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Jewish World Review Sept. 20, 2002 / 14 Tishrei, 5762

Art Buchwald

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Consumer Reports

Plea-bargaining crime | The penalty for a mega-millionaire committing a white-collar crime is not as bad as you might think. Under our judicial system, the bad guys can make a plea bargain with the prosecution in exchange for whistle-blowing on other bad guys.

This how it works. The Hidden Valley Gas and Energy Co.'s lawyer (who gets $800 dollars an hour and lunch money) shows up at the prosecutor's office. He gives the prosecutor a box of chocolates.

"I am here," says the lawyer, "to make a deal. I want to plea bargain my man who is charged with mail fraud, embezzlement, perjury and other crimes too numerous for the grand jury to mention."

The prosecutor says, "What are you going to give me in exchange?"

The lawyer replies, "One word - we didn't do it."

The prosecutor says, "It is not enough. Your client and his friends committed the biggest heist in white collar crime history. If you want to make a deal, we need names, the numbers of offshore bank accounts and the accountants who did the book work."

The lawyer says, "Don't you have any pity? He supported the Hidden Valley flower show, the Boy Scouts, the opera, and he paid for the statue of J.P. Morgan on the village square. Isn't it enough?"

"No it isn't. The reason we want your boy to talk is that we have no idea how Hidden Valley was getting away with so much money. He knows everything."

"Well, if you don't know how they did it, how are you going prosecute him?"

The prosecutor says, "He rammed 12 cars in the parking lot when he was trying to get away from the media, and we can make that stick."

The lawyer says, "So if we can make my client spill the beans on how he stole $800 million and how his partners did the same thing, and if he pleads guilty, you will drop the reckless driver charge, and he won't have to do any time for any of the other crimes you have charged him with?"

The prosecutor says, "But he has to come clean and tell us everything he knows or we will play hardball."

The lawyer replies, "Which means?"

"For starters, we'll take his Mercedes Benz SUV."

"Don't you have any justice in you? He's a victim of the media shark frenzy. How can I go back to him and say if he doesn't tell how Hidden Valley cooked the books and went bankrupt he will get 30 days in the county jail?"

The prosecutor says angrily, "Sixty days. It's the best we can do."

The lawyer thinks for a few minutes and says, "All right. But no handcuffs."

"No handcuffs, but he can't wear a tie or shoelaces when he pleads guilty."

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09/17/02: Jack and Jane
09/12/02: Signing books is half the fun
09/10/02: To lose one's center
09/05/02: Moot court
08/29/02: I spy-you-spy
08/27/02: No smoking --- I love you
08/23/02: Ashes to ashes
08/14/02: Wall Street good news
08/09/02: Things in my attic
08/01/02: Damage control
08/01/02: Another icon
07/30/02: Draft all the lawyers
07/25/02: House for rent
07/23/02: Doin' time
07/19/02: The loophole game
07/16/02: Money as a game
07/11/02: Just desserts
07/02/02: So you want to win?
06/19/02: Homeland security parking
06/13/02: The Accused
06/11/02: Don't let them know
06/06/02: The FBI changes its ways
06/04/02: RED ALERT
05/28/02: Malice On Purpose: I'm scared!
05/23/02: Barbie Doll
05/21/02: Why Bermuda?
05/19/02: White collar prisons
05/15/02: Those in depression
05/09/02: Mother's Day in the market
05/07/02: Salary negotiations
04/26/02: Homeland security
04/24/02: The greatest breakthrough
04/18/02: Conflict of Interest
04/15/02: The Sign That Couldn't
04/11/02: It's Cherry Blossom Time
04/08/02: The Young Audience
03/31/02: Safe Deposit for Sale
03/26/02: Au Revoir to Soft Money
03/21/02: Andersen Defense Fund?
03/19/02: Celebrity kickers
03/15/02: A Mickey Mouse solution
03/13/02: Shadow government in the sandbox
03/07/02: The Way It Is
03/05/02: Not telling the truth
03/01/02: Book flogging
02/27/02: The players are mad

© 2002, TMS