Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Legal Victories of Shameless Liars

Truth may set you free, but lies are running a close second these days as Rod Blagojevich, Tom DeLay and a politician who falsely claimed to have won the Congressional Medal of Honor are doing well in the court system.

The legal principle involved in persuading only 11 of 12 jurors that Blago tried to sell Obama's Senate seat, according to Scott Turow, author of "Presumed Innocent," is that it's not enough to be caught with crumbs on your face next to an empty jar, after telling everybody how much you love cookies.

Being "crass and ham-handed" will not send you to the slammer when everybody in public life is selling out for campaign money.

Speaking of crass, this news comes as the Justice Department ends a six-year probe of Tom DeLay, the former GOP House leader who went on to fame on "Dancing With the Stars" until a stress fracture ended his second career.

Two of DeLay's aides were convicted of taking money from lobbyist Jack Abrahamoff, who also served time, but DeLay was nimble enough to evade Federal arraignment. He still has to tap-dance his way out of felony conspiracy charges in Texas for misusing campaign contributions but, in a climate where the U. S. Supreme Court is making even corporations safe in that area, the odds must be with him.

Meanwhile, a Court of Appeals strikes down the Stolen Valor Act, which makes it a crime to falsely claim a military decoration, freeing Xavier Alvarez, who was convicted of fibbing to voters about receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor while running for a California Water Board.

While denying that they were endorsing "an unbridled right to lie," the Court majority ruled that "society would be better off if Alvarez would stop spreading worthless, ridiculous, and offensive untruths.

"But, given our historical skepticism of permitting the government to police the line between truth and falsity, and between valuable speech and drivel, we presumptively protect all speech, including false statements, in order that clearly protected speech may flower in the shelter of the First Amendment."

Free speech proponents must be celebrating, as are Blagojevich, DeLay and all the other Pinocchios who populate our political life.

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