American Case Study

The Governor's Escort

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)

Keith Bedford, NYTimes
Six months later and no entourage. -- Credit: Keith Bedford, NYTimes

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)

October 7, 2008

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

Jose Luis Magana; AP
Sen. Ted Stevens -- Credit: Jose Luis Magana; AP

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.

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9 thoughts on “American Case Study

  1. Diatribalist, without a doubt, this case study explicating and delineating the denouement and unraveling of two powerful political figures in the United States, Messrs. Eliot Spitzer and Ted Stevens, Governor of New York State and Senator of Alaska —- the Republican Vice-Presidential candidate, Ms. Sara Palin is also the current Governor of Alaska —-respectively, is definitely instructive for a society like Jamaica. Because, as you affirmatively contend or assert, it illuminates —- or shed light —- the unadulterated and empirical fact, that in the United States, no one is above the rule of law, irrespective of how powerful, wealthy, and influential such persons are, law enforcement authorities and prosecutors via due process of the law will adjudicate and rule accordingly.

    Comparatively, in a society such as Jamaica, the rule of law vis-a-vis the Jamaican power elite, i.e., the oligarchy, the political directorate, the business elites —- the so called captains of industries or in the case of Jamaica, one should salute them as generals —- and other influential persons/families, groups, or associations is generally, severely, systematically and calculatedly compromised, breached, discredited, imperiled and embarassed, when persons from the aforementioned groups, strata, ethnicity, colour or class are in contravention, transgression, infringement and violation of the various and sundry laws of the state. Hence, transforming the island state into a perfect criminocracy and thugocracy, where Jamaican jurisprudence is applicable only to certain types of people,i.e, the marginalized, the materially dispossessed, the working class, lumpen, declasse, illiterate ,and the wretched of the society, reinforcing and concretizing the established fact, that there are TWO JAMAICAS, irrespective of the legal, juridical, and constitutional niceties, fastidiousness and meticulousness constantly spewed and regurgitated by Parliament, et al.

    As indicated in an earlier post on your very website, the embourgeiosiement —- the role of the middle class, technocrats, and the elites —- of crime and criminal activities in Jamaica is pervasive and extremely extensive, with its tentacles becoming more entrenched,varied and institutionalized on a daily basis, even within the garrisons and sub-states of the society.The ubiquitious nature of crime on the part of the elite of the society, with their universal and incestuous connections within political parties, business, nationally and internationally is being systematically overlooked,disregarded, and condoned.One wonders why! Indeed, for obvious and supposedly perceptible reasons. Consequently, for us as a society and a people, the tackling and challenge of eradication of crime has to be uniformly addressed, where the rule of law is not embarassed, breached and compromised as a result of ones position, wealth and influence in the society.

    Certainly, this crimnocracy/thugocracy and the general thugification of the society can be reversed, if as a people ,with dedicated leadership, we are serious about the rule of law.Without the rule of law, civil society can and will no longer be able to function as a viable and legitimate society.The legitimacy of the society is essential for its very existence.Ergo, the American case study should be somewhat edifying, that no one is above the law, not even our Prime Minister, although there are politicians who/that people both political parties that entertain and harbour views to the contrary. Excellent post Diatribalist!! Copious respect!!
    .

  2. No star! It is not just you, I have been experiencing difficulties accessing the site of the THE SUNDAY HERALD for some time now.I guess it is down.Hopefully, it will be back up shortly.

  3. You’ve nailed it without saying it. The lack of politial will in Jamaica’s leaders and a lack of resolve in its private citizens to have the society returned to some semblance of order, whether due to fear or otherwise. There is much profit to be made out of this chaos, and those benefitting from the proceeds of crime have no wish to see its abatement. What makes it even more challenging is the inter-connectedness of relationships that provide the cover and protection for those who have run afoul of the law.
    It takes a great deal of courage, especially in such a toxic environment, to challenge this agressive strain of viral corruption.

  4. @ Esteban: There are two Jamaicas and increasingly it seems never the twain shall meet. My fear though — and it is really a premonition and not merely fear — is that the twain shall meet. As what you refer to as the embourgeiosiement of crime in Jamaica sets in like rigamortis these two parts will collide like mid-air planes and fall flaming into the Caribbean Sea.

    @ Kadene: In America there has been all this talk of a moral majority. And since it is merely an alliteration that I’m borrowing, I wish to co-opt that term. I truly believe that there is a Moral Majority in Jamaica that simply needs to be empowered to act in concert with others. And when so empowered, when life and limb is not on the line as a result of standing up — we will see them assert their majority. Viral morality is the antidote to viral corruption.

  5. Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska convicted for ethics breach in gift scheme.The Kleptocrats and the criminocrats will never be convicted in Jamaica.Jamaican jurisprudence is only applicable to the small men and women of Jamaican society.

  6. Hey Diatribalist, former New York State Governor, Eliot Spitzer, is now a journalist/columnist. Mr. Spitzer will be writing on a fortnightly basis on financial matters for THE SLATE. How interesting? Nuff respect!!

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