Cold Fury

Harshing your mellow since 9/01

Wrong righted redux

Been waiting to see what Steyn would have to say about Trump’s pardon Mark’s friend and former employer Conrad Black.

You have the “right to a fair trial,” but U.S. prosecutors win 99 per cent of the cases that go to court — a success rate that would embarrass Kim Jong Un and Saddam Hussein. Indeed, the feds win 97 per cent without ever going near court. In 2007, on the first day of Conrad Black’s trial on the 12th floor of the Mies van der Rohe skyscraper that houses Chicago’s dozens of federal courtrooms, I went looking for somewhere to make a discreet call on my cellphone. There were people everywhere — reporters, lawyers, spouses, curious deputy attorneys dropping in from neighbouring offices, a fan of mine wanting me to autograph my Broadway book to his pal John Mahoney from “Frasier”… Eventually, I pushed open a door and found myself in an empty courtroom. So I phoned from there in complete privacy. When others attending the trial discovered the room, I went to the empty courtroom further down the corridor. And, when in turn that grew popular as a handsomely paneled telephone booth, I went to the empty courtroom upstairs, or downstairs.

So many courtrooms, and no trials. Because, when the odds of not losing are one in 100, who goes to court?

Americans who know anything about the country’s evil and depraved “justice” system grasp that central fact. It’s only rubes who say “let the process play out” or “if you haven’t done anything wrong, you’ve got nothing to fear.” For a start, by the time the process “plays out,” you’ll be broke and scavenging from dumpsters (as Trump’s fallen National Security honcho Michael Flynn learned, shortly before copping a plea). Second, from a prosecutorial point of view, “if you haven’t done anything wrong” they can still get you on misremembering to the FBI in a matter for which there’s no underlying crime (as Martha Stewart discovered), or, alternatively, on Robert Mueller’s second-favourite process crime of hanging out with too many foreigners in alleged breach of the “Foreign Agents Registration Act,” which Trump aide George Papadopoulos told me recently Mueller had threatened him with. (I met most Aussie cabinet ministers of the John Howard years, so I’m undoubtedly guilty on that front, even before you factor in dinner with Jason Kenney and a bit of chit-chat with Maxime Bernier).

It’s a corrupt system heavily reliant on blackmail. But its crude thuggish simplicity concentrates the mind, and thus everyone gets it. Which is why, when the dismantling of Conrad Black’s business empire began 16 years ago, the rich and powerful were the first to abandon him: whatever will be will be, but one thing’s for certain — Conrad’s screwed, he’s over, cut him loose now. 

This is a well-deserved crisping of America’s dysfunctional, disgraceful, warped “justice” system—as Steyn rightly says, a system evil, depraved, and corrupt to its core. Our Founding ideal of a speedy trial before an impartial jury of one’s peers has been reduced to no more than the punchline to a wholly unfunny joke; the endless prosecutorial manipulation and dirty-deal-making that has brought us to our sorry “the process is the punishment” state of affairs is but one of the factors guaranteeing that true justice will only rarely and accidentally be found within fifty miles of any courthouse in the land.

I’ve been telling both family and friends for years that our abominable system is set up so that, once they find themselves caught up in its crushing gears, it will be damned near impossible to get themselves out. Sadly, it has proved to be entirely true for more than just one of ’em. Alas, this is yet another of those issues for which I have no solution to offer—for which there may not even be a workable one at all, in fact. But one way or another, the system WILL change. It must.

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