The impeachment trial of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is a sham, says Internet powerhouse and law professor Andy Martin
Andy Martin says that Governor Blagojevich’s opponents are just as corrupt and unethical as he is. Martin says the Soviet-style “show trial” in Springfield, Illinois is likely to backfire on its orchestrators, the same way that the impeachment efforts against President Bill Clinton discredited its proponents.
Internet Powerhouse Andy Martin says Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is being lynched by unethical politicians and prosecutors
“Factually Correct, Not
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
ILLINOIS CORRUPTION FIGHTER ANDY MARTIN SAYS THE IMPEACHMENT PROCEDURES BEING USED AGAINST GOVERNOR ROD BLAGOJEVICH ARE A JOKE
FEDERAL PROSECUTORS HAVE BECOME AS CORRUPT AS THE GOVERNOR, AND MAY INADVERTENTLY HELP BLAGO ESCAPE CRIMINAL LIABILITY
SPEAKING AS A LAW PROFESSOR, MARTIN SAYS “FOR ONCE, BLAGOJEVICH IS TELLING THE TRUTH; LIKE THE CASE OF THE BOY THAT CRIED WOLF, THE MEDIA HAVE STOPPED LISTENING.”
(CHICAGO)(January 26, 2009) I am not an admirer of Governor Rod Blagojevich (“Blago”). I am certainly not a supporter. But Blago is telling the truth when he says he is being lynched by corrupt legislators and prosecutors.
The media doesn’t want to hear about Blagojevich’s lynching, because they dislike the man. Prosecutors always love pursuing unpopular defendants because it makes their job easier. But for anyone concerned by the lack of ethical government in Illinois, I can assure you ethical violations are no more acceptable when they are committed by federal prosecutors than they are when committed by sleazy minions of the Daley Machine.
Here’s why Blago’s complaints have merit and why the legislature’s procedures are wrong:
First, if you assume that Blago will someday be lawfully and legitimately accused of some unspecified federal crime, even though there has been no indictment to date, how can prosecutors be allowed—with a judge’s-permission—to pick and choose damaging snippets from hundreds of hours of tapes to smear their potential adversary and prospective criminal defendant? It violates every principle of due process.
The legislature fell into a trap set by the U. S. Attorney’s office when it agreed to rig the federal evidence against Blago. No prosecutor should try to limit and manipulate evidence so as to prevent the vigorous defense of an impeachment accusation. But that’s what legislators admit they are allowing federal officials to do. It’s grossly wrong.
Second, if Blago did commit a “crime,” which I continue to doubt in so far as the “sale of the senate seat is concerned,” the prosecutors may have damaged their case if and when they get around to filing one. “If and when,” because despite all of the sound and fury convicting Blago in the media, he has not yet even been accused in the criminal justice process. Sentence first? Verdict afterward? That’s Illinois justice?
I suggested to federal Chief Judge Holderman that his authorization to release edited tapes could backfire on the federal government. I am now virtually certain that the manipulated tapes may ultimately allow Blago to escape justice, not face justice. Imagine for a moment that you are a potential defendant in a federal criminal case. Before you are even formally accused of any crime, federal prosecutors start leaking “evidence” to state officials to smear you. You are prevented from defending yourself against this self-serving “evidence” by the very people who are planning to prosecute you. That’s justice? That’s a circus.
Because the U. S. Attorney’s office was the source of prejudicial pretrial publicity could mandate the dismissal of any future indictment against Blago.
The usually reasonable Carol Marin calls Blago’s protests “poppycock.” She’s completely wrong.
The way federal officials have proceeded against Blago is poppycock. They arrested him and created a media circus at a time when by their own admission they lacked sufficient evidence to file criminal charges. Now they want to destroy him politically before they even seek an indictment. Abuse of federal power? Mr. Fitzgerald, you are violating the U. S. Constitution; the halo conferred on you by the media will be irreparably tarnished in due course. What your office is doing is wrong, wrong, wrong.
If prosecutors have solid evidence on Blago, by all means charge him with a crime, hold a trial, let him present a defense and remove him from office if he is convicted of criminal activity. What would have happened if former Governor Ryan had been v“convicted” in the media and convicted by the legislature before he was even charged with a crime? People would have been saying he was being railroaded.
Blago is being railroaded, and no one cares because of his antics. The impeachment charges against Blago are strictly small bore. Without the federal arrest he would not have been impeached (to avoid confusion I will explain the difference between an “arrest” and indictment: an arrest can be made on the basis of suspicion of a crime; an indictment is a formal criminal accusation). So much for the “case” against a man who was twice elected.
Constitutional scholars, however, must deal in due process of law. Due process often slows down a “process,” and mandates that proceedings unfold in proper sequence. Patrick Fitzgerald created a firestorm of anti-Blago publicity in December and engineered the pretext for Blago’s removal from office before Fitzgerald himself even had a basis to file any charges. That is disgraceful behavior.
As odious as I find Blagojevich (and I have sued him several times for abuse of his gubernatorial power), I find his enemies have now become even more odious. Blago has never pretended to be acting in anything but his own self-interest. His opponents, legislators and prosecutors, claim to be acting in the public interest. In reality they are violating the public interest. Their behavior is just as craven and self-interested as Blago’s. For shame. Last month Attorney General Lisa Madigan jumped on the anti-Blago publicity bandwagon. She was slapped down by the Illinois Supreme Court and has not been heard from since.
Carol Marin, the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune are defending a lynching because the defendant/victim is unpopular and obnoxious. Media mendacity makes a joke of our constitutional protections. The Constitution is not there to protect “good” people; it is there to protect “bad” people who may be intensely unpopular.
Historically, a “lynching” was a situation where someone suspected but not convicted of a crime became the victim of self-help justice by local vigilantes. That is what is happening to Blago. Here we have the father of a prospective future governor, Speaker Madigan, orchestrating the removal of the incumbent from office to create a clear path for his daughter, General Madigan. The appearance of justice and impartiality? Are Madigans any less corrupt that Blagos? Come on.
Having first “defended” Blago’s protestations, I can also say he has proffered a miserable and incompetent response to the legislature. He used criminal lawyers to defend against what is a political attack. Not surprisingly, the criminal lawyers were ineffective in the impeachment theater.
The circus/farce in the Illinois Senate is going to boomerang on its very perpetrators. The Office of Governor is going to be diminished by the lynching party (candidates are you listening?). The Illinois Senate has rules that allow “evidence” to be received as “truthful,” but for which no direct challenge may be directed at the same evidence. That is justice? Conviction first? Evidence never? The senate’s procedures are a joke.
Some people have defended the anti-Blago lynching by claiming the process is similar to that employed by Republicans against President Bill Clinton. Putting aside that the Clinton impeachment backfired, and boomeranged on its most egregious supporters, Democrats then were saying the process was rigged and crooked. How did what was wrong then become right now? Hypocrisy anyone?
In a letter to Chief Justice (not federal prosecutor) Fitzgerald I have suggested that he is also endangering his own constitutional role by participating in a mockery of justice. The “special prosecutor” of the impeachment case, and the state senators, cannot be allowed to control the introduction of evidence or to prejudice the governor’s right to vigorously challenge all of the evidence against him. The current “rules” are a joke.
Why does the Illinois Constitution specifically appoint the chief justice of the Illinois Supreme Court to preside? The reason is obvious: to interpose judicial control between the defendant official and the proponents of removal. Chief Justice Fitzgerald will be doing grave damage to his own role if he allows the corrupt rules passed by the legislative to control his powers and duties as presiding officer at the impeachment trial. He has allowed the process to act backwards.
Judges deicide what the rules are going not be, not litigants. Justice Fitzgerald should have rejected the legislature’s rules and limitations, on the basis that it is the justice’s role in this process to make the rules, not the litigants.
Allowing legislators to limit the evidence they will “hear” to prosecute and impeach, and limiting the defense, renders the Illinois Constitution and the Chief Justice’s role nothing but a smokescreen for a sickening political spectacle. Is that what the Constitution’s drafters intended? I doubt it. Justice Fitzgerald has failed to perform properly.
In Shakespeare’s plays fools often have the best lines because they speak unpleasant truths people really don’t want to hear. Blago is a thoroughly obnoxious public official; I can understand why most people consider him a fool. But even the most reviled, the worst among us is entitled to the full protection of the United States and Illinois Constitutions. Blago is being denied elementary due process. He is the victim of a lynching. He is telling the truth, for once. And that’s no poppycock.
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Andy Martin is a legendary Chicago muckraker, author, Internet columnist, radio talk show host, broadcaster and media critic. He has over forty years of broadcasting experience in radio and television. He is currently based in New York promoting his best-selling book, Obama: The Man Behind The Mask. Andy is the Executive Editor and publisher of http://www.ContrarianCommentary.com.
Martin comments on regional, national and world events with over forty years of experience. He holds a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Illinois College of Law and is a former adjunct professor of law at the City University of New York.
His columns are also posted at ContrarianCommentary.blogspot.com; contrariancommentary.wordpress.com.
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