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1/29/05

A NEW STATUTE IN HONOR OF MARTHA STEWART

By Sheldon Drobny

Most people are not aware that Martha Stewart was not found guilty of any SEC violations.  She was convicted for lying to the federal government.  And she was not even under oath when she allegedly lied to the FBI.  Most citizens believe that one must be under oath to be convicted for making a false or untrue statement, but as we saw with Martha, that is not the case.

Here is the federal statute that did her in:

TITLE 18 - CRIMES AND CRIMINAL PROCEDURE
Chapter 47 - Fraud and False Statements

Section 1001. Statements or entries generally

(a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully…

(2) makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation;

(3) makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry; shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.

This law has been applicable to all Americans for many years.  It is because of this statute that attorneys tell clients never to make any kind of statement to any law enforcement official.  Not only can your statement be used against you, but you can also fall into the same “lying” trap that did Martha Stewart in.  Whether or not she intended to make a false statement, she was tripped up by Section 1001.

So private citizens of this country have to tell the truth to the government, but our elected officials and other federal officers have no reciprocal obligation.  If the President or Congress makes statements that are false and misleading, there is no federal statute to protect the citizenry from their deceptions.  The consequences of Martha Stewart lies to the FBI were a conviction and an almost ruined career.

President Clinton paid a heavy price for lying about his affair with Monica Lewinsky.  He became only the second president in history to be impeached.  Certainly he lied to the American people and his family, and even to a grand jury investigating another matter.  But the consequences of that lie to the nation are that Congress wasted its time and significant FBI manpower for two years while Osama Bin Laden was planning the devastating attack of September 11, 2001. 

On the other hand, when President Bush and Condoleezza Rice lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, causing the deaths of tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians and more than 1,200 American soldiers, the consequences were that Bush was elected to another four-year term and Rice was promoted to Secretary of State.  Among the other liars rewarded by the Bush Administration were Paul Bremer and George Tenet.  What were the consequences of their lies?  The Medal of Freedom.

Congress will immediately see the need for a new law, which will read as follows:

TITLE 18 - CRIMES AND CRIMINAL PROCEDURE
Chapter 47 - Fraud and False Statements

Section XXXX. False Statements by Federal Officials

(a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, any federal official, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the United States, knowingly and willfully

(2) makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation;

(3) makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry; shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.

There will, of course, be overwhelming bipartisan support for this legislation to protect “we the people” from the rascals who run our country but have faced no criminal consequences for lying to us.  It is time that we hold them, at the very least, to the same standards as the rest of the citizens of this country.

If we cannot lie to them, then they cannot lie to us.

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Sheldon Drobny is co-founder of Air America Radio, providing talk radio for the majority of Americans.  He is also the author of The Road to Air America.

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