Fifth installment of a five-part series on Silverglate’s book, Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent.
This week, I’ve had the pleasure of guest-blogging on the Conspiracy and expanding upon discussions from my book, Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent. I’ve examined the Supreme Court’s skepticism toward honest services fraud; aggressive prosecutors using malleable terrorism laws to target unpopular lawful expression; unwary businessmen becoming financial scapegoats; and the lack of media scrutiny over the Justice Department’s overreach. And this barely scratches the surface of the problems caused by investigations and prosecutions based on vague federal criminal statutes and regulations that encompass much ordinary and innocent activity.
A Heritage Foundation study published in June 2008 found that over 4,450 federal crimes exist, and there’s no doubt that number has increased since. (Recall the three separate federal statutes criminalizing “material support” of terrorism, and the joint NACDL-Federalist Society letter (PDF) pointing out to Congress the statutory redundancy of the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act of 2009.) With many of these statutes near-impossible for the average citizen (or, I might add, the above-average lawyer) to understand, and many lacking important “mens rea,” or intent requirements that are common to state but not federal law, the average professional going about his or her daily business could become the target of federal authorities.
How do I know this? For one thing, because it nearly happened to me.
In the early 1980s, the Boston United States Attorney’s office launched a top-to-bottom corruption probe into the administration of Boston Mayor Kevin H. White. It was obvious that then-U.S. attorney William F. Weld—who would later serve in both appointed and elected high offices—was gunning for the scalps of as many city hall officials […]