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Tags: alvin bragg | donald trump | jim garrison | clay shaw

Bragg Has Opened a Pandora's Box

alvin bragg
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (Getty)

By    |   Tuesday, 18 June 2024 06:20 AM EDT

The tactic of using a local jury to indict for alleged federal or national wrongdoing was long advocated for by a few prominent local district attorneys with strong views on national issues — each, ironically, with vastly opposing views regarding each other — and has culminated in Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's opening up a legal Pandora's box.

This Pandora's box will benefit neither prosecutors, the defense, nor the people who count on the judiciary being the scales of justice.

In 1967, New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison obtained an indictment of local businessman Clay Shaw in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Although President Kennedy was killed in Dallas and while the assassination of a president was not yet a federal crime, the New Orleans DA believed he had some level of jurisdiction regarding an alleged conspiracy hatched in his city.

Garrison's prosecution of Shaw saw the latter's acquittal in less than an hour on March 1, 1969. Two days after Shaw's acquittal, in a highly unusual move, Garrison "signed an information charging Shaw with the crime of perjury."

It is almost always assumed by the prosecution, as a matter of principle, that defendants who plead not guilty are, in fact, lying and, therefore, are almost never charged after the fact with perjury in addition to the alleged, major offense. Otherwise, the defendant would not be prosecuted for the offense in the first place.

Also, Garrison had never attempted this kind of move to any other defendant in seven years as DA and had no new witnesses, other than those of the original trial, to say that Shaw had lied about knowing Lee Harvey Oswald.

Shaw's finances and person were largely depleted by Garrison's continuous harassment, and that's when the local federal court stepped in and stopped Garrison from further prosecuting Shaw.

"The pending prosecution was brought in bad faith and that such bad faith constitutes irreparable injury which is great and immediate," the court ruled. "The court further finds that this is a case of exceptional and extremely limited circumstances." 

Ironically, the federal government, in the spirit of the Pandora's box, appears to have overreached against Garrison and may have conducted its own vendetta against him.

Garrison was brought up on charges in the early 1970s for allegedly taking bribes. After initially being assisted by F. Lee Bailey, Garrison defended himself in federal court and beat the bribery charge.

Then he was indicted and prosecuted again — this time for failure to pay the taxes for the bribes he was not convicted of in the first place. Garrison again defended himself and beat the federal government a second time, though he lost reelection for a fourth term as district attorney.

This same tactic of using a local jury to indict for alleged federal wrongdoing was advocated by the otherwise brilliant Manson family prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, who was decidedly anti-Garrison, to prosecute George W. Bush for the Iraq War. Bugliosi believed that any DA in America could indict Bush for the murder of thousands of U.S. soldiers.

Whatever one thinks of the Iraq War, or the extent to which the administration of President Bush pushed for the war, having the president or former president open to the possibility of indictment by any number of local DAs for what was a national issue is, at the least, frivolous and, at most, abnormal and troubling.

We see the same issues in the case of The People of the State of New York v. Donald J. Trump.  

In the Trump case, a local prosecutor used a local jury to try to convict a defendant for an alleged crime with alleged national implications that even the federal government did not find a way to prosecute and that supposedly happened years before. There are deeper issues with the Manhattan DA's case against Trump.

Under New York state law, falsifying a business record is a misdemeanor unless there was "intent to commit another crime or to aid or conceal the commission thereof." Yet, unbelievably, whatever the other crime President Trump allegedly committed was not charged or even identified in DA Bragg's indictment — a legal omission that The New York Times several times described as an unusual move by the district attorney.

Yet the additional crime of alleged election law violations, for which Trump was never indicted and which weren't even mentioned in the indictment, was mentioned in the DA's statement of facts in the case as well as in press releases from Bragg's office announcing both the indictment and Trump's conviction.

These legal stretches by Bragg are similar to Jim Garrison's being indicted for failure to pay taxes on the bribes he was exonerated of taking. These events are more troubling, considering the harsh political rhetoric the current Manhattan DA used against Trump and his family members while running for office, since a district attorney has the capacity to take away the freedoms of people while consequently needing to ensure the rights of a defendant are met.  

It is noteworthy that the previous Manhattan DA, Cyrus Vance Jr., refused to prosecute Trump, believing the federal government "had better laws" and that indicting Trump would highlight "novel issues around using the false statements statute in connection with committing a crime that violates federal election laws." In other words, is every action by a candidate or a potential candidate, even in their personal lives, simply about influencing their election or the election of someone else?  

Vance understood the slippery slope of this kind of thinking, for it could then be argued that Bill Clinton's lying about the Monica Lewinsky matter was not just personal, or even perjurious, but rather about influencing the 1998 congressional midterms, as well as the then-upcoming 2000 presidential election in which Mr. Clinton's handpicked hopeful, Vice President Al Gore, was going to run. Such legal theories could be used against DA Bragg one day, too.

All this is occurring while violent criminals, who are attacking New York City police and the people the NYPD seeks to protect, are not prosecuted for felonies by the same Manhattan district attorney's office. In fact, Bragg's office downgraded nearly 60% of those arrested for felonies while moving heaven and earth to upgrade this alleged Trump misdemeanor to a felony.

We should not want to see such judicial or legislative revenge used on a Donald Trump or any person, including those with vastly different opposing ideologies of Trumpism or conservatism. It is important that even those who do not like President Trump consider the legal maneuvers brought against him as if it were happening to them or their own mothers.

Held up to this ethic — and more so the legal standard — Bragg's case is extremely troubling.

The district attorney should have been legally enjoined from prosecuting Donald J. Trump, resulting in a restoration of the full rights of the defendant. As was stated earlier from Shaw v. Garrison, "the pending prosecution was brought in bad faith and that such bad faith constitutes irreparable injury which is great and immediate ... this is a case of exceptional and extremely limited circumstances."

Hopefully, on appeal this legal Pandora's box, which will have grave consequences for people of all political persuasions, can be at least partially closed.

*Views expressed in this article are those of the author and not any government agency.

Larry Provost has written for Townhall, Fox News, The Baltic Times and InFocus (Jewish Policy Center) and has appeared on several television outlets, including "FOX News @Night with Shannon Bream." He holds degrees from several colleges, and is a veteran of the World Trade Center search and rescue, Afghanistan, and Iraq. He and his wife are adoptive parents. Read more Larry Provost reports — Here.

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The tactic of using a local jury to indict for alleged federal or national wrongdoing was long advocated for by a few prominent local district attorneys with strong views on national issues and has culminated in Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg's opening up a legal Pandora's box.
alvin bragg, donald trump, jim garrison, clay shaw
Tuesday, 18 June 2024 06:20 AM
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