How the Feds Imprison the Innocent: New Book Confirms Tyranny of Good Intentions Thesis
Authors of serious books seldom have cause to celebrate,
but Larry Stratton and I have two reasons to open the
champagne. Crown Publishing, a division of Random
House, has announced a second printing of the second
edition of The Tyranny of Good Intentions,
noted civil libertarian and defense attorney,
Harvey Silverglate, has just
published a book covering many of the same legal
cases and vetting our conclusion that in the United
States every American is in grave danger from
unscrupulous prosecutors who target the innocent.
For two decades I
have been attempting to make Americans aware
that the danger to their liberty comes not from foreign
adversaries, terrorists, or criminals, but from
who have destroyed law as a shield of the innocent and
turned law into a weapon against the
The Tyranny of Good Intentions (the
publisher`s title) documents how the legal principles
that protect our civil liberties were eroded by
prosecutors even before the Bush regime obliterated what
the Bill of Rights.
The struggle has been uphill, because neither the
right-wing nor the left-wing is emotionally content with
the facts that Stratton and I present. Conservatives
tend to see civil liberties as liberal coddling devices
for criminals and, today, for terrorists.
Predisposed to "law and order," conservatives align with police and prosecutors.
They object to accounts of police misbehavior and
prosecutorial abuse as propaganda in behalf of the
The left-wing tends to see law as a tool of oppression
that "the rich" use to control the lower classes, and
liberals fret that "the rich" get off by hiring good
lawyers, while the poor and minorities are ground under.
Consequently, leftists object to the demonstration that
even the very rich, such as Michael Milken,
law and accounting firms,
are victims of wrongful prosecution. Confusing
wealth with villainy, leftists cannot free themselves
from the emotional predilection that a convicted rich
person must have been so guilty that not even the best
lawyers could get them off.
The Tyranny of Good Intentions
had a second printing of a second edition because of
word of mouth, not because of reviews. Neither the right
nor the left objects to wrongful prosecution as long as
the victim is a bête noir. Sir Thomas More`s
Man For All Seasons)–what
will happen to the innocent if we cut down the law in
pursuit of devils?–rings no warning among right or
With this point made, I have come not to praise myself
and my coauthor, but to praise Harvey Silverglate.
If The Tyranny of Good Intentions cannot convince
you, then perhaps Three Felonies A Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent can, and, if not, then both together
The Tyranny of Good Intentions
is a broad stroke. It demonstrates how each civil
liberty has been eroded away. Prosecutorial abuse
is one chapter in the book.
Silverglates` Three Felonies A Day focuses on how
federal prosecutors invent creative interpretations of
statutes, sometimes creating new felonies out of vague
language or thin air, felonies never legislated by
Congress. Federal criminal law is today so vast
and so poorly worded that Silverglate reports,
truthfully, that each of us, every American, commits
three felonies every day without knowing it.
Federal judges, an increasing number of whom are former
federal prosecutors, permit the prosecution of Americans
for crimes that the defendants did not know were crimes,
crimes that never before existed until the federal
prosecutor brought the charge. The invention of
crimes by prosecutors violates every known legal
principle in Anglo-American law. Yet, it has
become commonplace. Defense attorneys, a group
that also increasingly consists of former federal
prosecutors, as Silverglate accurately reports, have
lost confidence that it is possible to defend a client
from a federal prosecution and see their role, not as
the defense, but as negotiator of a
that reduces the charges and prison time of the
defendant, no matter how innocent.
Silverglate shows that many of the plea bargains create
precedents that prosecutors can exploit to trap more
The reader by now is asking why prosecutors would waste
time on the innocent when there are so many real crimes.
Silverglate provides conclusive answers. For example,
politically ambitious federal prosecutors, such as Rudy
Giuliani and William Weld, pick high profile targets to
frame in order to build name recognition for political
careers. Giuliani picked Michael Milken and Leona
Helmsley. Weld picked Boston mayor Kevin White.
Giuliani went on to be Mayor of New York and a candidate
for the Republican presidential nomination. Weld
went on to be a two-term governor of Massachusetts.
Leura Canary, perhaps at the urging of Karl Rove, picked
Don Siegelman. Michael J. Sullivan picked Thomas
Finneran, Speaker of the Massachusetts House of
Representatives, and so on.
From Silverglate`s book, the reader can learn how
federal prosecutors manage their frame-ups of innocents.
For a targeted city or state political figure, the
hunts for a criminal act somewhere in the bureaucracy.
Perhaps some low level person has extorted a bribe for a
permit. Once such a person is caught, he or she is
told that charges will be dropped if information is
given that can be used to implicate the mayor or Speaker
of the House or governor. As federal district court
judges now permit hearsay and uncorroborated testimony,
a totally innocent high profile person can be snared on
the basis of testimony by a petty crook low in the
This is the way America works today. Just as state
and local police cannot stand up to the FBI, elected
state and local officials are powerless in the face of
their pursuit by corrupt federal prosecutors.
Silverglate himself was the attorney in some of the
landmark cases that he reports. The reader, even
one with the usual illusions and delusions that blind
Americans to their predicament, will be scared by
Silverglate`s documented account, case by case, of how
easy it is in "freedom and democracy" America to frame the totally innocent.
In Silverglate`s concluding chapter,
"For Whom the
Bell Tolls," the answer is obvious even to a naïf:
"It tolls for
Paul Craig Roberts [email
him] was Assistant
Secretary of the Treasury during President Reagan`s
first term. He was Associate Editor of the Wall
Street Journal. He has held numerous academic
appointments, including the William E. Simon Chair,
Center for Strategic and International Studies,
Georgetown University, and Senior Research Fellow,
Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He was awarded
the Legion of Honor by French President Francois
Mitterrand. He is the author of
Supply-Side Revolution : An Insider`s Account of
Policymaking in Washington;
and the Soviet Economy and
Meltdown: Inside the Soviet Economy,
and is the co-author
with Lawrence M. Stratton of
The Tyranny of Good Intentions : How Prosecutors and
Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name
of Justice. Click
here for Peter
Brimelow`s Forbes Magazine interview with Roberts
about the recent epidemic of prosecutorial misconduct.