The Wall Street Journal had an excellent article a couple weeks ago calling out the egregious prosecutorial misconduct of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. In this farce of a case, Schneiderman is hell bent on going after Hank Greenberg (formerly with AIG) in an attempt to discredit his name in a state civil lawsuit. The manner in which Schneiderman is conducting himself is a disgrace to his position as prosecutor and reflects a trend of prosecutorial abuses that has grown alarmingly in recent years.
In the Schneiderman-Greenberg case, Eric Schneiderman has been pursuing civil charges against Hank Greenberg related to an “allegedly fraudulent reinsurance transaction” some years ago while disgraced Eliot Spitzer was the Attorney General. Mr. Greenberg was the defendant in a prior, failed criminal prosecution involving this particular transaction several years ago; in preparation for this upcoming civil case, it came to light that the “federal government has been hiding potentially exculpatory evidence” from the prior trial of Mr. Greenberg. The key witness for the government in that case, a Mr. Napier, who never had any direct communication with Mr. Greenberg about the deal in question apparently provided such “compelling inconsistencies” that an Appeals judge wrote “Napier may well have testified falsely.” Yet, Napier’s testimony is the very piece of evidence upon which Schneiderman has built his civil case.
For several years, and as recently as January, the federal government continued to claim that the notes and evidence collected during the first case should be kept under seal. It was only recently, under pressure, that the prosecutors relented and provided that notes and memos which showed the blatant inconsistencies of Mr. Napier. Had that release not occurred, however, Mr. Schneiderman would have been allowed to pursue the civil case against Greenberg relying “on a Napier deposition conducted years before the appeals court cast doubt on his testimony and before Mr. Greenberg’s legal team uncovered the notes.” What’s more, Mr. Greenberg was denied a trial by jury, and because “it’s a civil case and Mr. Napier doesn’t live in New York, he cannot be compelled to appear.” Thankfully, in light of the new exculpatory evidence, the trial has been stayed to decide whether or not to continue with the farce.
It is clear that Schneiderman’s decision to doggedly pursue this case for years even in the face of tainted, unreliable evidence is abusive. Schneiderman himself should be under investigation for malicious prosecution, going after a “big name” for his own political and personal gain.
This unprofessional prosecutorial behavior is unfortunately not limited to Eric Schneiderman. The nominee for Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, who also hails from New York has an egregious record of abuse particularly relating to civil asset forfeiture while she was the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. In the most outrageous case during her tenure, her offices colluded with the IRS to seize nearly $450,000 from the bank account of two businessmen known as the Hirsch Brothers in May 2012, for “suspicion”, not actual charges, of criminal activity.
For nearly 3 years, the brothers were never charged with any crime, and Lynch’s office wholy ignored stringent deadlines regarding forfeiture cases. Prosecutors were compelled by law to file a court complaint within a certain amount of days following the seizure, but that never actually happened at any time, and the Hirsch brothers never had the opportunity to appear before a judge. In fact, there was never any case presented against them at anytime; Lynch’s office just sat on the seized money, all while offering to cut a deal with the brothers to keep some of the funds in return for dropping the matter. The brothers turned down every offer made to them.
Suddenly, a week before the Lynch’s confirmation hearing, in late January 2015 — two years and eight months after the case began — Lynch’s office returned all the money to the brothers. Lynch’s office clearly violated the law in the manner by which her prosecutors ignored forfeiture rules and denied due process to the Hirschs while going after the “big money”.
In a similar manner, NBC has covered another practice of Lynch’s office: using the “John Doe” alias in an overwhelmingly high amount to keep witness and court information from becoming public information. “Federal prosecutors in New York’s Brooklyn-based Eastern District pursued cases against secret, unnamed “John Doe” defendants 58 times since Loretta Lynch became head prosecutor in May 2010.” In comparision to others, “none of the nation’s 93 other federal district courts has charged more than eight “Does” during the same time period, and the national average is under four.” National Review has also covered the specifics of some of these cases, calling out Lynch’s “secret docket”. The repeated use of such secrecy invites Lynch’s office to the criticism that such practice undermines the right to a public trial guaranteed by our Constitution.
The conduct of Schneiderman and Lynch is unacceptable. The fact that Schneiderman is and will remain the Attorney General for New York and Loretta Lynch is poised to become the next Attorney General for the United States is disconcerting. It is not the first and it certainly won’t be the last, but it is increasingly brazen. This type of behavior undermines the integrity of our justice system when the nations leading prosecutors can’t be bothered to follow the rules and conduct themselves in an unbiased, professional manner. How can citizens protect their liberties in the face of such prosecutorial abuse?