to indict other members of his family. One of Weissmann’s favorite tactics is to threaten to indict the target’s wife and children. He sent Andrew Fastow’s wife to prison on tax charges. They had two small children. Fastow decided to “compose.”
Weissmann is so adept at this practice he has coerced people into pleading guilty to things that were not crimes. Two defendants in my book had to be allowed to withdraw their guilty pleas — one even after he had testified for the government in the Arthur Andersen trial.
Of course, the Andersen case was reversed by the Supreme Court nine to nothing. Weissmann and Leslie Caldwell — the Bush Department of Justice — destroyed Andersen and 85,000 jobs for nothing.
Can you even imagine what you would do if you had been a law-abiding good citizen all your life, suddenly found yourself the target of a “special counsel” investigation, threatened with life in prison, threatened with the indictment of your children, your business associates, saw your savings completely drained, had to start a go-fund me account, and be interrogated for hour after hour by people dying to trap you and send you to prison?
Those who have not endured a criminal prosecution, or been close to someone who has, cannot begin to imagine the toll it takes on everyone involved — the entire family. The stress is incomprehensible. Right reason reasons wrong. The world is upside down. It’s the Twilight Zone.
Prosecutors send innocent people to prison every day — whether by guilty plea or wrongful conviction. Prosecutors withhold evidence of innocence, they destroy evidence, and they have absolute immunity. This must change now.
For the doubters out there, and there are many, please educate yourselves. Here’s the truth. Between the willingness of Congress to turn almost everything into a federal crime, and the ability of federal prosecutors to stretch those statutes beyond imagination, there is no one in this country who could not be indicted were a prosecutor like Robert Mueller or Andrew Weissmann to scour their life’s records.
There are innocent people in our prisons right now — many on guilty pleas. Selective political persecutions with concocted crimes against people who have been targeted is contrary to everything the Department of Justice is supposed to represent. It is imperative that we not send another one.
Sidney Powell (@SidneyPowell1), a former federal prosecutor and veteran of 500 federal appeals, is the author of “LICENSED TO LIE: Exposing Corruption in the Department of Justice.” She is a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.