A false-statement epidemic?

by Walter Olson on July 18, 2011

Jeff Rosen has a sharp review in the New York Times of a new book by veteran business writer James Stewart entitled “Tangled Webs: How False Statements Are Undermining America: From Martha Stewart to Bernie Madoff”:

Although Stewart, now a business columnist for The New York Times, claims that lying has been on the rise, a more plausible thesis is that prosecutions for false statements have been rising — not because of growing contempt for the truth but because defendants are increasingly prosecuted for doing nothing more than denying their guilt to investigators. (These are the kinds of lies that courts used to excuse under a doctrine called the exculpatory no.) It wasn’t until the post-Watergate era that prosecutors began routinely to indict people not merely for lying under oath but for lying to federal officials even when not under oath — using a novel law that is the basis for several of the prosecutions Stewart celebrates.

(& Bad Lawyer)

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PointOfLaw Forum
08.02.11 at 6:26 am

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1 William Nuesslein 07.18.11 at 10:43 am

Mr. Rosen’s review was good but could have been better. Not only did Martha Stewart not engage in insider trading as the decision to sell came as a recommendation from her broker’s assistant and not fro0m any private information she had. The transaction was trivial in the sense that the roughly 4,000 plus shares were a residual from a holding of 90,000 shares. Martha Stewart sold off 85,000 shares some time before when she first engaged her broker. 5,000 shares were left over in a side account. She tendered those shares, but only about 1,000 shares were picked up. That is why the number of shares was not a round number.

As to lying. Martha Stewart related information about a conversation involving a relatively minor matter which conversation occurred when she off on a shopping holiday with her friend. The import of the conversation was a product of a hyper reaction after the fact. That she thought she had talked to her actual broker and not his assistant is understandable and is not a lie unless you start, as the jury did, with a presumption of guilt.

James Stewart and his book are garbage.

2 AMcA 07.18.11 at 3:02 pm

Indeed, the Supreme Court recently had to knock down the “exculpatory no” doctrine which apparently some courts had read into the Fed. R. Evid. As I recall, the opinoin seemed to endorse the idea of the “exculpatory no”, but found no reason to read it into an otherwise clearly drafted rule of evidence.

But is this not evidence that somewhere deep down in human nature we don’t believe that people can be expected to always tell the truth about themselves and that maybe, just maybe, we shouldn’t consider that criminal?

3 antiredistributionist 07.18.11 at 3:26 pm

Stewart’s book seems deeply flawed, but there is irony aplenty in Rosen’s excoriating Stewart for inaccuracy, then claiming that “the lie (sic) that actually undermined America — George W. Bush’s false claim that British intelligence had discovered efforts by Saddam Hussein to buy uranium in Africa — went ­unpunished.”

Reviewer, heal thyself.

4 Ash Wyllie 07.19.11 at 7:41 am

Rosen seems to forget that it was Richard Armitage who leaked Plames name.

5 William Nuesslein 07.19.11 at 8:52 am

I still do not understand why Ms. Plame’s name was leaked at all. Joe Wilson’s report spoke for itself. Scooter Libby was anything but innocent in the matter of the leak. Mr. Armitage was able to get Mrs. Wison’s CIA connection into print when Mr. Libby came up short. It was clear to me that George W. Bush himself arranged the leak when Dick Cheney couldn’t get it done.

What galled me was that the reporter, Bob Novak, was asked by officials at the CIA not to out Mrs. Wilson, and he did it anyway. His act was not treason as defined in the constitution, but it was surely treasonous to me.

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