The following op-ed by Peter Worthington was published in the Toronto Sun on July 19, 2010.
That the U.S. Internal Revenue Service would bring suit against Conrad Black, claiming $71 million in unpaid taxes, reeks of malice more than justice.
It’s hard to escape the conclusion the tax charges emanate from the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Black’s behalf, and sending back to the appeal court his conviction on three relatively minor fraud charges and obstruction.
The clear message is he was found guilty on “honest services” charges that don’t exist in his case.
The Supreme Court ruled “honest services” apply only to bribery and kickbacks, neither of which applies to Black.
Instead of rolling with the counter punch and admitting error, the U.S. justice system dredged up the tax issue, which Black’s lawyers say shouldn’t apply because he paid Canadian taxes between 1998 and 2003.
The charges seem designed to cost Black money he probably doesn’t have for lawyers’ fees — more Department of Justice vindictiveness.
One need look no further than Patrick Fitzgerald, U.S. Attorney for the district of Northern Illinois, to see the bitterness and lust for revenge against Black.
Prosecutors were embarrassed when the original trial found Black not guilty of nine of the most serious fraud charges, and they were mortified and embarrassed again when the Supreme Court lambasted them.
The moral of the IRS tax charges is don’t mess with American Justice, which has a record and reputation of malevolence and meanness, regardless of errors the system makes.
Take John Demjanjuk, an aging Ukrainian auto worker whom the Justice Department decided was Ivan the Terrible, a sadistic Nazi prison guard at Treblinka and extradited him to Israel where he was initially sentenced to death.
To its eternal credit, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled Demjanjuk was not Ivan the Terrible and his conviction was a grotesque error of mistaken identity, and freed him. Rather than acknowledge error, the U.S. Justice Department kept after Demjanjuk, dug up other charges from another Nazi camp, revoked his citizenship and deported him to stand trial in Germany.
No one was ever punished or called to account for falsely branding Demjanjuk as a war criminal. During the war, he was a Ukrainian conscripted into SS auxiliaries.
The U.S. justice system is equally vindictive towards Leonard Peltier, convicted of murder in the death of two FBI agents killed in a range war at the Lakota Sioux reserve at Pine Ridge in 1975. The trial was admittedly fraudulent, but the justice system refused to consider releasing Peltier 35 years after the incident.
Even the appeal judge in his case urged the president to show clemency. But the system is unmoving, refusing to admit error or forgiveness. Lost in the case is the fact an Indian youth was shot and killed when the agents were, but no investigation was ever carried out.
Laurie Bembenek was falsely convicted in 1981 of murdering her husband’s ex-wife in Milwaukee. She escaped 10 years later to Canada, where Toronto Lawyer, and now Superior Court Justice, Frank Marrocco took her case pro bono and got her freed.
The Wisconsin justice system never forgave her, and though she paid for various DNA tests that proved her innocence, the system remains adamant and won’t apologize.
So it’s no surprise the system is taking another run at Conrad Black, with arguably the most vindictive prosecutor in the U.S. determined to get him.
Nor is it surprising the U.S. has the world’s highest documented incarceration rate — a prison population of some 2.5 million.