Jewish World Review March 9, 2004 / 16 Adar, 5764

Dan Abrams

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In Martha case, justice was served, but it wasn't exactly fair


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Last Friday on "Hardball with Chris Matthews," Chris asked me, "Was justice done in the Martha Stewart case?"


It's a complicated question for me, so I kind of waffled. On the one hand, I said she was likely guilty of the charges she faced. And yet I wondered whether the charges should have been filed at all.


It's a troubling case: Based on the testimony, it's clear Stewart and her broker lied about why she sold her Imclone stock. They conspired to concoct a story. And she did it in effort to throw investigators off. So Justice was served and justice was done.


But there's something about not charging Martha Stewart with the crime of "insider trading," but charging Stewart for lying during investigation, which never went anywhere criminally.


There's no doubt in my mind that a Martha Jones in similar circumstances would have had a much better chance of walking out with no charges filed. But again, that doesn't mean justice wasn't served. It just means the authorities don't have the resources to prosecute everyone they think committed a crime.


One has to wonder whether any more punishment fits crime. For those of you who say "If it were me, I would have gotten the full 20 years," I say "If it were you, you probably wouldn't have been charged at all."


Justice also requires that Stewart get a lenient sentence. She was prosecuted to send a message about lying to federal investigators. That message has been heard loud and clear. She will almost certainly have to serve some time. And I assure you, she has already paid a hefty price. She won't be able to run the company she created. She's lost her television program. And last Friday alone, she lost almost $100 million.


To give her a stiff sentence would be to equate her actions with those of real corporate criminals, people who use their positions at major companies to deceive their investors. Stewart's criminal activity here was in her role as a private citizen, not as a CEO of a major company. The only charge related to her investors was thrown out. To lump her in with other more insidious and dangerous corporate criminals is beyond unfair.


So yes, justice was served. And a message was properly sent. But Martha Stewart received the sort of special treatment none of us would want.

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JWR contributor Dan Abrams anchors “The Abrams Report,” Monday through Friday from 9-10 p.m. ET on MSNBC TV. He also covers legal stories for “NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw,” “Today” and “Dateline NBC.” To visit his website, click here. Comment by clicking here.

Up

03/05/04: Martha's celebrity friends visit the courtroom: Were they trying to send a message to the jurors?
03/03/04: Bravo to the Israeli Supreme Court
03/02/04: When prosecutors overcharge: Seeing what will stick is not the way to go
02/27/04: Our warped perception of TV: Are you willing to watch a televised execution?
02/24/04: Why term limits for district attorneys make no sense — and why voters should have more confidence in themselves to vote out someone they don't like
02/23/04: Why Martha Stewart shouldn't testify
02/17/04: We need to get over O.J.
02/13/04: Why safety and security have to take precedence over certain environmental concerns
02/02/04: Not the celebrity circus: Why all high profile trials are not created equal
01/27/04: To Kobe and Michael: Playing the race card would be a mistake
01/26/04: Closed jury selection at the Martha Stewart trial makes sense
01/24/04: Being more frugal with the death penalty: Getting it right, more important than getting it often
01/15/04: Stupid warning labels: The death of common sense and responsibility
01/14/04: Because 9/11 did change America: New government proposal on airline screening seems fair
01/13/04: Jury of one's peers: Not to be taken literally
01/09/04: When the truth hurts, lawyers try to close proceedings
01/08/04: Lies, damn lies and those that don't seem to matter
01/07/04: Convicted child murderer's mommy should start accepting some responsibility for son's fate
12/17/03: It's time to stop assuming that the Iraqi people can't fairly try Saddam Hussein
12/15/03: Why the case of 16-year-old convicted murderer highlights the problem with some defense attorneys, to whom the truth is sometimes beside the point
12/11/03: Tweaking Miranda
12/10/03: Why the accused in "Central Park jogger" case aren't falsely accused angels
12/08/03: Lawyers blaming the media
11/20/03: Why it's time to throw out the insanity defense, as we know it
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10/23/03: Why the presumption of innocence does not and should not exist outside a courtroom
10/22/03: College kid (in)security maven deserves country's gratitude
10/21/03: If you don't like it, you can drive
10/17/03: Blurring the line in the Kobe Bryant case between what is significant and what is just salacious
10/16/03: Why prosecutors and the judge shouldn't let Kobe's lawyer hijack the preliminary hearing
10/15/03: False bravado from the mayor of New York
10/13/03: The media circus myth
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10/07/03: Why a recent ruling in the case of Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called 20th hijacker is no cause for concern
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08/07/03: Why itís time to release the documents surrounding Kobe Bryantís arrest
08/06/03: Terror warnings do serve a purpose
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07/31/03: Class action lawyers get huge fees while their clients get squat
07/30/03: Why it makes no sense to keep the public and the victims in the dark about a key section of the 9/11 report from Congress
03/27/03: Homeland Security update
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03/14/03: An exception to my "be extra tough on terrorists" rule
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03/11/03: What a new deadline for Iraq should really mean
03/10/03: The dishonest arguments against war with Iraq
03/07/03: On Iraq, the administration seems undeterred. It seems, there is no other way out
03/05/03: The so-called human shields in Iraq, now coming back from Fantasyland
03/04/03: Michigan backing off of mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug crimes
03/03/03: Why military tribunals could be the best optione of defining them as military
02/28/03: Is prez signaling a return to the American Bar Association ratings for prospective judicial candidates?
02/26/03: And now the "don't-blame-me" attitude is extending to mass deaths
02/10/03: Avoid politicizing the shuttle disaster
01/29/03: A litany of violations? That Saddam has not disarmed is already a given
01/23/03: Why the feds should not give up on the prosecution of alleged 20th hijacker in a federal court
01/22/03: What was Powell thinking?
01/21/03: Human rights groups still don't get it when it comes to the new war on terror
01/16/03: Yet another reason why we shouldn't trust the Saudis
01/13/03: Why the administration should share intelligence with U.N. inspectors
01/10/03: From a special punishment to a garden variety one
01/08/03: Should victims of a terror attack sue the city?
01/06/03: The "Jackpot Jury" syndrome continues
12/30/02: It's the holidays, let me order my wine!
12/20/02: The judge who dropped the ball in the battle over who owns Barry Bonds' 73rd home run ball, valued at nearly $2 million
12/19/02: Requiring Pakistani and Saudi male visitors to register with the INS
12/18/02: Why many seem to misunderstand Iraq's international obligations
12/17/02: Shouldn't there be a standard for what would trigger a war with Iraq?
12/13/02: Judge Rose by what he did on the field
12/12/02: Manhattan prosecutors making a mistake in the Central Park jogger case
12/11/02: Why our government refuses to fully cooperate in the prosecution of a possible 9/11 conspirator
12/10/02: Hezbollah, not a terrorist organization, says Canada
12/09/02: The world's cynical view of America
12/04/02: Why we need to stop electing judges
11/27/02: Why men should be able to sue women who lie about who's the daddy
11/26/02: Training lawyers to be touchy-feely
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11/22/02: In Illinois, academics lawyers, judges hurting their pro-life cause
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11/14/02: Al Jazeera: A state-sponsored mouth-piece
11/13/02: Should Moussaoui be sent to a military tribunal?
11/12/02: Should human rights activists complain about the detainees' treatment?

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