Martha Stewart Should Shut Up

Discussion in 'Current Events' started by nycflasher, Jul 20, 2004.

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    nycflasher Active Member

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    Good article...

    The Hartford Courant
    July 20, 2004
    Jeremiah Donovan

    Just as I was mustering some sympathy for her, out came Martha Stewart's arrogant whine.

    It was, she told the judge last week, "a shameful day," and she didn't mean that it was shameful because of anything she had done. I'll bet you that her attorneys spent hours crafting that phrase so that she could say something in court that sounded repentant to the judge who was about to sentence her, when there's not an ounce of remorse flowing through those Stewart veins. She may not be contrite, but at least she's smart. She concealed her disdain from the sentencing judge and did not let it flow until she hit the courthouse steps.

    There, she told supporters, "I will be back."

    Martha's disdain came at a bad time for me, just as I was putting the finishing touches on Raymond Pina's appellate brief.

    Raymond, like Martha, was convicted of obstructing justice. He was sentenced under the same sentencing-guideline provisions that determined Martha's sentence. Unlike Martha, Raymond is Venezuelan, he cannot read or write, and he is borderline mentally retarded. Also unlike Martha, he cannot afford teams of high-priced counsel from world-famous law firms. An attorney from Bridgeport, Auden Grogins, and I were appointed to represent him.

    On May 23, 1996, Raymond accompanied two men, Mario Lopez and Fausto Gonzalez, from the Bronx to Hartford. The two men were visiting to negotiate their price for murdering Teddy Casiano, the leader of the Savage Nomads. It is unclear what Raymond knew when he accompanied them to Hartford. In any case, when the men returned to Hartford the next day to finish the job, Raymond did not show.

    The case remained unsolved for years, but then authorities got a break, and federal agents were dispatched to interview Raymond, who was living with his girlfriend in New Jersey. He told the agents that he had accompanied Lopez and Gonzalez to Hartford on May 23, 1996, but said he was told they were going to purchase a vintage car. (They had, in fact, looked at a Grand National during the visit.) The agents told him that he would save himself a lot of trouble if he cooperated in the investigation and that they would be back in touch.

    If she were in Raymond's position, Martha Stewart would undoubtedly have hired counsel - especially if she were asked to provide evidence against Fausto Gonzalez, described in one government report as "notorious for killing people." Instead, Raymond fled home to Mom in Miami.

    When the government subpoenaed his girlfriend, he begged her not to tell the grand jury where he was. She dutifully and falsely testified that she did not know his whereabouts. She was truthful, however, about her cellphone number. Authorities tracked calls from Raymond, and soon he was in custody.

    The jury acquitted him of participating in the murder conspiracy, but, like Stewart, he was convicted of obstructing justice.

    Why do suspects lie to the authorities when all they need to do is to rely on a citizen's constitutionally protected right to remain silent?

    Sometimes it is panic, but often it is arrogance, a kind of arrogance that defense attorneys often see. We spend hours begging our clients not to succumb to it. High-class white-collar criminals who have prospered because of their personal magnetism often believe that a little heart-to-heart with those plodding agents and bureaucratic prosecutors will charm the government out of indicting them. Middle-class folks who have done wrong seem to think that if the authorities could only observe how hard they work and how much they love their families, the trouble would go away. Wiseguys and career criminals who really should know better can't resist interrogation-room colloquies with cops who are delighted to feed their target's delusion that he is so much smarter than his interrogators.

    A state court judge was recently sentenced for lying to FBI agents although, like Stewart, he was never indicted for the crime that agents were questioning him about. My client Ben Andrews - one of the most wonderful men in Connecticut, despite what the prosecutors say - will soon be sentenced for lying in an FBI interview. In two days, I begin the trial in New London of a handyman who, according to the police, cheerfully admitted kidnapping a woman and only clammed up when he realized police were not going to accept his justifications for the kidnapping.

    It is hard to believe that, almost 40 years after the Miranda decision and after decades of television cop-show interrogations, there are still many suspects like Martha and Raymond who have not learned the lesson: When the authorities come calling, shut up, lawyer up, hunker down, don't obstruct, and hope that the wave will pass.

    Raymond's attempt to mislead the feds was stupid, but his panic was understandable. I will never understand the arrogance of Stewart, who, advised by experienced counsel, presented herself for a lengthy interview with prosecutors and thought she could get away with lying. Having been caught in the lie, she then thought she could beguile a jury into an acquittal.

    Martha Stewart called her five-month sentence "horrendous." Let me tell you, the life of a Danbury camp inmate is no more unpleasant than the life of a kid just out of high school going through basic training, and it's far more plush than the lives of female reservists and National Guardswomen who have been sentenced to 18-month tours in Iraq.

    A five-month sentence is horrendous? You want to know what a borderline-retarded Venezuelan, illiterate and uncounseled, terrified of contract killers, gets for asking his girlfriend not to tell that he had run home to Mom?

    Nine years.

    Jeremiah Donovan of Old Saybrook served as a federal prosecutor for 11 years. He has spent the past 15 years defending people accused of crimes.
     

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