Saturday, August 21, 2010

Make Fitz up and let Blago go


Yes, he's so crooked he has to screw his pants on in the morning.

So? Try to name an Illinois governor since John Peter Altgeld who wasn't a crook.

The prosecution got a full-on run at Blagojevich in front of a jury and came up with one conviction and 23 hung jury non-verdicts.

The cost to the taxpayers? Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald says "his office does not break out individual cases' costs" ("If TV shows can't pay Blagojevich's costs for retrial, taxpayers may have to," Washington Post, 08/20/10).

Blagojevich's attorneys guesstimate that the government spent $25-30 million going after him the first time, and he spent at least $2.7 million defending himself (op. cit.). If they put on the dog and pony show a second time, the taxpayers may get to pick up the defense tab as well.

Fitzgerald should ask for the maximum sentence on the one conviction -- and that should be the end of it.

I don't really care one way or another about Blagojevich himself, but it's just plain a bad idea to let the government take a Mulligan every time prosecutors fail to make their case. Government prosecutors have an effectively (with respect to any individual case) unlimited budget, and a habit of re-trying failed cases over and over until they get lucky or until they've bankrupted defendants and forced them into plea bargains.

When "hung jury" charges are re-filed, the first thing the judge should do is sanction the filing prosecutor -- personally, not from taxpayer funds -- to the tune of double what the defense spent the first time, to be held in escrow and disbursed for defense costs the second time around. For each conviction, he gets a pro rata portion of his money back. For each hung jury, it's gone. For each acquittal, he gets sanctioned another pro rata portion as damages to the defendant.

That would put a stop to the bullshit.

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