Saturday, March 27, 2010
LEGAL FAILURE, POLITICAL SUCCESS?
Of the 322 criminal charges Gubernatorial Candidate Tom Corbett filed against 12 House Democrats that have been adjudicated, there have been 50 convictions. Yes, that's a success rate of 15.5%.
There were 35 charges brought against Mike Veon and Annamarie Perretta-Rosepink in connection with Beaver Initiative for Growth that were dismissed.
There were six charges brought against Sean Ramaley in connection with his employment as a Veon staffer. Ramaley was acquitted of all six.
There were 114 charges dismissed against defendants who pleaded guilty.
And the other four defendants who went to trial were acquitted of 117 charges.
The defendants have asked for a mistrial based on the jurors' wildly-improper attempt to investigate the allegations on their own, and they have indicated they intend to appeal. If their efforts are successful, Corbett's conviction rate drops to less than 9%.
Corbett and his supporters were bound to claim victory even if only a single charge out of the hundreds stuck. But no matter how much of a political victory Corbett and his supporters want to claim, anyone familiar with criminal proceedings would call the 15.5% conviction rate for the investigation a dismal failure.
Which, of course, is fine with the Corbett team, because the charges were brought for their political value and not their legal validity. Besides, no one's going to call the future Governor's investigation a failure publicly.
The Corbett campaign has tried to downplay the millions of dollars in taxpayer money and thousands of hours of manpower it has invested in this fiasco, pointing out that the dozens of state employees who've devoted a majority of their work hours to this case would have been paid whether working on this politically-motivated case or some other.
(Ironically, the prosecutorial arm of the Corbett campaign scoffed at that very line of reasoning when it was offered as a defense in the Veon trial)
Lead prosecutor E. Marc Constanzo sputtered that Veon was convicted in seven of the 11 "criminal episodes" the Corbett campaign developed. (He's wrong: Veon was charged in 12 "episodes") But if that's the measure by which the Corbett campaign wants to be judged, what does it say that a jury cleared one defendant in all three "episodes" in which he was charged, another in eight of nine "episodes," and another in four of five? Throw in Ramaley's acquittal and the dismissal of the BIG charges, Corbett's success rate as measured by "episode" units is still only 28% for the five defendants who went to trial.
The voters have to examine two possibilities:
1)The Corbett campaign knew prosecutors couldn't prove the vast majority of the charges they brought, and proceeded anyway, wasting vast amounts of taxpayer resources on political gain.
2) The Corbett campaign mistakenly thought prosecutors could prove the vast majority of the charges they brought, wasting vast amounts of taxpayer resources on their own ignorance and incompetence.