Former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer had no idea his phone calls were being monitored by the FBI whether he called his escort service to set up a liaison with a hooker or he called his daughters to find out about their day at school. It may never have crossed his mind; even though Spitzer had spent 8 years as Attorney General of New York and should have been well aware of how much incriminating evidence had been gathered on suspects via authorized wiretaps. Imagine for a moment how many hours of wiretaps that never got submitted as evidence Spitzer must have listened to over his career, as he made decisions about what charges could be filed against a suspect, and what elements of a crime this or that cut of tape would corroborate.
Trading a Security Escort for a Sexual Escort
Yet when this powerful man (with many similarly powerful enemies) called his favorite escort service and fumbled around trying to remember the name of the particular escort he wanted to see, it just never dawned on him that he was being monitored by a team of FBI analysts then and there. If it had dawned on him, quibbling over whether his frequent-flyer discount would be applied to the upcoming liaison or had to wait till a liaison thereafter would not have been his primary objective.
Oddly, as this video below shows, Spitzer did know better — maybe he never thought it would happen to him. He was a powerful and popular Governor viewed as a rising star in the national Democratic Party. His pedigree; Harvard Law, real estate rich family, multi-multi-millionaire; had people taking bets on which election he’d enter as a presidential candidate — 2012 or 2016.
Six months later and Eliot Spitzer — who should be campaigning for Barack Obama using the Spitzer Brand as a reformer to endorse Obama’s ability to bring change to Washington and Wall St — is just another rich guy walking on the sidewalk in Manhattan. (Article: signup required to read)
To further understand the contrast you need to understand one accoutrement of power in America. One attendant detail to power is that public officials like Eliot Spitzer travel in style. Not in an expensive, purchased-just-for-him-luxury-automobile like Jamaican pols; but rather in an armored SUV, with a security detail. I shook hands with Eliot Spitzer once while he was still Attorney General; I was walking in the Legislative Office Building (a.k.a the eL-Oh-Bee) in New York’s capitol city of Albany, and turned down a corridor where Spitzer was briskly s-t-r-i-d-i-n-g through along with his stern-looking state trooper bodyguard. I imagine his security detail would only have increased after he became Governor. In any case the whole thing took about 10 seconds. But the point is that these people walk around with a bodyguard of cops – they don’t walk down sidewalks by themselves. They drive around everyday with a convoy: aides in their car, other aides in other cars, cops in every car, and cops in cop cars. They clear a path through traffic with their sirens and flashing lights; and only stop at traffic lights where they wish to. Spitzer has been succeeded by David A. Patterson, as provided for by the State constitution, and now Patterson has that convoy. This picture from the Times conveys then, just how far the mighty have fallen.
They’re Not Going to Shoot Us
More recently, the senior incumbent U.S. senator from Alaska was indicted and is currently on trial for a charge of concealing the receipt of gifts worth $250,000 USD from a friend of his. So let me tell you a little about who Sen. Ted Stevens is. The longest serving Republican in congress, Sen. Stevens was the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee when the Republicans still had their senate majority. As the name implies, this is the committee that is responsible for all financial appropriation/budgeting legislation in the US Senate. That means he had a BIG say-so over trillions of dollars in discretionary spending. THIS MAN HAS POWER! And he has become accustomed to power, serving in the US Senate since 1968; meaning he has served alongside Presidents Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. So how do you think this powerful American senator got indicted? Well, for that I’ll quote extensively from the NY Times story about his trial. (Signup required to read link)
Senator Warned a Friend That Jail Was a Risk
WASHINGTON — The day after the F.B.I. confronted Bill Allen, an Alaska oil services millionaire, with evidence that he had tried to bribe state lawmakers, he reached out to Senator Ted Stevens by telephone to discuss how their relationship might also be the subject of a corruption investigation.
Mr. Stevens did not know that Mr. Allen had agreed to cooperate with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which was listening in and recording the call on Aug. 31, 2006, as it would with two others in the following weeks.
In the three conversations between Mr. Stevens and Mr. Allen played for a federal jury on Monday, Mr. Stevens repeatedly says he believes they did nothing wrong, but also raises the possibility they could go to jail if they are not careful.
“They’re not going to shoot us,” Mr. Stevens reassured Mr. Allen on Oct. 18, 2006. “It’s not Iraq.” At worst, he said, “we might have to pay a fine and serve a little time in jail.”
Mr. Stevens added, “I hope to Christ it never gets to that, but I don’t think it will.”
Mr. Stevens, an Alaska Republican, is in the second week of a trial involving felony charges that he knowingly concealed some $250,000 in gifts and services from Mr. Allen, mostly for renovations to his Alaska home.
Source: Neil Lewis, New York Times, Oct. 7, 2008
So in case you missed it, a wiretap by the FBI recorded parts of his conversation that were played in a public trial. And further, that wiretap was agreed to by a multimillionaire friend of Sen. Stevens. More details from the NY Times.
Mr. Allen, the main prosecution witness, has been on the stand since last week. Prosecutors
contend that Mr. Stevens knew full well that the gifts and services from Mr. Allen and his company, the Veco Corporation, were provided to him free.
Mr. Allen, a hulking former welder who ended up running a company that was worth $380 million, and Mr. Stevens, a Harvard Law School graduate who has represented Alaska in the Senate for 40 years, were once close friends, going to resorts together and sharing ownership of a racehorse.
Mr. Allen testified that he had not sent bills for the work done on the Stevens home by Veco workers for several reasons. He said he had liked and admired Mr. Stevens and wanted to help him. But he also testified that although Mr. Stevens sent him two notes asking for bills, the senator sent an emissary who told him explicitly not to furnish them. The emissary told him that the notes asking for bills were simply to create a record to protect Mr. Stevens.
In his testimony and taped calls, Mr. Allen comes across as clearly pained by his role in testifying against Mr. Stevens. Even though the F.B.I. is listening in, he repeatedly apologizes to Mr. Stevens for their problems. At one point, Mr. Allen, a gruff and rugged man, says to Mr. Stevens, “I love you, you know.”
Although Mr. Allen often seemed a reluctant prosecution witness, he acknowledged that he had agreed to become one as part of a deal with the Justice Department. He has already been convicted of three felony counts relating to his bribing of state legislators.
He agreed to cooperate on the first day he was approached by the F.B.I. in exchange for a promise that his grown children would not be prosecuted, he said. He has not yet been sentenced because prosecutors will make a recommendation based on his cooperation in the Stevens trial.
Source: Neil Lewis, New York Times, Oct. 7, 2008
Did you catch it, a longtime friend of the Senator, who has been a business partner (owned a racehorse together) and a vacation pal, hell the Senator has spent the night at Allen’s house — they’re tight right? This great friend turned federal evidence against his buddy the Senator on the VERY FIRST DAY the FBI approached him. All because they threatened to prosecute the friend’s grown-up kids if the friend didn’t testify . And having agreed to betray the Senator, this “hulking,” “gruff,” friend professed by phone to “love him” in a conversation being had for the benefit of the FBI. If you ever plan to live in America I suggest you go back and read the story about Sen. Stevens’ friend again and understand its lessons — they are profound.
You Don’t Want Him to Own Your House, Do You?
One last Alaska story for the post. Governor Sarah Palin is the Republican VP nominee — and was the Mayor of an Alaskan town called Wasilla. Her former brother-in-law, Mike Wooten, is a state trooper and when Palin became Governor she essentially became his boss. So she embarked, according to reports, on a campaign to get her former brother-in-law fired. Let me quote from a Time Magazine article about Palin’s efforts to fire her ex-brother-in-law, the state trooper.
Consider the report’s findings. Not only did people at almost every level of the Palin administration engage in repeated inappropriate contact with Walt Monegan and other high-ranking officials at the Department of Public Safety, but Monegan and his peers constantly warned these Palin disciples that the contact was inappropriate and probably unlawful. Still, the emails and calls continued — in at least one instance on recorded state trooper phone lines.
The state’s head of personnel, Annette Kreitzer, called Monegan and had to be warned that personnel issues were confidential. The state’s attorney general, Talis Colberg, called Monegan and had to be reminded that the call was putting both men in legal jeopardy, should Wooten decide to sue. The governor’s chief of staff met with Monegan and had to be reminded by Monegan that, “This conversation is discoverable … You don’t want Wooten to own your house, do you?”
Source: Nathan Thornburgh, Time Magazine, Sat Oct, 11, 2008
“Discoverable” refers to the pre-trial discovery process by which you can acquire evidence with a court order when you become party to a lawsuit, failure of the other party to follow that court order can easily result in criminal charges against them for obstruction of justice (if they destroy evidence) or contempt of court (if they ignore the order), so people tend to follow court orders during discovery. So here is the Alaskan Public Safety Commissioner reminding other officials in Alaska that they can be sued, that the dumb things they’re doing can come out in court and embarrass them — so they should behave themselves.
And that’s the point of this case study — to understand that in America the High and Mighty are brought down every day. In this country – no matter how powerful you are, they (law enforcement & prosecutors) will come get you. They will put handcuffs on you and destroy e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g you’ve spent decades diligently building — your reputation, your network, your wealth, your standing, and your lifestyle. Kern Spencer being charged is no real scandal, the real scandal is how few parliamentarians have been held to book by the Jamaican law enforcement apparatus. In America we’ve had more people who serve in the national legislature go to jail in the last year alone than Jamaica has had in its entire history. And ironically, that is a source of pride.
So grasp the rich details of these cases, they have everything to do with Jamaica and understanding how to tackle the Jamaican crime problem once and for all.