I want to get on the soapbox today! As many of you know, I am a former federal prosecutor. I've seen the good, the bad, and the ugly about federal investigations. Today, I have a beef about some federal prosecutors who needlessly drag out some federal criminal investigations! A lot has been written about waterboarding of terrorists recently. But that is not the point of this post. Instead, the point here is that, sometimes, lengthy federal grand jury investigations must feel like waterboarding to the business people and other targets of such investigations.
Federal prosecutors are entrusted with an awesome power and virtually unlimited resources to investigate and prosecute. But occasionally, that prosecutorial power is abused. And in some federal criminal investigations, it occasionally appears as though the federal prosecutors have no tangible goal other than the harassment of their targets. The grand jury investigations drag on and on, and the water just keeps on dripping.
The length and complexity of some federal criminal investigations are primary distinctions from most state criminal investigations. For example, a typical state murder investigation may take only a few days or weeks to wrap up, but some complex federal grand jury investigations may literally drag on for years.
In my opinion, as a former federal prosecutor, as long as there legitimately are targets and evidence which you are pursuing, then the prosecutor may be justified in continuing the investigation. But at some point, if the evidence does not materialize, then the federal agents and prosecutors are obliged to "pull the plug" and leave the poor targets alone! As Kenny Rogers would say, "You've got to know when to fold 'em...." But a few prosecutors never seem to know.
This post isn't about a liberal view or a conservative view--it's about fundamental fairness!
In addition, in my opinion, after pulling the plug, the federal prosecutor should also then send a letter to the former target's lawyer which informs them that the investigation has ended and no charges will be brought. Unfortunately, such "closure letters" are not often sent in the real world! In the real world, the former targets generally never get any real closure after they have been stepped on by the government.
All you get, as a former target, after tangling with the government, is huge legal fees, a loss of time, and, in some cases, a loss of reputation. I can imagine that many former targets feel like former Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger, who declared after jousting with, and beating, the government, "where do I go now to get my reputation back?"
But it doesn't have to be this way. Federal prosecutors must always consider the impact of the awesome power they wield and they should try harder to make their investigations fair. In short, more federal prosecutors should be willing to stop the water torture and pull the plug sooner on dead end investigations.
There, I feel better now, and I'll get off the soapbox...at least for now! What do you think?