The power of government officials and prosecutors is awesome. They have to power to punish. They can literally charge you with a crime, lock you up, and take away the keys. Often times we forget how much power these officials wield and how important it is to keep a check on their power through the criminal justice system. A startling example of what can occur when this power remains unchecked is the case of Hubert Vidrine. Here is an excerpt from a federal magistrate judge’s statements in awarding Vidrine more than a million dollars in damages based on a wholly unfounded prosecution of this man and his company for environmental waste.
Rather than finding Agent Phillips conduct and testimony supportive of a finding of the existence of probable cause, this court finds Agent Phillips testimony, conduct and documentation illustrate a deliberate pattern of disregard for oaths taken, truth of the matter involved, wholly lacking in intellectual honesty, and exhibiting a deliberate intent to mislead all involved, particularly the prosecutors with whom he worked and who were relying upon his investigation and technical expertise in order to evaluate their case. Agent Phillips has displayed the very worst example of abuse and misuse of the power and trust bestowed upon a governmental agent, and has brought great shame upon the agency which had entrusted him with that power, responsibility, and authority . . . . It is sufficient for this Court to find Keith Phillips set out with a flagrant and reckless disregard of the rights of Hubert Vidrine, in that he deliberately controlled and skewed the investigation, falsified and sculpted reports and requests made to his superiors, mislead the prosecutor, gave patently false testimony under oath to the grand jury, made false verifications to this Court, all the while taking advantage of the opportunity he created to pursue his clandestine sexual affair with Agent Barnhill.
Federal Agent Phillips made up charges and lied to create a case against an innocent man; this was evidence that a United States Attorney relied upon to prosecute Vidrine for a crime that didn’t exist. What was the purpose of all the lies? Phillips wanted to be able to continue a sexual affair with another federal agent.
This is exactly why defense attorneys are necessary. Prosecutions are unfounded sometimes. People are innocent sometimes. Law enforcement officials lie sometimes. This is a fact of life, we are all human. So who is willing to stand up to these people who have such awesome power? Criminal defense attorneys. While some people may think this type of behavior is the exception, and not the rule, however true that may be, if you were Vidrine do you care?
(Hattip to Popehat.)