Thursday, September 19, 2013

Former Texas Congressman Tom DeLay Wins Appeal

[Tom DeLay's photo from "Dancing With the Stars" from wikipedia]
Did you hear the news? According to various news reports, a Texas appellate court has set aside the money laundering conviction of former Texas Congressman Tom DeLay. You may recall that DeLay had been convicted of allegedly funneling $190,000 in corporate contributions through his political action committee to various local state Republican candidates. Texas law generally forbids corporate contributions to state candidates. But Texas law also requires that, as an essential element, in order for it to be money laundering, the funds in question must, in fact, be illegally obtained funds.

In setting aside DeLay's conviction, the two-one court majority found that the State had failed to prove that the money which DeLay donated to the local candidates was, in fact, tainted money.

This case illustrates the point that prosecutors must be sure that they can prove each and every element of a criminal charge BEFORE seeking an indictment. As a former federal prosecutor, I faced the same challenge on each federal indictment I sought.

Naturally, DeLay is reportedly elated over the appellate court's decision. It remains to be seen whether or not the district attorney will appeal to the highest Texas appellate court. But one can only hope, in my opinion, that they will get their ducks in a row before proceeding any further on such a questionable course. In my opinion, this was a rank, ill-advised political prosecution from the beginning. The appellate court's finding certainly supports that conclusion!  What do you think?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Mark Twain, Crime Rates, And Statistics

[Photo of Mark Twain/Samuel Clemens from wikipedia]
In my opinion, Mark Twain had it right when he said about statistics that, "[t]here are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics!" I don't trust crime statistics, either! I thought about Twain's quote when I read online, today, at, that, based upon statistical reports, Columbia County, the county I live in, is one of the safer counties in our State, in contrast to neighboring Augusta, Georgia, which reportedly has one of the highest crime rates!

Now, don't get me wrong! As a former state and federal prosecutor, and as a long-time Columbia County resident, I know fully well that, generally, Columbia County is a much safer place. And our local sheriff does a great job. But my point is that you can't believe statistics alone in drawing any conclusions about which place is safer, because, simply put, statistics are unreliable.

Let me give you an example to prove my point! Let's assume that a sheriff in one county works really hard and makes a large number of arrests one year. Ironically, the increase in arrest statistics will indicate that crime is getting worse in that county, even though the sheriff has actually taken more bad guys off the streets! In other words, the crime rate is up, but more bad guys are behind bars! So, it actually should be safer!

The converse is equally true! A lazy sheriff may make fewer arrests and then falsely claim credit when the crime rate appears, on paper, to go down!

So, when it comes to crime rates and statistics, I agree with Mark Twain! Crime rates and statistical reports are often just a bunch of lies!

What do you think?