This past Friday President Trump pardoned Sheriff Arpaio, a guy who was facing six months in jail for contempt of court. Big deal. Obama knocked 30 years off the sentence of Private Manning, who released hundreds of thousands of military secrets to Wikileaks. Clinton pardoned Marc Rich, a rich guy who was facing 300 years in jail for tax evasion, money laundering, wire fraud, racketeering and trading with Iran.
Lawyers, legal experts, and scholars have accused Trump of making a mockery of the legal system. The United States legal system has been a mockery long before Trump pardoned Sheriff Arpaio.
The American legal system protects the rich and powerful, while criminalizing mental health issues such as drug and gambling addiction. Locking up drug addicts, gambling addicts and sick people who download child porn with no mental health treatment is a complete waste of money. Locking up non violent white collar individuals, while letting big corporations off the hook is complete hypocrisy. How does the government expect to instill respect for the law when the government uses the law to oppress its own citizens? Building massive prisons, warrantless monitoring of emails and telephone calls, and turning every activity into a Federal crime is a good way to scare the population into submission.
The best example of Federal abuse of power in the white collar world is Sholom Rubashkin. Rubashkin ran the biggest kosher slaughterhouse business in the United States. He operated out of Iowa. In most cases of corporate malfeasance the Feds try to work out a deal with corporate officers. If that fails the Feds offer a “deferred prosecution agreement” to give the corporation time to mend their ways.
Rubashkin got no such deal. Rubashkin didn’t run a Wall Street hedge fund, bank or financial institution. Rubashkin killed animals for a living. Rubashkin was locked up next door to me in the medium prison in Otisville. I was in the low security “camp.” It was no camp. On occasion Rubashkin wrote letters in the prison newsletter. He clearly suffered in the medium, which was a jungle compared to where I was locked up. I used to see his family wait around in the prison lobby to visit him. Every chance they had they came to visit. Most guys in the medium didn’t have many visitors. They had long sentences so their friends and family long forgot about them. Plus most prisons are located a long way from civilization, making it difficult, and costly, for visitors to travel.
Rubashkin was locked up in the medium with an 84 year old guy from Connecticut named Gaetano “Toke” DiGirolamo. DiGirolamo was a drug dealer for the mob. Toke got his nickname because he looked like he was from Tokyo. Toke got a life sentence in 1993 because he had two prior convictions for drug dealing. Three strikes and you die in prison. He got off easy. In most dictatorships you get shot by firing squad.
In the low security camp I was locked up with billionaire Walter Forbes. How many people out there can say that they lived with a billionaire for two years, whose job was to mop the prison floors? Forbes was tried three times by the Feds before they got a conviction. His restitution was a billion dollars. Judge Nevas of the Federal District of Connecticut, sentenced Forbes to 12.5 years in jail. The Federal prosecutors were looking for 15 years. Forbes was a Harvard Business School graduate, and well respected in the business world, having written textbooks on high finance.
I was locked up with Hassan Nemazee. Nemazee was convicted of bank fraud, having bilked Citibank, Bank of America and HSBC out of $300 million. Nemazee was a graduate of Harvard, hailed from a royal family in Iran, and was a generous donor and fundraiser in the Democratic Party. Nemazee was sentenced to 12.5 years by Judge Sidney Stein of the Southern District of New York. The Feds asked for 15 years. Judge Sidney Stein was disappointed with Nemazee, and couldn’t understand why Nemazee destroyed his fine pedigree to lead a life of crime.
The biggest insider trading case of recent history was perpetrated by a hedge fund guy named the Raj. The Raj got sentenced to 11 years in the Southern District of New York, by Judge Holwell. This was the longest sentence ever for insider trading. The Raj had to make $150 million in restitution. The Raj was locked up in Devens. The Raj probably ran into former Federal prosecutor and prominent Connecticut attorney Harold Pickerstein, who got 30 days in jail for stealing $600K from his client. Harold got the benefit of a long, hand written character letter submitted by a Connecticut Federal judge, who admittedly broke the rules in preparing such a letter, after I brought it to the attention of the Second Circuit. Sheldon Silver got sentenced to 12 years in the biggest political corruption cases in the country. His conviction recently got overturned on appeal.
Sholom Rubashkin wasn’t as lucky as Pickerstein, or the Raj, Nemazee or Forbes for that matter. Rubashkin was convicted in a $27 million bank fraud charge in the State of Iowa. If Rubashkin were convicted in the Second Circuit in New York his crime would be small potatoes compared to the high finance guys who manipulate markets and run ponzi schemes. But the Feds working out of Iowa deemed Rubashkin public enemy number one.
After Rubashkin was convicted the Feds wanted a life sentence. Judge Linda Reade instead went easy on him and sentenced Rubashkin to only 27 years. Rubashkin appealed his case. The ACLU filed briefs in support of Rubashkin’s case, as a “friend of the court.” The ACLU only chooses to file briefs in cases of extreme abuse of power, speaking of which, the Feds tried to block the ACLU from filing their briefs. The Feds eventually backed down and the ACLU was allowed to file it’s brief and make it’s arguments. Unfortunately, Rubashkin didn’t win his appeal and is still stuck in Otisville prison.
Judge Linda Reade is known to be extremely harsh at sentencing. Ricardo Smith was recently sentenced before Linda Reade in which he was involved in a $100K scam. Smith was sentenced to almost four years in jail. Smith told Judge Reade that he would be deported to Jamaica after his prison term back to his life of extreme poverty. Reade told Smith, “so be it.”
Judge Reade sentenced 21 year old Jason Smith, barely an adult, to 16 years for looking at child porn on the internet. Reade sent a gambling addict woman lawyer away for 4 years for stealing $700K from clients, and castigated the lawyer for not paying a “nickel” in restitution. The lawyer got disbarred and couldn’t find a job to pay the victims while her criminal case was pending. Even if she found a job, gambling addicts are incapable of keeping money in their pockets. Reade disparaged her at sentencing: “We have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the area…I can’t believe she couldn’t do something to pay a nickel for the restitution.”
The criminal justice system has become a playground for abuse of power games played by the President, the Vice President, all the King’s men, the prosecutors, the judges, and even the defense attorneys. You can’t really put too much blame on the cops. All they do is arrest people and try to avoid getting stranded in bad neighborhoods. The guys with the law degrees make all the rules and run the system.
Rubashkin should get a pardon or at least get his sentence commuted. So should Toke, and many other guys who are locked up for no good reason other than to scare the public into submission.