John Edwards – Guilty before trial! What happened to our system of Justice?

June 6, 2011

As news of the indictment of John Edwards hit the wire I began to hear many people speak of joy and hope that he would be punished!  Comments like, “Well, I’m glad.  For too long those with money and power seem to get away with their crimes.”  Yet others said, “Look what he did to his poor wife, he deserves whatever punishment he gets!”

As I heard those words I began to wonder what has happened to our system of justice 0r maybe better asked, what has happened to our moral compassion?  Did John Edwards do wrong?  Well, he says he did, but regarding the consequence, seems to me that’s for the legal system to decide…yet, what I do know is that Every Choice Has A Consequence.  John Edwards choices are leading to the consequences he is facing today.

Pleading NOT GUILTY to a federal grand jury indictment on six counts, including conspiracy, issuing false statements and violating campaign contribution laws, John Edwards, former Democratic vice presidential nominee and two-time presidential candidate, acknowledged that he had “done wrong,” but denied breaking the law.

“There’s no question that I’ve done wrong,” Edwards told reporters. “But I did not break the law and I never, ever thought I was breaking the law.”

I understand Edwards comments…I really get the truth in what he is saying.  Yet, “ever thinking about breaking the law” and breaking the law are two different things.  As a convicted felon (not proud of that fact, but it is a fact), I never thought I was doing wrong until I had to face the truth and see that the illusion I created was in fact nothing more than an elaborate lie – the truth was I was then (not now) a liar and a thief.  Perhaps now Edwards is coming to see reality – not the illusion he lived under for so long.

Released on his own recognizance, Edwards was ordered to surrender his passport and remain within the lower 48 states and if convicted on all counts, Edwards would face up to 30 years in prison and a maximum fine of $1.5 million.

THE ILLUSION?

The question is whether money given to support Edwards’ mistress, Rielle Hunter, by benefactors of Edwards should have been considered campaign donations, a contention Edwards’ team has disputed.  Here is the foundation of the illusion.  Is it possible that cover up (some $900,000) money given for a person running a public campaign can be anything other than a campaign donation?

A CNN Report states the following:

While prosecutors believe the monetary help given to Hunter by two of Edwards’ political backers should have been considered campaign donations, Edwards’ attorneys disagree.

“This is an unprecedented prosecution,” Craig said. “No one would have known or could be expected to know that these payments would be treated as campaign contributions, and there is no way Senator Edwards knew that fact either.”

Craig said the government’s theory of the case “is wrong on the facts and wrong on the law.”

The government is believed to be building its case that Edwards violated campaign finance law based on an 11-year-old advisory opinion issued by the Federal Election Commission, which asserted that a gift to a candidate for federal office would be considered a campaign contribution, a source with knowledge of the inquiry told CNN this week.

The decision, dated June 14, 2000, is known as “Harvey.” It’s named after a man named Phillip Harvey who sought guidance from the FEC because he wanted to give money to someone who was preparing to run for federal office, but didn’t want the money to be used for campaign purposes.

The opinion is important because Hunter received more than $1 million from two contributors, 100-year-old philanthropist Rachel “Bunny” Mellon of Virginia and attorney Fred Baron, who has since died.

Edwards’ attorneys have said that the payments were not and should not be considered political contributions. If they weren’t political contributions, what were they? The most widely reported theory — which the Edwards team has publicly neither confirmed nor denied — is that the money was given to keep Edwards’ wife, Elizabeth, from finding out about his mistress and child.

The source with knowledge of the inner workings of the case and other legal observers have noted that the Harvey advisory opinion is shaky ground to base a federal prosecution on because it is not a black-letter federal statute, and apparently has not been cited in any important case law, or as legal authority behind any important court decisions.

Some experts have said the Justice Department will have a strong case in court if it can prove Edwards knew about the funds and what they were being used for — a contention he has denied.

WHERE FROM HERE?

John Edwards has made choices – the consequences he must now face.  The only issue I have (at least for the moment) is why we – the general public – are so willing to seal his fate and find joy in his indictment, conviction and punishment?  Is it possible that those who so quickly point fingers are unwilling to look in the mirror and see the illusions that they work hard to maintain?

WHAT DO YOU THINK?  YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME!


Darren Reagan – Choices and Consequences That Include Prison! Comments by Business Ethics Speaker Chuck Gallagher

October 12, 2008

In June of 2008 Darren Reagan was convicted of theft of public money – a federal offense. On October 8th, 2008 he was sentenced to 12 months in federal prison. But this is not the end for Reagan, as he will face additional charges and a hearing in January 2009 for other alleged offenses.

As a business ethics speaker, I remind audiences around the nation that every choice has a consequence. More times than not, we might make simple (unethical or illegal) choices that seem innocent at the time, with the full intent on paying back. Reality is, however, you cannot escape the consequence of the choices made. I know and speak from experience, as it was thirteen years ago to the month that I took my first steps into federal prison for the choices that I made.

According to the US Attorneys Office:

Reagan, who is currently in federal custody, is also a defendant in the Dallas City Hall corruption investigation case, charged with conspiracy to commit extortion, two counts of extortion by public officials, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and four counts of tax evasion. That case is scheduled to go to trial in January 2009.

At trial, the jury found that from October 1, 2002, through September 1, 2007, Reagan knowingly stole approximately $45,000 in rental housing assistance payments from the Dallas Housing Authority (DHA) in connection with the rental of certain property to his mother-in-law, Leatha Kirven. Reagan falsely claimed to the DHA that he had no blood, marital, or other familiar relationship to Ms. Kirven, and as such, caused DHA to pay him housing assistant payments to which he was not entitled.

Mrs. Kirven testified in a videotaped deposition taken from her hospital room that she knew that when she signed up for the Section 8 housing assistance with Mr. Reagan, that she knew it was against the rules. She also testified that she told federal agents, when questioned by them two years ago, that she knew it was wrong.

Darren L. Reagan is also a defendant in the Dallas City Hall corruption investigation case, charged with conspiracy to commit extortion, two counts of extortion by public officials, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and four counts of tax evasion. That case is scheduled to go to trial in January 2009.

Politics and Ethics – A Question

Ethics is defined as the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation. Now if that is generally true – that ethical choices are defined as those choices that deal with a moral duty and obligation, then the question is can ethics and politics truly go hand in hand?

Some would, of course, say yes. I’ve heard it said that ethical people are always ethical. However, from my experience personally and in observing the behavior of others, I am not sure that is true. I have come to believe that ethical or moral people can become so tempted that they make unethical or bad decisions. And, speaking from experience, the first decision although mentally difficult is the one that paves the way for more to follow.

So here me out and please, with your comments, answer this question! I submit that Darren Reagan started out being a good man. Like most of us, he likely had his flaws, but I bet there are those who would read this and vouch that Reagan was a good man. If that is so, then what happened that caused an otherwise good man to make choices that ended him up with a home in federal prison? Could it be that the power of politics proved to be too much temptation?

Those who have a connection to this case – your comments are welcome!


A State Ethics Law Violation – Report Says Palin Abused Power!

October 10, 2008

There is nothing easy about politics – not state politics and certainly not presidential politics. Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin was cited in a state investigators report today for abuse of power and a violation of state ethics law. Palin is accused of trying to get her ex-brother-in-law fired from the state police.

Now, this investigation was already on track before John McCain made his surprise announcement that Sarah Palin was his choice as running mate. Palin certainly brings spice to the election as McCain (clearly a powerful and smart man) lacks in the spice department. But what McCain does not need at the crucial time in the election is to have any part of his campaign (which appears to be dying) fail.

“Gov. Palin knowingly permitted a situation to continue where impermissible pressure was placed on several subordinates in order to advance a personal agenda,” the report states.

Now, let’s face it…Alaska is a small state when it comes to politics and perhaps without national media attention Palin could get by with attempting to exert undue pressure to influence who is hired or fired as the case may be. But, Sarah, this is the big league and every move you make will, no doubt, be under heavy scrutiny.

According to a CNN report:

Palin and her husband, Todd, have consistently denied wrongdoing, describing Wooten as a “rogue trooper” who had threatened their family — allegations Branchflower discounted.

“I conclude that such claims of fear were not bona fide and were offered to provide cover for the Palins’ real motivation: to get Trooper Wooten fired for personal family reasons,” Branchflower wrote.

The Branchflower report states Todd Palin used his wife’s office and its resources to press for Wooten’s removal, and the governor “failed to act” to stop it. But because Todd Palin is not a state employee, the report makes no finding regarding his conduct.

The bipartisan Legislative Council, which commissioned the investigation after Monegan was fired, unanimously adopted the 263-page public report after a marathon executive session Friday. About 1,000 more pages of documents compiled during the inquiry will remain confidential, the council’s chairman, state Sen. Kim Elton, said.

Here’s the question – did, in fact, Sarah Palin violate state ethics law. While she may have been vindicated of the allegation of an improper filing, that does not mean that she walks away scott free. Of course, the McCain camp says that this is a democratic ploy in a hotly contested election. Others, however, might say that the report is accurate – ethics laws were violated.

The full report can be found here.

With all that is taking place in America right now, one thing we do not need is a newly elected official being tarnished when entering office. As an ethics speaker, I am reminded daily of how easy it is to make the wrong choice in the heat of the moment – only to find that the consequences are far worse than you could every have imagined.

What do you think – Ethics Violation – or not? Your Comments are welcome!


Politics – The Ethics of Misspeak – and Hillary Clinton. What is Right in a Political Campaign?

March 25, 2008

It was twelve years ago – March 1996 – when first lady Hillary Clinton made a trip to Bosnia. Now, of course, 12 years later she’s on the campaign trial.

Recently she was quoted as saying, “I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.”

hillary-clinton.jpg

Now, her campaign said she “misspoke” when she discussed or referenced her 1996 trip to Bosnia. The comments were characterized as a “misstatement” and a “minor blip.”

According to an Associated Press story at the time, Clinton was placed under no extraordinary risks on the trip. And one of her companions, comedian Sinbad, told The Washington Post he has no recollection either of the threat or reality of gunfire.

Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson pointed to Clinton’s written account when asked about Clinton’s remarks of her trip. In her book, “Living History,” she described a shortened welcoming ceremony at Tuzla Air Base, Bosnia-Herzegovina.

“Due to reports of snipers in the hills around the airstrip, we were forced to cut short an event on the tarmac with local children, though we did have time to meet them and their teachers and to learn how hard they had worked during the war to continue classes in any safe spot they could find,” Clinton wrote.

“That is what she wrote in her book,” Wolfson said. “That is what she has said many, many times and on one occasion she misspoke.”

Questions:

  1. Is it possible that Senator Clinton – after so many years – has a failed memory of those events on her trip to Bosnia?
  2. Was her misstatement done to enhance her credibility as a presidential candidate on the world stage?
  3. Should a person be given the opportunity to correct a “misstatement?”
  4. Should there be concern about Clinton’s written account being contradicted by others including video footage of the event?
  5. Is this all – nothing more than political posturing – making a mountain out of a mole hill?

Bigger Question: What are the ethical ramifications of “misstatements?” Certainly there has been much said about books written as if true only later to be found out to be fiction. Is this such an event? As an ethics speaker, one thing is for sure – Every choice has a consequence. I can’t imagine the pressure that any candidate for president is under when every word will be scoured for accuracy. God bless anyone who will take on the responsibility and endure what it takes.

COMMENTS ARE WELCOME!


Governor Eliot Spitzer Linked to Prostitution Ring – Every Choice Has A Consequence!

March 10, 2008

When the dust settles – regardless of what the facts reveal – one thing will be abundantly clear – Every choice has a consequence! As a business ethics speaker, I know first hand the effect of choices and consequences. I disgraced my family, lost my career, and substantially altered my life by choices that I knew better than to make.

eliot-spitzer.jpg

Spitzer, now Governor of New York, and former New York Attorney General has been a crusader attempting to root out corruption by taking the moral high ground. However, as the path of ego grows large, often you might see the weakness of the flesh exposed. You always reap what you sow. In this case, the reaping and consequences have just begun as the layers of Spitzer’s actions become clear.

Details of Spitzer’s actions can be found here.

“I have acted in a way that violates my obligations to my family … [and] my sense of right and wrong,” Spitzer said in a brief statement he read to reporters at his Manhattan office. “I must now dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family.”

The irony of today’s news is that Spitzer pledged to bring “ethics” reform. One could argue that if Spitzer admits guilt then he certainly would lose any credibility. Of course, many have already called for his resignation.

Speaking from personal experience, don’t be quick to judge! Often when quick to judge the universe has a way of exposing the judges weakness. Perhaps we need to focus on the effect of the choices that apparently Spitzer made.

His choices will have a profound effect on:

(1) his wife and children. I lost my marriage due to choices that broke the trust of the marriage bond. I have found that trust broken is hard to regain. Often it is easier to deal with the pain and move on than to try to rebuild something that has been destroyed by trust.

(2) the people he serves. More than likely if the allegations can be proved, Mr. Spitzer will have little choice but to resign the office of Governor of the State of New York. The media attention and loss of credibility will be too much to bear in order to be an effective leader.

(3) him. Spitzer will likely face one of the most challenging times of his life. His ego is more than bruised by his alleged choices. However, perhaps he will find that a bruised ego moved aside will allow for the true discovery of who or what it means to be “somebody.”

My time spent in federal prison (not something I am proud of) was the most significant experience of my life as it pertains to learning significant life lessons. Perhaps Spitzer, while facing major issues will learn more about himself and how, once he recovers, he can provide a significant contribution without taking a “holier than thou attitude.” Perhaps the crusader will have more compassion for those he attacked in the past.

Meanwhile, let’s hope that the media will afford Spitzer’s family the opportunity to heal.