Friday, March 17, 2006

Let the Smear Begin - Spitzer vs. Grasso

Well, the Spitzer vs. Grasso trial must be starting soon, and you don't need to watch the trial calendar to understand that.

A Washington Post headline today screams "Grasso Took the Fifth In SEC Trading Probe" a little, and irrelevant, tidbit set lose by Spitzer's office in arguments before Judge Ramos.

Spitzer's office told Judge Ramos that in connection with an unrelated investigation into the specialist firms at the Exchange in an SEC deposition.

Spitzer is apparently trying to use that assersion against Grasso in his case, claiming that he refused to answer questions about his role as a regulator, in the unrelated SEC investigation, therefore he was not entitled to the compensation he received.

What? That clearly makes no sense. Now, I getting his from an article in the Washington Post, and they may not have grasped the legal argument, but I think they understood it and reported it correctly. Assuming they did, this is nonsense. Individuals take the Fifth all the time, and while it is technically based upon the premise that "the answer may tend to incriminate me" the invocation does not mean that the answer does incriminate him, nor does it mean that he did anything wrong. We all have the right not to provide information about ourselves to prosecutors, despite the recent losses in constitutional protections and privileges that we have witnessed of late.

Witnesses take the Fifth for a lot of reasons...often to stop an overly aggressive prosecutor from taking advantage of his ability to bring multiple investigations, or to use a civil lawsuit for discovery in a criminal case.

More to the point, while the Washington Post quotes a legal scholar saying that the invocation of the 5th in the unrelated investigation is admissible in the Spitzer vs. Grasso case, I do not believe that to be an accurate statement. While it could be admissible in the specialist trials if Mr. Grasso is called as a witness, it is not admissible in this civil case, between unrelated parties, on unrelated issues.

The argument does not appear to have any legal basis, so one has to question why Spitzer would even raise the issue, and why he would reveal supposedly confidential information from a private investigation. The answer is clear, he is doing so in order to gain an advantage in civil litigation, to get that headline from the Washington Post, and to smear Mr. Grasso in the press.

This is a war between Spitzer and Mr. Grasso. I understand litigation as war. But this war is being financed by the taxpayers of the State of New York, for the sole benefit of the millionaires who own (or owned) the New York Stock Exchange, by an Attorney General who loves headlines, but does not always get results.

And everyone knows it...even the Judge, who is quoted in the Post as saying:"You've having a war, and I'm the civilian caught in the crossfire."

And the people of the State of New York are suffering the collateral damage.
Post a Comment