DOJ 'Streisands' Its Own Prosecutor By Requesting His Name Be Removed From An Unflattering Court Opinion

from the coverup:-ur-doing-it-wrong dept

No matter how many Streisands get hoisted by their internet-aided petard, there's always another person or entity who thinks he/she/it can somehow bury unflattering information/photos/Facebook status updates.

In what is the latest (but certainly not the last) example of how wielding a bigass shovel only makes people more aware of your desperate burial attempts, a prosecutor for the Department of Justice was called out by name in a judicial bench slap for telling a "half-truth" in the courtroom:
Albert was criticized by the court for telling "a half-truth" during the trial - specifically, misrepresenting testimony from a prior proceeding while cross-examining the defendant at trial.

This misrepresentation resulted in a mistrial. The question presented on appeal was whether the prohibition on double jeopardy prohibited a retrial (a question that the panel decided in the government's favor).
Well, the DOJ wasn't too pleased with having their boy (Jerry Albert) being called out in the court's opinion and requested his name be replaced with the more innocuous this-could-be-anybody term "the prosecutor."
[U]pon initial release of this opinion, the government filed a motion requesting that we remove Albert's name and replace it with references to "the prosecutor." The motion contended that naming Albert publicly is inappropriate given that we do not yet know the outcome of any potential investigations or disciplinary proceedings.
Much like jabbing at a alligator with a stick, this only served to make the presiding Judge righteously pissed. Judge Carlos Bea went "all in" on his amended opinion, smacking around the DOJ for its presumptuousness:
The mistake in judgment does not lie with AUSA Albert alone. We are also troubled by the government's continuing failure to acknowledge and take responsibility for Albert's error.

The Department of Justice has an obligation to its lawyers and to the public to prevent prosecutorial misconduct. Prosecutors, as servants of the law, are subject to constraints and responsibilities that do not apply to other lawyers; they must serve truth and justice first. Their job is not just to win, but to win fairly, staying within the rules. That did not happen here, and the district court swiftly and correctly declared a mistrial when Albert's misquotation was revealed.
Now, not only is Jerry Albert's name tied to such bad-for-business terms like "mistrial," "misconduct" and "misrepresentation," but by simply pressing this point, the Department of Justice turned a mere footnote of interest only to those directly involved in the trial into a rapidly expanding Google bomb that links the DOJ with these same bad-for-business terms, along with other unflattering terms like "coverup" and "benchslap."

And Judge Bea wasn't done yet, adding this crucial (and damning) paragraph to the benchslap/Streisandstorm:
We declined to adopt the government's suggestion and denied its motion. We have noticed that the U.S. Attorney's Office in Arizona regularly makes public the names of prosecutors who do good work and win important victories. E.g., Press Release, U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Arizona, "Northern Arizona Man Sentenced to Federal Prison for Arson," (January 31, 2012).... If federal prosecutors receive public credit for their good works - as they should - they should not be able to hide behind the shield of anonymity when they make serious mistakes.
Hell. Yes. Government representatives are always so quick to grab credit for anything tangentially related to their work, but good lord, they still seem to think that screwing up should somehow be rewarded with swift coverups and plausible deniability.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Feb 21st, 2012 @ 3:08pm

    ProTip: If you don't want the heat for being a screwup, don't screw up.

    If you lie in court, why the hell do you still have a job in the Department of Justice?

    Leading by example... your doing it wrong.

     

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    •  
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      lucidrenegade (profile), Feb 21st, 2012 @ 4:18pm

      Re:

      I thought lying in court was a job requirement for the DOJ?

       

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    •  
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      Mike C. (profile), Feb 21st, 2012 @ 4:38pm

      Re:

      As I've seen in many a Fark cop-bashing thread, but believe it also applies here...

      It's not the ACT of impropriety that's a problem... it's the APPEARANCE of impropriety that makes us not trust you.

       

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      •  
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        ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Feb 21st, 2012 @ 5:01pm

        Re: Re:

        Well, the *act* is a problem too. Because at this point just showing up for work is the *appearance* of impropriety.

         

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        That Anonymous Coward (profile), Feb 21st, 2012 @ 5:19pm

        Re: Re:

        The act is a problem, they commit them over and over and nothing changes.
        The appearance of the coverup afterwards just focuses more eyes on the actual act.

        Fact - he "misstated" testimony, and it resulted in the case falling apart.

        Fact - to save face that he committed a huge boneheaded "error" (to give the benefit of the doubt for a second) they wanted the records of the event sanitized to save face.

        Fact - DOJ has a history of playing fast and loose with truth.

        Fact - There is something HUGELY wrong when the pinnacle of representing Justice in the country is seen multiple times and on multiple occasions covering up bad acts.

        We do not trust them because they have their own rules, a standard not available to anyone but themselves and powerful corporations. Law is meant to be the great equalizer, and rather than applying it fairly the people charged with upholding it often stick their finger on the scales to get the wanted result rather than the fair result.
        The hubris of the DOJ is outstanding, well its not fair that the record reflects that we employee someone who did something completely boneheaded. It is more important that we look good instead of truthful. This is rampant in the Government, it is more important to save face than to admit fault. One merely need look at the TSA.

         

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Howard, Cowering, Feb 22nd, 2012 @ 7:07am

      Re: TAC #1

      Why does he still have a job? Because it's not really the Department of Justice. It's actually the Department of Legalistic Shenanigans and Shysters; but "DoJ" looks better than "DoLSS" on the letterhead.

       

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  •  
    identicon
    kenichi tanaka, Feb 21st, 2012 @ 3:25pm

    What I want to know is why the State Bar Association isn't calling these DOJ attorneys out for what is obviously unethical conduct in the courtroom.

    What is this? They only go after private attorneys and allow government prosecutors to abuse the law with their unethical conduct?

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2012 @ 3:28pm

      Re:

      It's in Arizona. The law exists on one side and only for some, i.e. "the wild, wild west". I don't know if guns are allowed in courtrooms yet - but the judge may feel lucky they weren't shot on the spot for this.

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2012 @ 3:26pm

    I wonder if the attny is one associated with MAFIAA.

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2012 @ 4:02pm

      Re:

      With the DOJ infected with the ex-MAFIAA attorneys, it doesn't surprise me they tried to do this. It also make me very worried about the justice system in this country. It makes me very worried about the idea of justice in this country.

      Kudos to Judge Bea for having the backbone to stand his ground.

       

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    identicon
    kenichi tanaka, Feb 21st, 2012 @ 3:40pm

    Regardless of which state this is on, each state has its own Bar Association for anyone who is licensed by that state to practice law in that state.

    These DOJ attorneys need to be investigated and reprimanded by the state bar association for this unethical conduct.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2012 @ 3:57pm

    "Their job is not just to win, but to win fairly, staying within the rules."

    I'd say a prosecutor's job isn't to win at all, merely to see justice done and the correct verdict rendered. But maybe I've been playing too much Phoenix Wright.

     

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    Pixelation, Feb 21st, 2012 @ 4:39pm

    Interesting combination...

    Assistant U.S. attorney Jerry Albert and benchslapped

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2012 @ 6:28pm

      Re: Interesting combination...

      Yep, Albert was probably just lucky the Judge didn't mention his immediate superior and Attorney general by name as well.

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2012 @ 7:12pm

    No matter how many Streisands get hoisted by their internet-aided petard, there's always another person or entity who thinks he/she/it can somehow bury unflattering information/photos/Facebook status updates.

    The term is hoist by their own petard. It is always hoist, never hoisted.

     

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      Chargone (profile), Feb 22nd, 2012 @ 2:35am

      Re:

      should also be noted that a petard is a (early, highly temperamental) explosive used for sapping (that is, bringing down siege works.)

      to be 'hoist by your own petard' comes from the fact that it wasn't as uncommon as one might like for the guy responsible for emplacing them to be caught in the resulting explosion (and 'hoist', that is, launched into the air).

      i explain this because i know a lot of people upon hearing the expression, especially the common erroneous form, have mental images of cranes and such rather than explosives.

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2012 @ 7:37pm

    So now when the Government agencies blatantly lie, they only said "half-truths"? "Sorry, your honor, we just conveniently forgot to mention the EXACT OPPOSITE of what we just said" (which would've been the truth).

     

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      Chargone (profile), Feb 22nd, 2012 @ 2:37am

      Re:

      i assume it's related to those 'mistruths' we heard mention of a while back.

      still don't know what the hell those are, btw. closest i can come to for a meaning that Actually Makes Sense is to screw up and tell the truth when you meant to lie, but that wasn't what happened. (unless i'm misremembering.)

      i'd call a half-truth a kind of lie in the same way as a lie of omission is a lie. (in fact, they may overlap)... at least if the term is used sensibly.

      more likely it's pure euphemism.

       

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      identicon
      Pixelation, Feb 22nd, 2012 @ 4:36am

      Re:

      "So now when the Government agencies blatantly lie, they only said "half-truths"? "Sorry, your honor, we just conveniently forgot to mention the EXACT OPPOSITE of what we just said" (which would've been the truth)."

      Half-truth the same as half-pregnant

       

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    identicon
    hobo, Feb 22nd, 2012 @ 6:56am

    "Government representatives are always so quick to grab credit for anything tangentially related to their work, but good lord, they still seem to think that screwing up should somehow be rewarded with swift coverups and plausible deniability."

    Because rich private sector types never want their mistakes to be covered up (multiple various significant bailouts over the past 3 decades, Wall St., auto industry, savings & loan, auto industry(again) to name a few..).

    I agree with this specific article and even with the general principle, which I read as being that no one should be above the law no matter their position. The tone of the quote above, however, seems as if you are painting all government workers as attention whores and blame shifters. An unfortunate overstep, in my opinion.

     

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