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Greenwald writes: "Those with money and power always enjoyed substantial advantages in the US justice system, but lip service was at least always paid to the core precept of the rule of law: that...all stand equal before the blindness of Lady Justice."

Lanny Breuer, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department's Criminal Division, addresses a news conference in Brooklyn. British bank HSBC has agreed to pay $1.9 billion to settle a New York based-probe in connection with the laundering of money from narcotics traffickers in Mexico. (photo: AP/Richard Drew)
Lanny Breuer, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department's Criminal Division, addresses a news conference in Brooklyn. British bank HSBC has agreed to pay $1.9 billion to settle a New York based-probe in connection with the laundering of money from narcotics traffickers in Mexico. (photo: AP/Richard Drew)

Life Sentence for the Poor, Immunity for the Wealthy

By Glenn Greenwald, Alternet

19 December 12


he US is the world's largest prison state, imprisoning more of its citizens than any nation on earth, both in absolute numbers andproportionally. It imprisons people for longer periods of time, more mercilessly, and for more trivial transgressions than any nation in the west. This sprawling penal state has been constructed over decades, by both political parties, and it punishes the poor and racial minorities at overwhelmingly disproportionate rates.

But not everyone is subjected to that system of penal harshness. It all changes radically when the nation's most powerful actors are caught breaking the law. With few exceptions, they are gifted not merely with leniency, but full-scale immunity from criminal punishment. Thus have the most egregious crimes of the last decade been fully shielded from prosecution when committed by those with the greatest political and economic power: the construction of a worldwide torture regime, spying on Americans' communications without the warrants required by criminal law by government agencies and the telecom industry, an aggressive war launched on false pretenses, and massive, systemic financial fraud in the banking and credit industry that triggered the 2008 financial crisis.

This two-tiered justice system was the subject of my last book, "With Liberty and Justice for Some", and what was most striking to me as I traced the recent history of this phenomenon is how explicit it has become. Obviously, those with money and power always enjoyed substantial advantages in the US justice system, but lip service was at least always paid to the core precept of the rule of law: that - regardless of power, position and prestige - all stand equal before the blindness of Lady Justice.

It really is the case that this principle is now not only routinely violated, as was always true, but explicitly repudiated, right out in the open. It is commonplace to hear US elites unblinkingly insisting that those who become sufficiently important and influential are - and should be - immunized from the system of criminal punishment to which everyone else is subjected.

Worse, we are constantly told that immunizing those with the greatest power is not for their good, but for our good, for our collective good: because it's better for all of us if society is free of the disruptions that come from trying to punish the most powerful, if we're free of the deprivations that we would collectively experience if we lose their extraordinary value and contributions by prosecuting them.

This rationale was popularized in 1974 when Gerald Ford explained why Richard Nixon - who built his career as a "law-and-order" politician demanding harsh punishments and unforgiving prosecutions for ordinary criminals - would never see the inside of a courtroom after being caught committing multiple felonies; his pardon was for the good not of Nixon, but of all of us. That was the same reasoning hauled out to justify immunity for officials of the National Security State who tortured and telecom giants who illegally spied on Americans (we need them to keep us safe and can't disrupt them with prosecutions), as well as the refusal to prosecute any Wall Street criminals for their fraud (prosecutions for these financial crimes would disrupt our collective economic recovery).

A new episode unveiled on Tuesday is one of the most vivid examples yet of this mentality. Over the last year, federal investigators found that one of the world's largest banks, HSBC, spent years committing serious crimes, involving money laundering for terrorists; "facilitat[ing] money laundering by Mexican drug cartels"; and "mov[ing] tainted money for Saudi banks tied to terrorist groups". Those investigations uncovered substantial evidence "that senior bank officials were complicit in the illegal activity." As but one example, "an HSBC executive at one point argued that the bank should continue working with the Saudi Al Rajhi bank, which has supported Al Qaeda."

Needless to say, these are the kinds of crimes for which ordinary and powerless people are prosecuted and imprisoned with the greatest aggression possible. If you're Muslim and your conduct gets anywhere near helping a terrorist group, even by accident, you're going to prison for a long, long time. In fact, powerless, obscure, low-level employees are routinely sentenced to long prison terms for engaging in relatively petty money laundering schemes, unrelated to terrorism, and on a scale that is a tiny fraction of what HSBC and its senior officials are alleged to have done.

But not HSBC. On Tuesday, not only did the US Justice Department announce that HSBC would not be criminally prosecuted, but outright claimed that the reason is that they are too important, too instrumental to subject them to such disruptions. In other words, shielding them from the system of criminal sanction to which the rest of us are subject is not for their good, but for our common good. We should not be angry, but grateful, for the extraordinary gift bestowed on the global banking giant:

"US authorities defended their decision not to prosecute HSBC for accepting the tainted money of rogue states and drug lords on Tuesday, insisting that a $1.9bn fine for a litany of offences was preferable to the 'collateral consequences' of taking the bank to court. . . .

"Announcing the record fine at a press conference in New York, assistant attorney general Lanny Breuer said that despite HSBC"s 'blatant failure' to implement anti-money laundering controls and its wilful flouting of US sanctions, the consequences of a criminal prosecution would have been dire.

"Had the US authorities decided to press criminal charges, HSBC would almost certainly have lost its banking licence in the US, the future of the institution would have been under threat and the entire banking system would have been destabilised.

"HSBC, Britain's biggest bank, said it was 'profoundly sorry' for what it called 'past mistakes' that allowed terrorists and narcotics traffickers to move billions around the financial system and circumvent US banking laws. . . .

"As part of the deal, HSBC has undertaken a five-year agreement with the US department of justice under which it will install an independent monitor to assess reformed internal controls. The bank's top executives will defer part of their bonuses for the whole of the five-year period, while bonuses have been clawed back from a number of former and current executives, including those in the US directly involved at the time.

"John Coffee, a professor of law at Columbia Law School in New York, said the fine was consistent with how US regulators have been treating bank infractions in recent years. 'These days they rarely sue individuals in any meaningful way when the entity will settle. This is largely a function of resource constraints, but also risk aversion, and a willingness to take the course of least resistance,' he said."

DOJ officials touted the $1.9 billion fine HSBC would pay, the largest ever for such a case. As the Guardian's Nils Pratley noted, "the sum represents about four weeks' earnings given the bank's pre-tax profits of $21.9bn last year." Unsurprisingly, "the steady upward progress of HSBC's share price since the scandal exploded in July was unaffected on Tuesday morning."

The New York Times Editors this morning announced: "It is a dark day for the rule of law." There is, said the NYT editors, "no doubt that the wrongdoing at HSBC was serious and pervasive." But the bank is simply too big, too powerful, too important to prosecute.

That's not merely a dark day for the rule of law. It's a wholesale repudiation of it. The US government is expressly saying that banking giants reside outside of - above - the rule of law, that they will not be punished when they get caught red-handed committing criminal offenses for which ordinary people are imprisoned for decades. Aside from the grotesque injustice, the signal it sends is as clear as it is destructive: you are free to commit whatever crimes you want without fear of prosecution. And obviously, if the US government would not prosecute these banks on the ground that they're too big and important, it would - yet again, or rather still - never let them fail.

But this case is the opposite of an anomaly. That the most powerful actors should be immunized from the rule of law - not merely treated better, but fully immunized - is a constant, widely affirmed precept in US justice. It's applied to powerful political and private sector actors alike. Over the past four years, the CIA and NSA have received the same gift, as have top Executive Branch officials, as has the telecom industry, as has most of the banking industry. This is how I described it in "With Liberty and Justice for Some":

"To hear our politicians and our press tell it, the conclusion is inescapable: we're far better off when political and financial elites - and they alone - are shielded from criminal accountability.

"It has become a virtual consensus among the elites that their members are so indispensable to the running of American society that vesting them with immunity from prosecution - even for the most egregious crimes - is not only in their interest but in our interest, too. Prosecutions, courtrooms, and prisons, it's hinted - and sometimes even explicitly stated - are for the rabble, like the street-side drug peddlers we occasionally glimpse from our car windows, not for the political and financial leaders who manage our nation and fuel our prosperity.

"It is simply too disruptive, distracting, and unjust, we are told, to subject them to the burden of legal consequences."

That is precisely the rationale explicitly invoked by DOJ officials to justify their decision to protect HSBC from criminal accountability. These are the same officials who previously immunized Bush-era torturers and warrantless eavesdroppers, telecom giants, and Wall Street executives, even as they continue to persecute whistleblowers at record rates and prosecute ordinary citizens - particularly poor and minorities - with extreme harshness even for trivial offenses. The administration that now offers the excuse that HSBC is too big to prosecute is the same one that quite consciously refused to attempt to break up these banks in the aftermath of the "too-big-to-fail" crisis of 2008, as former TARP overseer Neil Barofsky, among others, has spent years arguing.

And, of course, these HSBC-protectors in the Obama DOJ are the same officials responsible for maintaining and expanding what NYT Editorial Page editor Andrew Rosenthal has accurately described as "essentially a separate justice system for Muslims," one in which "the principle of due process is twisted and selectively applied, if it is applied at all." What has been created is not so much a "two-tiered justice system" as a multi-tiered one, entirely dependent on the identity of the alleged offender rather than the crimes of which they are accused.

Having different "justice systems" for citizens based on their status, wealth, power and prestige is exactly what the US founders argued most strenuously had to be avoided (even as they themselves maintained exactly such a system). But here we have in undeniable clarity not merely proof of exactly how this system functions, but also the rotted and fundamentally corrupt precept on which it's based: that some actors are simply too important and too powerful to punish criminally. As the Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz warned in 2010, exempting the largest banks from criminal prosecution has meant that lawlessness and "venality" is now "at a higher level" in the US even than that which prevailed in the pervasively corrupt and lawless privatizing era in Russia.

Having the US government act specially to protect the most powerful factions, particularly banks, was a major impetus that sent people into the streets protesting both as part of the early Tea Party movement as well as the Occupy movement. As well as it should: it is truly difficult to imagine corruption and lawlessness more extreme than having the government explicitly place the most powerful factions above the rule of law even as it continues to subject everyone else to disgracefully harsh "justice". If this HSBC gift makes more manifest this radical corruption, then it will at least have achieved some good.


By coincidence, on the very same day that the DOJ announced that HSBC would not be indicted for its multiple money-laundering felonies,the New York Times published a story featuring the harrowing story of an African-American single mother of three who was sentenced to life imprisonment at the age of 27 for a minor drug offense:

"Stephanie George and Judge Roger Vinson had quite different opinions about the lockbox seized by the police from her home in Pensacola. She insisted she had no idea that a former boyfriend had hidden it in her attic. Judge Vinson considered the lockbox, containing a half-kilogram of cocaine, to be evidence of her guilt.

"But the defendant and the judge fully agreed about the fairness of the sentence he imposed in federal court.

"'Even though you have been involved in drugs and drug dealing,' Judge Vinson told Ms. George, 'your role has basically been as a girlfriend and bag holder and money holder but not actively involved in the drug dealing, so certainly in my judgment it does not warrant a life sentence.'

"Yet the judge had no other option on that morning 15 years ago. As her stunned family watched, Ms. George, then 27, who had never been accused of violence, was led from the courtroom to serve a sentence of life without parole.

"'I remember my mom crying out and asking the Lord why,' said Ms. George, now 42, in an interview at the Federal Correctional Institution in Tallahassee. 'Sometimes I still can't believe myself it could happen in America.'"

As the NYT notes - and read her whole story to get the full flavor of it - this is commonplace for the poor and for minorities in the US justice system. Contrast that deeply oppressive, merciless punishment system with the full-scale immunity bestowed on HSBC - along with virtually every powerful and rich lawbreaking faction in America over the last decade - and that is the living, breathing two-tiered US justice system. How this glaringly disparate, and explicitly status-based, treatment under the criminal law does not produce serious social unrest is mystifying. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+34 # hobbesian 2012-12-19 10:50
Deeply disturbing. We all lose confidence and have no respect for the law when justice is NOT just. How to change this, please!
+47 # barkingcarpet 2012-12-19 11:55
Justice? What "justice?" Justice is more about preservation of empire, profit, and property.
Native Americans, African Americans, and any peoples worldwide which have had their land "stolen," been enslaved, economically, physically, or mentally, etc, etc, etc.

Until our laws and rules consider and protect ALL peoples and allow any being to exist unmolested or reduced to a $$$ value to be exploited, we will continue to rape the earth, each other, and all life, until all that remains is a lifeless pile of $$ and landfills, where diverse intertwined life once flourished.

Our "justice" is closer to dead than to anything resembling a living sustainable or survivable community worth living in, and we are destroying the very systems which support all life.

Endless wars, Fukushima still spewing, and the legitimate rapist bankers/citizen s united corporate psychopaths, etc, etc, etc.

Shame on all of us for allowing any of the nonsense to continue, and nature WILL kick our overly entitled consumer asses.
+13 # in deo veritas 2012-12-19 15:47
Don't worry about nature. With every day that passes and more crimes gainst humanity go unpunished, there is less and less chance that God will bless this country. Indeed without substantial backlash and change, we are damned. We should be more concerned about the moral and spiritual cliff we are going over than the superhyped fiscal cliff.
+7 # RLF 2012-12-20 08:01
It's been a while since I've had any respect for the justice system. The moronic things said by people like our supreme court justice, Anton Scalia, being just one example of the corruption of the courts. The entire justice system has become one where those with megabucks for attorneys get what ever they want and the system never gets changed or improved because the very people who need to do it are the lawyers making big bucks. Our justice system is on par with our health care system...third rate...even worse than third world!
0 # RobertMStahl 2012-12-25 08:07
Salvation is not an agenda. Unfortunately, those with an agenda can find those in society that propose a threat to the agenda, who are inspired. What else was the psychology of Gregory Bateson about? Furthermore, simple AI in parallel processing architecture can accomplish this, for one (see Indira Singh's work, Thomas Tamm of the FBI, or Shahab Mohagegh at U of W VA about how simple this is to program and 'perfect').
0 # RobertMStahl 2012-12-25 08:36
Salvation is not an agenda. Unfortunately, those with an agenda can find those in society that propose a threat to the agenda, who are inspired. What else was the psychology of Gregory Bateson about? Furthermore, simple AI in parallel processing architecture can accomplish this, for one (see Indira Singh's work, Thomas Tamm of the FBI, or Shahab Mohagegh at U of W VA about how simple this is to program and 'perfect'). Salvation is from the inspired, not the promoted.
+33 # BradFromSalem 2012-12-19 10:56
The US Constitution forbids the creation of royalty. Shouldn't officials that refuse to prosecute individuals or their corporate counterparts for violations of the law due to their wealth, prestige, or political power are in fact acting in violation of the Constitution. I am not sure if that would mean the officials that have decided to ignore the law would also be subject to participating in the crime or if they would just be fired. Either way the action of not prosecuting lawbreakers is equally as bad, and maybe worse, that being the actual lawbreaker.
Can we have Eliott Spitzer run for office again? His crime was to hire prostitutes. At least he was f-ing a willing partner.
+20 # in deo veritas 2012-12-19 15:50
By violating the oath they took when elected they are guilty of treason. They indeed give aid and comfort to the enemy-that is the banks and other entities who rob and plunder the public good. We have met the enemy and he is US!
+8 # Doubter 2012-12-19 21:30
They don't exactly rob and plunder; they simply harvest and milk us as any owner would.
+5 # mdhome 2012-12-20 07:58
It depends where you are on the food chain, some get milked, some get sent to the butcher shop.
+5 # mdhome 2012-12-20 07:55
"At least he was f-ing a willing partner." The protection from prosecution that those with power and money enjoy are evidence of how far the system has declined from the intent of the founding fathers. This is disturbing enough to make one wonder if there will be any "land of the free" in the future. The whole thing is too disturbing to contemplate, yet there is more screaming about 30 round clips than there is about the dismissal of charges for felonies by the "elite".
+1 # tswhiskers 2012-12-21 12:22
The Constitution only forbade titles, not the creation of wealth. We have always had a wealthy overclass, but until the really really upper crust were a very small minority and lived quietly among themselves. Now we have a hugely wealthy class of the nouveaux riches who don't mind publicizing themselves and many of them, e.g. the Kochs, are trying to insert themselves into the U.S. and state govts. The Mayflower crowd never lowered themselves in this way. Refer to my prior post; history has always been on the side to power and wealth and with an occasional exception, it will never change.
+24 # MidwestTom 2012-12-19 10:58
On of my favorite sating "how much justice can you afford?". This defines the American legal system.
+31 # MainStreetMentor 2012-12-19 11:09
A fine? A friggin' FINE!??!! These people throw money around as you and I would toss pebbles into a pond. A "fine" is nothing to this miscreants - no matter if it were a trillion dollars! What is desperately, immediately needed here is a formal trial - and, if found guilty, a long, hard prison term - for ALL involved - AND a file of $500 Billion!
+7 # in deo veritas 2012-12-19 15:52
Prison in the normal sense is too good for them. Considering the number of lives they have ruined or even ended, they should be found guilty of domestic terrorism under the NDAA and sent to Gitmo or one of the prisons we run overseas. Regardless our taxes are NOT being used to render anything like justice.
+7 # mdhome 2012-12-20 08:01
A fine that relates to the crime could easily get the federal debt under control. A prison (real prison, not a country club) will go a long way towards keeping them within the intent of the laws.
+15 # giraffee2012 2012-12-19 11:22
We must spam our Congress people to DEMAND justice as we would face for same crimes. Call and call your reps/congress people over and over demanding a trial. OR YOU WON'T vote for them at next election. After all - you can still VOTE
+18 # Scott479 2012-12-19 11:29
Here's an ARISTOCRACY coming at ya...
+12 # MidwestTom 2012-12-19 11:31
The top people at ENRON all went to jail, but the OBama administration Justice department waited fir the statute of limitations to runout, before going after the bankers, so nobody can be personally prosecuted. The banks are fined, but the decision makers are not.
+3 # RLF 2012-12-20 08:03
Only rich people who steal from the rich are jailed.
+9 # edge 2012-12-19 11:56
Yep, the US lets guns walk across the Border into Mexico.
Hundreds of Mexicans and a US Border agent are killed and when Congress wants answers from Eric Holder ( the Attorney General ), Obama says that Holder has "Executive Privilege "! ( PS the White House said they did not know anything about Fast & Furious, so the privilege should not apply )

Crooks at the highest level in this Country!
+6 # in deo veritas 2012-12-19 15:56
Executive privilege -hell! Holder is an appointee and not an elected official. He should either be fired or forced to do his job! Anything else makes his boss and anyone else supporting him accomplices in this crime. More than crooks- those involved in this fiasco should be held accountasble for all the lives lost!
+6 # RHytonen 2012-12-19 22:34
Quoting edge:
Yep, the US lets guns walk across the Border into Mexico.

That program started in the Bush administrationm and gas NOTHING to do with this topic.

Enough, with the witch hunts and lame, transparent POLITICALLY MOTIVATED attempts to characterize the Obama administation as "worse than Bush" - presumably to set up revised history proving racism appropriate in America. It hasn't and won't work.
The GOP really is a WHOLE lot MORE corporatist, and elitist as far as unequal justice is concerned - and has to GO from American politics completely.
0 # RLF 2012-12-20 08:04
Maybe not worse than Bush...just the same and we expected different from a Democrat.
+11 # Michael_K 2012-12-19 12:07
From this day forward, let the Department of Justice be known as the Department of Judicial Affairs, and let us be done with the obscene pretense that "justice" figures anywhere in the equation.

But, as a priority, Lanny Breuer and Eric Holder MUST be thrown in jail.
+2 # mdhome 2012-12-20 08:07
Your requests for justice would be taken with more respect if you had requested justice in the same way during the first 8 years of this century.
+1 # Michael_K 2012-12-21 01:48
Why would you assume I didn't? And vociferously so, I might add!

Are you one of these people who assume that anyone who dares to notice Obama's crimes must necessarily be a Republican, and OK with the very same crimes when committed by the Bush/Cheney crew?

If so, I'm sorry that for you fandom and team-loyalty trump morality.
+21 # Salus Populi 2012-12-19 12:28
In China, official corruption is a capital crime, and miscreants are simply shot in the back of the head. While I am in general opposed to the death penalty, I think exceptions should be made for those who abuse their power and wealth. If you executed the ten or twenty most powerful criminals in the country, preferably publicly with full televised coverage, at least some of the others would probably modify their behavior. After all death penalty proponents frequently argue for its deterrent effect, so why not test that theory on some worthless scum that no one would miss anyway? It would be the beginning of the Herculean task of cleaning the Augean Stables of Wall Street and Brainwashington .
+6 # in deo veritas 2012-12-19 15:59
We can learn a valuble lesson from the Chinese in this regard. I am a strong supporter of capital punishment. True it may not be a deterrent, but whetever those caught and convicted did, they would not repeat. Better than raising the national debt by keeping them in prison for the rest of their worthless lives.
+11 # Kayjay 2012-12-19 13:46
Who can pledge allegiance to a nation, with congressional "reps;" that wink and look away, as corporate miscreants get a free pass in our courtrooms? How do we get justice for all? Well... as said above, hard PRISON time for the architects of scams. And obviously get money out of politics, term limits for congressional enabling rats, and get people to eventually wise up and vote entrenched/corr upt members of congress out on the street. Corporations have bought judicial silence, and it will continue until they cannot get away with it. Let's intermix white collar criminals with the general population. It's gonna be a long fight. But it's time to get started!!
+12 # vt143 2012-12-19 14:22
Bilk people out of $4 billion and receive a fine of $2 billion. I'm in. (And, I might even do it again!)
+3 # mdhome 2012-12-20 09:00
I think I would retire, after all, 2 billion would be enough to live out my life in comfort.
+7 # DaveM 2012-12-19 14:33
This essay refers only to a case which went to trial. 75% of criminal cases are resolved by plea bargain, with no finding of fact, no determination of probable cause, no certainty as to whether a crime was even committed. Defendants represented by public defenders almost always have their cases resolved via plea bargain.

If a full and open trial ends in a verdict this grotesquely unfair, just imagine the results for perhaps millions of Americans who are accused of crimes and end up convicted without their case so much as being heard.
+1 # Rain17 2012-12-19 18:04
But to be fair most criminal attorneys will also concede that the overwhelming number of their clients are guilty.
+19 # dkonstruction 2012-12-19 14:40
Since at least part of their crime was money laundering for "terrorists" don't need to prosecute or even arrest anyone; the board and senior management should simply be "detained" indefinitely (as in forever) at Guantanemo (if we ain't gonna close it let's at least turn it into "Club Fed 2.0"). And, if you're against this sort of extrajudicial detention then why not prosecute them under the Patriot Act for providing material support to terrorists.
+12 # papabob 2012-12-19 15:44
As a child in school, I learned to join with the other students, with my hand over my heart, and solemnly swear - "I pledge Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all."

Is this the liberty and justice I pledged? Have I been fooled all this time?
+3 # mdhome 2012-12-20 09:03
Quoting papabob:
As a child in school, I learned to join with the other students, with my hand over my heart, and solemnly swear - "I pledge Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all."

Is this the liberty and justice I pledged? Have I been fooled all this time?

Yes you and the rest of us have been fooled justice for all certainly is not what we see when it concerns the rich and connected.
+8 # reiverpacific 2012-12-19 15:59
All stand with hands on hearts, right hand in a Nazi salute and sing "US, US -Uber Alles".
then straighten right arm at the elbow and stick middle finger straight up in the air.
Oh dear, I'm in deep shit now!!!
+7 # cordleycoit 2012-12-19 16:05
Putting lawyers in charge of the the law is like putting wolves in charge of sheep. Congress is made up of mainly lawyers and all they do is to pad their crooked profession more laws less justice.
+12 # fredboy 2012-12-19 16:24
Absolutely. A very frank and obnoxious law professor once told me the law has nothing to do with justice, and "justice heeds only to those with the deepest pockets and most power. It's the guy who can buy justice who gets justice." Sickening, but seems so very true. Allowing bankers who washed money for drug cartels and terrorists to go unpunished pretty much makes the image of U.S. justice a sham.
+17 # fredboy 2012-12-19 16:26
The new formula:
Half a kilo=life in prison.
Washing $800 million for a cartel=no prosecution.
Does anyone else smell something terribly rotten?
0 # reiverpacific 2012-12-20 21:59
Quoting fredboy:
The new formula:
Half a kilo=life in prison.
Washing $800 million for a cartel=no prosecution.
Does anyone else smell something terribly rotten?

Hell no!
My nostrils became clogged and insensitive many years ago, like in the Iran-Contra ear but probably before that. It's just that my mind cleared a bit, which made up for the loss of smell.
Good point though.
+9 # spercepolnes 2012-12-19 16:41
"Is this the liberty and justice I pledged? Have I been fooled all this time?"
- Yes!
+7 # stoher9 2012-12-19 18:20
This injustice will never end until the peasants revolt & tear down the aristocracy. Guillotine anyone? We could set one up on Wall Sreet for starters and let the Bag Ladies from the Bowry sell tickets. Next one would be on the Capitol steps. LIVE on FOX the newest REALITY SHOW!!!
+6 # A.Reimann 2012-12-19 17:12
Picking up the HSBC's misdemeanor in isolation and trying to establish inequality of justice in America hides an important picture. America is now pursuing a policy of extortion from foreign banks and companies as much as possible on the pretext of imposing penalties for money laundering, illegal payments, bribery, safety violations etc. The Barclays, HSBC, UBS, Deutsche banks as well as companies like Shell, Toyota, BP etc have all been forced to pay hundreds of millions of dollars each. But how many American companies, which started the financial crisis in the first place by fraudulent practices, have been penalised? None. So if these foreign companies are taken to courts, the can of worms will come out. Is it not better to collect protection money from them than prosecuting them?
-1 # Rain17 2012-12-19 17:44
Well I used to support mandatory minimums, but I do think they are counterproducti ve in many cases. The problem is that no crime or offender is exactly the same. Some offenders have extenuating circumstances. There shouldn't be a "one-sized fits all" sentence for any crime because some offenders may actually have potential to reform themselves, while others are evil psychopaths. That being said I have no problems with "three strikes laws" as long as they only apply to violent crimes such as rape, assault, murder, shootings, attempted murder, armed robbery, etc. I don't think someone should go to jail for life for stealing a candy bar three times.

I do have to call out this article for being somewhat misleading about Ms. George's predicament. Before she ended up being sentenced to life--and I agree that the sentence was unfair--she had already had a record:

"After the police caught her making crack sales of $40 and $120 — which were counted as separate felonies — she was sentenced, at 23, to nine months in a work-release program."

The article goes onto say that she the ex-convict crack dealer father of her children back into her home periodically to see them. This isn't going to be popular, but Ms. George clearly made poor relationship decisions. Admittedly her sentence is still unfair, but she could have easily avoided prison had she made better relationship and life choices earlier, especially after her first offense.
+8 # JSRaleigh 2012-12-19 18:17
Bernard Madoff went to jail.

Of course, his crime was stealing FROM the economic elites.
+3 # tswhiskers 2012-12-20 15:22
Has it not ever been thus? Throughout history the rich and powerful have robbed, cheated and even killed each other and those beneath them with little if any painful consequences. stoher9 is wrong. Class and status divisions are part of the human condition, perhaps it's even in our DNA and it won't change. The U.S. has I think, historically been the most classless society in the West for most of history. Since the 1970's the rich have decided they wanted more wealth, more power until now we have a huge underclass and a small overclass that feels exceptionally entitled to everthing it has. In that sense we may now be more European than Europeans. Even the Founders felt that all govt. should be in the hands of the educated and wealthy. They succeeded in changing the worst faults of monarchical and dictatorial forms of government but they didn't really trust the average citizen to govern adequately.
+1 # Susan1989 2012-12-20 20:52
+3 # Activista 2012-12-20 21:36
We have private prisons and they have to make profit and pay the politicians.
What scares me and impacts me is a corruption on the local (town) level - raising taxes - creating useless positions for their friends - feeding the contractors.
+1 # luvdoc 2012-12-21 00:09
May the greedy bastards and ten generations of their progeny be cursed, may they never know love, and may peace of mind forever elude them. luvdoc
+2 # Jack Hammer 2012-12-22 22:01
Why did America break away from English rule? so they would not be the subjects of a privileged elite who would dictate the terms of their subservience. The founding fathers chose to create their own nation state with it's own legal system -a land free from the corruption of a sprawling empire in decline. They wanted to be masters of their own destiny. And what has America become? a whore house for the Elite who may do and act as they please with no fear of recrimination -1% rule the 99% -and "The Top 1 Percent Of Americans Owns 40 Percent Of The Nation’s Wealth -while the BOTTOM *80% owns only 7% of the America's wealth"! The Technocrats have us all screwed down to a life of economic servitude. Do you think that they are going to give this country back? No! -We have to take back our rights, take back our land, take back our wealth and take back our country! Let 2013 be the beginning of the end of "The One Percent"

How many more must lose their homes -starve or freeze to death just so that the 1% can accumulate wealth that rots in their bank accounts, along with the once great nation that was America. The founding fathers would be planning a revolution right now. We may not end injustice for all time -but let us end injustice in our time -in our land in our way.
-1 # taharaplin3 2015-02-26 14:10

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