Some tiny creature, mad with wrath,

Is coming nearer on the path.

--Edward Gorey

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. Outlying Islands

Writer, lawyer, cyclist, rock climber, wanderer of dark residential streets, friend.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Martha Doesn't Believe in Deterrence

Needless to say, Martha Stewart and her conservative kin are the first to tout the punitive, retributive, and deterrent components to criminal punishment as the first three priorities, with rehabilitation running a distant and winded fourth. Funny, then, that she doesn't consider turnabout fair play.

Martha Stewart says in a new interview that her nickname in prison was M. Diddy, that house arrest is "hideous" and that her prosecution was about bringing her down "to scare other people."

In the interview, Stewart tells Vanity Fair magazine she agrees with those who say her crime -- lying about a personal stock sale -- is far different from massive corporate scandals such as Enron, WorldCom and Tyco.

"Of course that is what it's all about," Vanity Fair quotes Stewart as saying. "Bring 'em down a notch, to scare other people. If Martha can be sent to jail, think hard before you sell that stock."

And how is this different than, say, sentencing someone to death when the alternative is life without the possibility of parole? Once the rehabilitative idea is out the dear, all that remains are punitive, retributive, and deterrent ends. Should Martha not be punished? Should her profit at the expense of those who deal fairly not be answered as would any other variety of theft? Is it so wrong that, as a consequence of her conviction (or, putatively, as a motivation for it) people, especially the people in prominent positions who tend to perpetrate big-time securities fraud, receive the message that they are not above the law? Really, Martha. Or should I say M. Diddy -- What about Kobe? Michael Jackson? Surely their prosecutions were far more circus-like in virtue of their prominence. Would you have it that charges were never brought against them?

I know, I know, a few months in club fed and five months of "house arrest" (during which she can leave for 48 hours per week for work) are truly horrible. But still. How about you cram it.


Anonymous Al L'Agheny said...

To be clear, Martha's crime was not insider trading or profiting at the expense of others. Those charges failed to be proven, although that was the initial investigation / was the goal of the prosecutors. It became fairly clear that it was not insider trading, and that what she misled them about had no material effect on the charge of insider trading.

So instead, they got her for misleading the prosecutors who were pushing like mad to get her for... something she didn't do....

Given the propensity of prosecutors these days to have their own career oriented agenda -- leveraging their big catches into large six-figure private law firm career moves or, ala many an Attorney General, into a fancy mayorship of NYC or some such -- I can't say I’m entirely in one camp or the other. More and more prosecutors use their unlimited resources for the latter, looking to score big. I’ve seen it happen to private citizens (on other less public issues) with limited resources, and it is a witch hunt. You get proved innocent in the end, but you end up with tens of thousands in legal fees – and lost wages and time.

Did Martha mislead what became a hunt for a big celebrity?

In the midst of all this, the major Wall Street firms got away with murder and a comparative slap on the wrist over what they should have received. For example, Enron has footprints from Citibank and others into the high up’s with both Clinton’s and Bush’s administration… Robert Rubin (I believe it was) was a Citi employee lobbying Bush’s group to lay-off a bit on Enron (before the whole escapade hit the fan) because of their investment banking relationship. That’s where a great deal of the corruption on this sort of stuff lies. IMO, its not on a publicity stunt like Martha Stewart, which while it resonates with Joe Lunchbucket and Sally Sixpack, is merely throwing a politically expedient and symbolic bone to the masses.

Surely, Martha is guilty of lots of thing, but its mostly taste related.

1:00 PM  

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