Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Unsolicited Advice Series: InsolvenCity Officials (And Anyone Else Looking At An FBI Interview)

A powerful lesson for InsolvenCity's political players emerged from the recently completed trial mistrial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who despite an avalanche of his own rambling, dopey, self-incriminating words evidence was convicted on just a single count: Lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The lesson? Do not say anything to law enforcement personnel. (Especially if one of them identifies himself as "Mr. Smith.")

This lesson must be learned before a couple of guys in white shirts and blue blazers flash FBI badges and begin to "chat." When that moment arrives, the swirling thoughts -- 'What did Ford know about that, and what would he have told them?' 'Who else was in that room -- think! think! -- and could anyone have been wearing a wire?' 'If I give them Mr. V, would that be enough or would they make me give up Mr. Z, too?' -- are enough to immediately induce panic that overwhelms everything except a simple, firmly implanted emergency plan.

Fortunately, in this context, the plan is simple: Just shut up!

The impulses inclining cooperation will be strong. 'Maybe if I explain what happened, they'll understand.' 'It won't hard to connect the dots of what happened here, and this is really bad, so I'd better start cooperating.' 'The other guys are probably already turning on me, so I need to start looking out for myself.' Those impulses are understandable. Public corruption is ugly. Modern evidence collection technology is effective. Many people turn against others to save themselves. But those impulses are wrong.

Making a case in the newspapers is easy; people dislike politicians, and public corruption is an easy sell. Securing a conviction is far more difficult. Recollections vary. Little is documented. Words can be interpreted in differing ways. Legal standards can be hazy. Many jurors are confounded by large volumes of information, complex issues and legal questions. Without plain evidence of a direct exchange of official action for value, the defense generally has the upper hand, especially if the "value" is anything other than a personal payoff.

Circumstantial evidence suggests the background interviews concerning the Insolvencity invetigation have been completed, setting the stage for direct law enforcement contact with targets. Anyone finding himself across a table from FBI agents should recall the experience of Rod Blagojevich, a loudmouthed, stupid, indiscrete chiseler who, despite hours of incriminating recordings, has so far gotten away with everything -- everything, that is, that happened before the moment he started talking with government agents.

Three words: Just shut up!

If that's too complicated, just remember this image:


Agent Smith said...

Anyone notice how much I look like Jim Burns?

MH said...

Everybody gets two free passes for lying to law enforcement. It's in the Constitution.

MH said...

Are you sure your indictment-sense isn't picking up on the Braddock investigation, not a Pittsburgh one?

Infinonymous said...

The Braddock problem seems an unlikely subject for federal attention. Strictly small-time, in several ways. DA material.

The Public Integrity Section chases substantially larger fish.

MH said...

I hope so, but I'd hate to get my hopes up for nothing.

Infinonymous said...

"Small-time" was not intended to discount the harm inflicted on Braddock by the reported misappropriation, or the gravity of a public official's breach of trust.