Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Chronicles Of Liberty

Right now there's a guy sitting in a jail in California. Why? Because there's a second dude who the government thinks may have lied about obtaining prescription drugs in a manner contrary to the law, and the first guy, whatever his reasons are, is declining to assist the government in proving it.

Clearly this fellow does not understand that The Law Is The Law. If someone else may have broken The Law, or lied about breaking The Law, you had better goddamned well answer questions about it -- regardless of whether that law is to protect people from being harmed by others, or mainly exists to Send The Right Message To KidsTM.

Fortunately, there is a courageous judge who is reluctantly willing to use a last resort to make this clear:
"Sometimes sitting in the cooler for a long time may have a therapeutic effect and may change his mind," U.S. District Judge William Alsup said Monday, suggesting Anderson could remain behind bars for as long as 16 months -- the remainder of the grand jury's term.

[...]Alsup told Mark Geragos, the trainer's attorney, that jailing Anderson might test "how loyal your client wants to be."

Thank you, you brave man.

And yeah, I'm being sarcastic. We all know Barry Bonds is a big fat jerk, and Greg Anderson might be an even bigger one for all I know. But prison? For 16 months? Remember, the heinous alleged transgression at the root of all this is Barry Bonds using anabolic steroids without a prescription to extend an extremely lucrative career.

I personally don't even find that immoral, though your mileage may vary. If MLB and their PA decided that Bonds needed to be banned from baseball, I'd suspect a witchhunt/PR move, but they can run their business however they please. But 16 months of prison? That, folks, is what Matt Welch referred to as "the zillion-pound shithammer of the federal government".

If you think Barry Bonds should be banned from baseball and stricken from the records, and you hope he loses all his money in a Nigerian bank scam and his testicles shrink to the size of sunflower seeds, fine. I don't, but I don't even feel strongly enough about it to give you a sustained argument. But if you're one of these people who thinks he belongs in jail, then I seriously think you're kind of a monster.


At 5:46 PM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

Meh. He shouldn't obstruct justice. And Bonds definitely isn't worth it. The problem is that MLB doesn't really want to bust these players, and nor do the courts. If you want to talk about injustice, try focusing on the guys who wrote this book, who are facing jail time because they leaked grand jury testimony.

Plus, there are other issues involved, like the U.S. government's long-time coddling of America's game through antitrust exemption.

At 6:58 PM, Blogger Alex said...

The 'Game of Shadows' writers are facing jail time based on an obstruction of justice, not on leaking the grand jury testimony.

It's a crime to leak the information if you were present for the grand jury proceedings, but not otherwise.

Williams and Fainaru-Wada are facing jail time for failing to disclose their source, which would allow the goverment to charge the proper person; they were never charged with leaking the info.

Now, understanding that there are some differences between the cases of Anderson and the writers (freedom of the press), they are still being charged with the same thing that Anderson just went to jail for.

At 8:57 PM, Blogger mudcrutch79 said...

Flames suck.

As for this, I'm not shedding any tears for the reporters or for Greg Anderson. It's in the public interest to be able to compel people to divulge what they know when a crime has been committed. I don't look at the reporters like murderers or anything but part of the deal with the whole reporters secrecy thing has to be that it's not government sanctioned. If it's government sanctioned, where do you draw the line? The current system isn't bad - no stigma but you have to pay the price.

At 9:15 PM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

The 'Game of Shadows' writers are facing jail time based on an obstruction of justice, not on leaking the grand jury testimony.

True. But the obstruction charge results from them refusing to name their source.

At 11:56 PM, Blogger Avi Schaumberg said...

Regardless of the writers, the person or people who leaked the testimony should be lined up against a wall and shot. Or charged. I'd accept charged.

At 1:10 AM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

I feel more sympathy for them than I do for Anderson. At least they can argue that a greater good is being served. But I don't understand why Grand Juries still exist in the U.S. in the 1st place, so...

It's in the public interest to be able to compel people to divulge what they know when a crime has been committed.

Yup. Which is why Anderson should rot in jail. And if Bonds lied on the stand--which he bloody well did--he should rot right beside him.

At 10:50 AM, Blogger Avi Schaumberg said...

I assume, Andy, that you're supportive of charging others with perjury as well? The point isn't that Bonds did/didn't perjure himself, it's that (a) the crime is selectively prosecuted, which is a form of abuse, and (b) it's extremely difficult to make the case, which makes this use of public money a questionable endeavour.

At least they [the leakers] can argue that a greater good is being served.

What greater good is being served by a grand jury member or another party to the proceedings breaking his oath to keep the proceedings secret? It's the same type of crime (contempt of court) that Anderson is in jail for, and the same category of crime (breaking of an oath) you're all over Bonds for allegedly committing.

If you go to the end of Alex's first link, there's a good summary of the reasons for grand jury secrecy. You can thank Edward III for the two-tiered jury system. Part III of this paper also provides a good summary of how secrecy developed and its purpose.

Of most relevance to the Game of Shadows writers is this: "In 1917, a Rhode Island federal district court addressed the issue of widespread public disclosure of grand jury proceedings in United States v. Providence Tribune Co. The court cited the newspaper for contempt for printing an article divulging information from a grand jury probe. Deciding that the fair administration of justice required a finding of fact that the newspaper was in contempt for making the secret grand jury sessions public, the court held that the mere publication of the article about the continuing grand jury probe was an obstruction of justice. The court analyzed the historical justifications for grand jury secrecy and, perhaps influenced by John Somers' treatise, listed six interests in secrecy: (1) preventing the escape of offenders; (2) preventing the destruction of evidence; (3) preventing tampering with witnesses; (4) preserving the reputations of innocent persons whose conduct comes under the grand jury's investigation; (5) encouraging witnesses to disclose their full knowledge of possible wrongdoing; and (6) preventing undue prejudice of the public jury pool"


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