Recently political operatives who have been convicted of criminal acts have portrayed themselves as victims of political trials.
– Following his presidential pardon, former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich called himself a “freed political prisoner” and claimed to be a victim of “persecution masquerading as prosecution”
– Former Trump campaign official Paul Manafort’s lawyer Kevin Downing said of his client, “Mr Manafort is here because he was Trump’s campaign manager.”
– Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s attorneys alleged that Flynn was targeted by federal investigators for “concocted and political purposes.”
– The President has said “I think it’s very tough what they did to Roger Stone, compared to what they do to other people on their side,” He criticized the Stone prosecutors, referring to them as “dirty cops” and “evil people.”
In a sense, all criminal trials are political trials.
Laws are enacted through the political process.
Judges are selected through the political process of election or appointment.
A corrupt powerful elite may try to eliminate challenges to their authority by rigging a criminal trial.
There are several ways in which a criminal trial may be manipulated into an illegitimate political trial.
First, a defendant could be accused of a purely political crime. The Smith Act trials of the 1940s and 1950s prosecuted people for being members of the Communist Party USA. This would be a ‘political trial’.
Second, in a legitimate trial, the court is expected to act with judicial impartiality and independence. A judge who is biased may convict the defendant regardless of the validity of the charge against that defendant. In Williams vs Pennsylvania (2016) the prosecutor of a case went on to become a state supreme court justice. When the defendant’s case reached the state supreme court, the original prosecutor refuses to recuse himself. This would be a political ‘trial’.
Third, the political elite may indict a challenger to their authority with charges that camouflage the political nature of the case. The Haymarket Riot (1886) tried advocates of the eight-hour workday with a bombing, even though the identity of the bomber was never learned and some of the defendants were not even present when it occurred. This would be a ‘political’ trial.
True victims of political trials are denied justice.
Blagojevich, Manafort, Flynn, and Stone would have us believe that they have been victims of political trials.
Blagojevich was convicted of wire fraud, attempted extortion, and conspiracy to solicit bribes.
Manafort was convicted of filing false tax returns, bank fraud, and failing to disclose a foreign bank account.
Stone was convicted of lying to Congress, tampering with a witness and obstructing the House investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged coordinated with Russia during the 2016 election.
Those claiming to have been politically persecuted should be reminded of the words of legendary gangster Basil ‘The Owl’ Banghart.
On trial for kidnapping, Banghart was asked about a previous prison escape.
“The point is, Mr Banghart, is that you are a fugitive, are you not?” asked the prosecutor.
“Yes, I am. I am a fugitive,” answered Banghart.
“From where, sir?” asked the prosecutor.
“Well, hell son, from justice.” was Banghart’s reply.
Like Banghart, Blagojevich, et al, were convicted of crimes, not political acts.
Their trials were fair and impartial.
Banghart’s honest analysis of his legal predicament was far more truthful than the Blajogevich, Manafort, Flynn, and Stone insincere claims of political persecution.
Justice was done.
(Thanks and a tip of the hat to Sheba at Creative Commons for the image. “Justice or In-justice-1&”)