Prosecutorial Abuse of the Grand Jury: The Silence of the Media

(1) constitutionThe Boston Globe has advised us that the Boston federal prosecutors have brought Catherine Greig back to Rhode Island from the Midwest because the federal prosecutors want to question her about the assets of James “Whitey” Bulger.  I know the newspapers are not supposed to be mouthpieces for the government but given the very close relationship between that newspaper and the Boston federal prosecutors what is written has the ring of truth.

What I found disheartening in reading that newspaper report is the failure of the reporter to question what the federal prosecutors were doing. Perhaps she is too close to them to do so. It becomes doubly so when another reporter uses the first’s story to add his two bits. He too because of his closeness leaves out the heart of the story.

This is why reporters and prosecutors should not have such symbiotic relationships. They cannot see when their sources are acting in violation of the Constitution. They report as if what they are doing is fine and proper. If these reporters are telling the truth then we are seeing a huge abuse of our Constitution by the prosecutors. It should be decried. It is not a matter to be taken lightly when those who are supposed to be guarding our liberty are intent on stomping upon it.

That there is no one to scream out and point to this abuse is something that those who created this country could not anticipate. They could never imagine a situation where the media and prosecutors acted in concert to undermine our liberty. It is in cases like this where people who are out of favor like Catherine Greig whose rights are being walked over that our system expected our media to rise up and shout stop.

If the media was lax and indifferent or even joyous at the thought of this wrongful occurrence, then we would hoped the judiciary would stop the wrong; if not that, then perhaps that the legislature would not close its eyes to the blatant wrongdoing. A system of checks and balances and the idea of a free press are totally undermined by such happenings.

It is important to realize that in the American system of justice prosecutors are not inquisitors. Did you know that? Apparently these members of the media don’t since they see nothing wrong with what the Boston prosecutors are doing..

Prosecutors are not Congressional committees. They are not courts which can compel the attendance of witnesses. They have no subpoena power. They cannot demand that a person show up at their offices and answer their questions. Some countries give prosecutors that power, the United States never did. That was for good reason.

At one time we were ruled by a king. His agents had unlimited power to the extent they could quarter their soldiers in people’s houses; they could demand the people appear and answer questions they sought to ask them. We didn’t like that. We had a revolution. We wanted to establish procedures that had to be followed before such things could happen.

We removed the power to compel attendance from the executive (the king) to the judiciary or the legislature. The judges with that power were restricted to issuing warrants on probable cause and to issuing subpoenas compelling testimony or the production of records to ongoing litigation. Legislative committees could issue subpoenas to require attendance at hearings.

In order to investigate crimes, we gave the grand jury the right to issue subpoenas. The federal grand jury handbook says: “The federal grand jury is concerned only with federal crimes; it derives its authority from the Constitution of the United States, national laws, and the rules of the federal courts.”  Later it states: “The grand jury has a long and honorable tradition. It was recognized in the Magna Carta,the first English constitutional document, which King John granted in 1215 at the demand of his subjects. The first English grand jury consisted of twelve men selected from the knights or other freemen, who were summoned to inquire into crimes alleged to have been committed in their local community. “ Then again: “The grand jury, on the other hand, does not determine guilt or innocence, but only whether there is probable cause to believe that a crime was committed and that a specific person or persons committed it.” And finally, “the federal grand jury’s function is to determine whether a person shall be tried for a serious federal crime alleged to have been committed within the district where it sits.” (my emphasis)

It is clear what its function is which is to determine if a crime has been committed. It is not an investigative body into things that do not relate to crimes. It is not a prosecutor’s amanuensis.

If the report is true and the Boston prosecutors are using the grand jury to find out where Whitey hid his money they are not investigating crimes. It is not a crime for a person to know where another person hid his money. There is no obligation on any person to disclose this. When we let prosecutors inquire into things that are not crimes without objecting then we can be sure we are surrendering our liberties to the state.


8 thoughts on “Prosecutorial Abuse of the Grand Jury: The Silence of the Media

  1. Matt, remember “when the going gets tough the tough get going.” So, as Norwood says, keep this website going and ignore Msfreeh’s advice to retire to the garden. Remember Dylan Thomas’s poem “To my father while dying”: “Do not go gentle into that good night, rage, rage against the dying of the light.” Keep that kitchen light on and keep burning the midnight oil, as it seems on many fronts across America and around the World, the lights of reason are dying out.

  2. It seems like the Whitey saga never ends. I think that the headline of her disclosing where some of his money is stashed so to speak is what they are after. I am looking forward to the release of the feature film about Whitey in 2015 to see what the reaction brings to the people portrayed in the movie. I give great you great credit for keeping your website going.

  3. From out of the Moakley Courthouse, I hear the echoes of the police state’s black booted thugs and grand inquisitors. Long ago, I advocated the abolishment of judicial-media partnerships and judicial-media advisory groups. Each covers for the other; each favors the other; each cozies up to the other; each spills inside information; each sics their dogs on innocent civilians; one black boot marches in sync with the other; the black-robed, black-suited, black booted judiciary-prosecutors polish the media’s black boots. Dismal and dark days are ahead when the press and judiciary-prosecutors favor some (Congessman Tierney’s wife; Wall Street Criminals) and sic their dogs on others (MIT students, probation officers, city councilors.) Matt Tahibbi told the story of one Wall Street Firm that laundered $350,000,000 in drug money from South America, and not one member of that firm was criminally prosecuted. The FEDs in Boston prosecute a bookie’s wife and a black Boston City Councilor for accepting, the FEDs allege, $1,000; he’s sent to three years in federal prison. He says he accepted $200 in a “preachers’ handshake” and thought it was a campaign donation and did not one single favor nor promised to do any favor for the person who gave him the money. that person was working for the FEDs and spent one year trying to get the Councilor to accept some money, which the councilor constantly refused, except when he made clear that no favor’s were forthcoming and the money was a contribution. The Councilor has a clean record, a career in public service and was just shy of seventy years of age. The FEDs spent perhaps a year or more and a million dollars or more in trying to ensnare the Councilman. The FEDs in Boston have done nothing to stop narcotic trafficking nor terrorist activities: witness 9-11 and 4-15.

  4. I said, “Few people want to rock any boat, or call someone out for some improper acts or actions.”

    But I left out a key exception: Those with ulterior motives, and those with something to sell, sometimes have no problem doing so.

  5. Matt, the book is “the Divide” and about the gap between Wall Street and the rest of America: Here’s the Wall Street Journal’s final paragraph of its review of the book:
    “But at heart “The Divide” is a face-slap, not a legal brief. Though Mr. Taibbi doesn’t couch it in these terms, his warning is all about moral hazard, in two senses of the phrase. When swindlers know that their risks will be subsidized, and their potential crimes will be punishable only through negotiated corporate settlements, they will surely commit more crimes. And when most of the population either does not know or does not care that the lowest socioeconomic classes live in something akin to a police state, we should be greatly concerned for the moral health of our society.”

  6. Matt et alia, many are deeply troubled by the FEDs’ unconstitutional and unfair acts. Matt Tahibii gave a great speech at BC tonight about the FEDs’ failures and the Media’s decline and complicity in protecting FEDs and the superwealthy. Matt is the son of Channel 5 reporter Mike Tahiibi (sp?) and Matt’s recent book: The GREAT DIVIDE: is a must read. He pointed out tonight that during the 1980s S&L scandal the Reagan Administration issued 1,800 criminal subpoenas to try 1,800 individuals. Holder and the entire Obama administration has not criminally prosecuted one rich person (banker, financier, wall street stockbroker) since 2008 when the Market collapsed due to Wall Street’s bundling mortgages and giving bad bundles triple A ratings.
    The FEDs are failing us along many fronts: The SEC, The DOJ, the IRS, Homeland Security. Sad to say the FEDs are the enemy of the US Constitution and judicial-prosecutorial fairness. Our only hope is people like Matt Taihibbi and his generation. Matt T. points out that the age of investigative reporting is over and most reporters today are from upper middle class and wealthy families and our working in the media only to stay close to federal and corporate power brokers and to get their faces on television and their books published.

  7. Mr. C., thanks for shining your light into this dark arena. One wonders why more people don’t seem to take at least some notice of such phenomena.

    Maybe we as a nation have fallen asleep, fatigued by the constant barrage of news about crises galore, and darn tired of what I see as signs of society’s decline. (On the latter matter: No boundaries seem to mean much to anyone any more. Behavior considered outrageous 30 years ago passes for normal: Underwear displays by foolish young men, running red lights routinely, kids berating parents, parents berating coaches, etc.)

    Few people want to rock any boat, or call someone out for some improper acts or actions. As you point out, some in the Boston media are far too cozy with the local Feds. And perhaps no one but you bats an eye. (And no one but me commenting as of this reply?)

    As our republic seems to be turning into a kingdom of sorts or worse, keep blogging. Thank you!

Comments are closed.