“The federal government did this right after the final days of the political calendar,” Brooklyn Conservative Party Chairman Jerry Kassar told the New York Post. “It’s politically motivated.”
“There’s no question about that whatsoever,” Guy Molianri, a former Congressman and Staten Island Borough President, told the Staten Island Advance. “You have the IRS out to get conservative Republicans,” Molinari said. “So here we go. It’s awful what they’re doing to this young man. It’s just pathetic.”
In the wake of the charges against Congressman Michael Grimm, indictments of prominent figures are again being suspected as a pretext for a political or personal agenda.
But it’s not just the Congressman’s case: prosecutions across the political and cultural spectrum are dogged by similar accusations.
Stanley L. Cohen is a criminal defense lawyer with radical left-wing leanings. He has defended all number of subversives, from East Village squatters to Osama bin Laden’s son. His often incendiary rhetoric has earned him labels like “the terrorists’ lawyer,” and worse. But he soldiered on, unapologetic, until the charges came late last year.
“After 31 years of practicing law in defense of the disenfranchised and getting in the face of governments everywhere,” said a colleague, Sarah K. Hogarth, “the U.S. government finally resorted to coming after [him] with tax-related charges.”
Having pled guilty, Cohen will spend 18 months in prison. He also expects to lose his law license.
On the political right, Dinesh D’Souza is a political commentator, author, and filmmaker associated with a number of conservative organizations and publications. His documentary 2016: Obama’s America provoked vitriol from Democrats and was panned by critics, but was well received among conservative viewers.
In January, the U.S. Attorneys Office indicted D’Souza for alleged violation of campaign finance laws. The indictment so incensed several Republican Senators that they took the unusual step of writing to the FBI, inquiring as to the process by which D’Souza’s supposed improprieties surfaced out of what was claimed to be a “routine review.”
“I can’t help but think that [D’Souza’s] politics have something to do with it,” said Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz. “It smacks of selective prosecution.”
“Mr. D’Souza’s real crime, the only offense that really matters in Washington these days, is being an Obama critic,” said Andrew C. McCarthy, a conservative blogger.
Some operatives see a similar hand, far from “routine,” at work with respect to Congressman Grimm.
“What’s suspect, to me, is the timing,” said Louis M. Gelormino, a criminal defense attorney in Staten Island. “They’re investigating [Grimm] for two years and then they bring the indictment fourteen days after it’s impossible for the party to run anyone else for the office.”
For Gelormino, it’s less a question of innocence or guilt than avoiding a prosecutorial system that lends itself to arbitrariness and abuse.
“I’m not saying anyone is necessarily innocent, but there’s no system of supervision, no one checking, no one watching the watchers,” he explained. “There’s probably thousands of restaurants where these charges could have been brought. There’s no one looking at this and deciding whether a prosecution is arbitrary, or based on other motives, or how the public’s resources in pursuing these matters could be more judiciously spent.”
This article is part of a series. Related articles appear below.
A synopsis of the indictment, its ramifications, the political fallout and polarized reaction (largely along party lines).
They work for five dollars an hour, with frequent requests to stay late, or perform additional tasks. Their tips are often stolen and their wages can go unpaid. For those in the restaurant industry’s shadow economy—catering, busing, cooking and delivery— the story of the workers who brought a civil suit against Michael Grimm is all too common.
Michael Faillace represented the “Healthalicious” workers in a civil lawsuit. He is colorfully combative and unrepentant in his disgust for most restaurant owners, along with the opposing attorneys they retain. But he actually feels bad for the indicted congressman, who he believes was targeted as a “big cheese,” while abuses remain rampant. He is also fond of the use of expletives.
The initial, unsuccessful investigation of the congressman lasted two years and centered on suspicious funding for his 2010 election campaign. Many of Grimm’s business associates and other contacts were pursued during this time, often booked on separate but related charges, and pressured to testify against him. It appears few of them did.
It’s not just the Congressman’s case that’s suspect: prosecutions across the political and cultural spectrum are dogged by similar accusations.
Morghan Richardson, Esq., a criminal defense and divorce attorney, analyzes the charges. Despite the likely ubiquity of the activities alleged in the restaurant industry, the claim that the congressman maintained two sets of records was enough for prosecutors to confidently move forward.
For those presently or formerly in the crosshairs, indictments are seen as a pre-text for a political agenda. Jen Gatien recalls how one case after another was pursued to literally run her father–a prominent owner of several Manhattan nightclubs–out of town.