Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Lance Armstrong Investigation: Will Perjury Charges Stick?

As soon as Jeffrey Novitzky started his investigation against Lance Armstrong, conventional wisdom has been that Novitzky's strategy will be to get Lance convicted on perjury. This is how he convicted other top athletes, such as Marion Jones, who were found to have perjured themselves in the Balco investigation.

Today, I read a very interesting transcript of a live chat with the author of the book: "Tangled Webs: How False Statements Are Undermining America From Martha Stewart to Bernie Madoff." The author, James B. Stewart, considers four fraudsters and their obvious perjuries including: Martha Stewart, Bernie Madoff, Barry Bonds and Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Here are some of the points that came out of the chat that suggest Novitzky has his work cut out for him when it comes to making a perjury charge stick:
  • Barry Bonds' grand jury transcript is "a case study in evasive and misleading answers."
  • Bonds "said under oath he'd never met a certain steroid dealer named "Memo." The prosecutors had a photo of the two of them together in San Antonio! Memo said they'd met repeatedly. The defense didn't even challenge the photo. Yet one juror refused to convict! Afterwards the judge addressed the jurors, and said, "I just have one question, how in God's name did you come up with this verdict?" or words to that effect."
  • Juries "reach verdicts in strange ways. One thing they often consider is the idea that "everyone is doing it" even though that technically isn't a defense."
  • Because perjury has become pervasive in society, it is hard to find 12 people on a jury who will convict someone for lying.
  • Perjury has become pervasive because of the actions of our most recent two past Presidents--Bush and Clinton. Stewart said: "The president of the U.S. is the top law enforcement officer in the country, not to mention a role model. In President Clinton we had a president who committed perjury, only grudgingly admitted it, and has never really apologized for it or acted like he feels any remorse."
  • President Bush "commuted Scooter LIbby's sentence, in effect condoning it. What kind of message does that send? I've talked to many prosecutors, who told me the worst thing that ever happened to trying to deter perjury was Clinton's and Bush's actions."
  • The law of the mafia and the prison yard is to put loyalty above honesty. This is what Barry Bonds' trainer did and he got a standing ovation from the prisoners when he was released from prison.
I've been shocked at how many people that I'm friends with say that pursuing perjury charges is a waste of money and time. The chat makes the argument that laws against lying are the bedrock of society and have been for centuries. As they erode, so will our society.

Here is one quote that I think all Americans should ponder:
Lying about what you did is the essence of not taking personal responsibility. Some of these characters seem to think that being able to keep saying they are innocent is even more important than serving time in jail. As long as their fans keep swallowing these lies, that's what we'll get. In that sense, I'm afraid they are a mirror of broader values in society -- the ends justify the means, and we'll all look the other way and let them get away with it.
I also like this quote: "Telling the truth often takes courage. it means accepting short-term negative consequences for longer term benefits."

As for me, I support government prosecution of liars, especially those who get rich and powerful by lying. If we don't fight it, fraud will become more and more rampant in this world until people of truth and integrity will be powerless.

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