Home / General / The “people aren’t perfect, he made a mistake” theory of criminal law

The “people aren’t perfect, he made a mistake” theory of criminal law

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AKA the “hasn’t he suffered enough?” defense, ably articulated this morning by California’s senior senator:

A top Senate Democrat defended David Petraeus on Sunday, saying the Justice Department erred in recommending charges against the former top Army general and Central Intelligence Agency director.

“This man has suffered enough in my view,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the former Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman, told Gloria Borger, CNN chief political analyst on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Her comments come after news that the Justice Department is recommending charges against Petraeus, first reported by The New York Times.

Feinstein called Petraeus, who led U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan under President George W. Bush and later President Barack Obama, “the four-star general of our generation” and “a very brilliant man.”

She said Petraeus’ affair with Paula Broadwell, his biographer, and his allowing her access to some classified government documents while she was with him was a mistake — but not one for which he should face criminal charges.

“It’s done, it’s over. He’s retired. He’s lost his job,” Feinstein said. “I mean, how much does government want?”

Her comments came on the heels of similar criticism by Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who called the investigation “grievously mishandled.”

Note: Defense not applicable in all cases.*

*Use this easy test to check whether you’re eligible to have your advocates employ this line of argument in the offices of the executive branch and the courts of public opinion:

If you passed classified information to your mistress, how many senators would appear on Sunday morning talk shows to talk about what a great person you are?

(a) Zero.

Stop. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $2,000,000 from Kohlberg Kravis Roberts.

(b) One.

Defense may be applicable in your case. Consult the editorial board of the Washington Post for further guidance.

(c) Two or more, at least one of which is from each major party.

Congratulations, you are a Genuine American Hero(tm), and as such outside the jurisdiction of federal criminal law. Please be sure to collect your Augusta National Golf Club membership and other complimentary gifts at the door.

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  • rea

    I think the appropriate model is John Profumo, the British Defense Minister who was forced to resign due to a sex scandal with national security implications. According to Wikipedeia:

    After his resignation, Profumo began to work as a volunteer cleaning toilets at Toynbee Hall, a charity based in the East End of London, and continued to work there for the rest of his life.

  • Nobdy

    I’m no CIA agent, but I’d think “Don’t give your email to anyone outside the CIA unless it’s a senate intelligence investigation or something” would be pretty much CIA secret keeping 101.

    Shouldn’t leaders be held to a higher standard, not a much much lower one than everyone else?

    Kid gets caught selling pot, we’re totally willing to flush his future down the drain, but head of the freaking CIA turns state secrets over to his girlfriend and he gets to resign and go make his millions?

    I realize that there’s an oligarchy but are we now having sitting DEMOCRATIC senators just openly saying that different classes of people deserve different classes of punishment and that the law should not apply to the powerful and connected? Is that where we’re at rhetorically?

    Petraeus sought out positions of great power and responsibility and then he abdicated that responsibility to go have a sordid affair. If that doesn’t deserve jail time then pretty much nothing short of physical assault does. And yet our jails are full of nonviolent offenders.

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      i bet you’d have a hell of a time getting petraeus to give his e mail to a senate intelligence investigation

      • That’s only fair. You’d have a hard time getting him to have sex with a senate committee.

        • Derelict

          Oh, I don’t know. Seems like he pretty much fucked them over, too.

          • That “over” makes all the difference in the world.

    • mikeSchilling

      C’mon, I’ll bet Michael Westen shared secrets with Fiona all the time,

      • cpinva

        probably so, but he was burned by the CIA, so no love lost there. except, for some weird reason, he wanted back in.

    • ColBatGuano

      we now having sitting DEMOCRATIC senators

      No, we have Dianne Feinstein making that argument.

      • advocatethis

        I guess this is where I offer up my occasional apology on behalf of California Democrats for foisting DiFi on the nation.

  • c u n d gulag

    And if he does get prosecuted, what’s the take-away?

    That if you pass classified information while ‘pillow-talking’ with your biographer/mistress, it’s NOT A-OK!

    You’ll be charged and face a trial.

    But if you torture people – directly or indirectly – or send them to other countries to be tortured, that IS
    A-OK?

    Have your agent call the Sunday yakkity-yak fests, for appearances.
    Oh, and since you’re “hot” again, get a higher fee!

    Nice “catch” there, whatever you want to call that evil fucking “catch…”

    • c u n d gulag

      I wanted to bold the words “not” and “is,” and instead, a lot of other words got bolded/embolded?

      Note to self:
      Don’t use bold on this or any other site.
      Smart people will put their own emphasis on your stupid word-turds if they want to.

      • Ann Outhouse

        Stick to your COMFORT ZONE! UPPER CASE! YEAH!

        • c u n d gulag

          You’re right!

          I AM THE KING OF THE UPPER CASE!!!!!

          Too bad I’m not the King of the upper caste… :’-(

          • Lee Rudolph

            :’-(

            “You’ve got a mote in your eye,” Tom said, beaming.

          • You are the Magus of majuscule.

          • Come to think of it, if typeface titles are a thing, dibs on “Papal Uncial”.

            • efgoldman

              Come to think of it, if typeface titles are a thing, dibs on “Papal Uncial”.

              I never took Latin. Does that mean “the Pope has an uncle” or “the Pope is an uncle”?

    • Raven667

      I guess sexual scandal is the only kind of malfeasance anyone actually cares about because it’s the only one which seems to have consequence.

      I’m sure that many powerful people have grotesque sexual appetites that their positions allow them to fill, who did Patraeus piss off in the first place that the FBI went after him rather than burying the investigation like any of the others where real malfeasance was involved? Could they not get some sort of concession from Patreaus’ office to head this off, was he unwilling to kiss the ring of the FBI director?

  • Malaclypse

    I’m confused — my google isn’t turning up a single case where DiFi says Chelsea Manning has obviously suffered enough. I mean, there’s no fucking way anybody could be enough of a hypocrite to defend The Man Called Petraeus, yet not defend Manning, right?

    • cpinva

      ” I mean, there’s no fucking way anybody could be enough of a hypocrite to defend The Man Called Petraeus, yet not defend Manning, right?”

      no, no there isn’t. when’s the last time you had your google machine tuned or even just re-calibrated? if it’s been a while, that may well be your problem. of course, if it turns out that it needs extensive repairs, you might want to consider just getting a new one.

  • Ann Outhouse

    Silly Campos. White people make mistakes. Black people commit crimes. Unless they’re NFL players.

    • Aimai

      This is true. Its also true that our society, for the most part, imagines that people suffer more when they have a high social position to lose, an important job, or wealth. The suffering of poor people, unemployed people, people who don’t matter socially (are not famous) is considered to be lesser because it is in proportion to what they are imagined to be losing. Nothing to lose? No suffering. Lower class people, people without important social connections or names, are also considered not to be “suffering” when they lose their privacy or have their names dragged through the mud. There’s an implicit monetary and social value assigned to everything in this society, even pain and suffering and embarrassment.

      • Paul Campos

        There’s a quote in Douglas Hay’s essay “Property, Authority, and the Criminal Law” from some 18th century apologist for the black laws, who is struck by the injustice of the fact that the only thing that can be taken from some “wretch” for murdering a young nobleman is the former’s life, which is obviously of so little value in comparison to what the criminal took.

      • See also the idea that one sign of inferiority is “toughness.”

        The dumb black (or poor) brutes can tolerate things that would destroy the delicate and refined Homo Pallidus.

        How do we know? Well, look – We beat them and deprive them and throw them in jail for long stretches and they survive.

        As soon as we get some wealthy whites to volunteer to undergo the same treatment, we’ll prove that they can’t take it.

      • I imagine (probably romanticizing) there was a time when fear of embarrassment was an effective deterrent for people in high position. (Not that capital punishment was for poor bread thieves.) The self-punishment of Profumo cited above sounds just perfect, and I’ll bet it made him a better person.

        • runsinbackground

          Certainly beats spending the rest of your life in HM Prison Woodhill.

  • dp

    It is simply revolting.

  • sleepyirv

    “It was worse than a crime, it was a mistake.” – Charles Maurice de Talleyrand.

  • cpinva

    c’mon guys, be fair. the general & the senators/reps all attend the same cocktail parties (the ones with the best shrimp!), at all the finest Georgetown salons. they’re all buddy-buddy. you can’t really expect them to support something as obviously gauche as indicting their friend, can you? granted, he had an affair. he’s admitted to it, and allowed as how it was kind of a tawdry thing to do. he’s been embarrassed in public, what more do you want from the man?

  • cpinva

    “Please be sure to collect your Augusta National Golf Club membership and other complimentary gifts at the door.”

    you neglected to mention the lovely home version of the game, always important for any tv game show.

  • cpinva

    Washington, D.C. was envisioned as a city of transients. congresspersons and the president would come there to serve out their terms in office, then go back to wherever it was they had originally come from. there would be a very small permanent populace, who’s jobs were mainly serving the personal needs of congress, the white house and the supreme court. it would never be big enough to be a state, and its only real business would be the federal gov’t.

    I wonder, if the people that pushed for this, could see what’s become of it, would they change their minds?

  • Andrew

    Eh, let’s be honest here, we very rarely destroy a kid’s future over a little pot. If an arrest is made (which even when the war on drugs was in full swing was not certain), and you’re not talking about enormous quantities, a first sentence would almost certainly be probation. It’s the same for a lot of low-level crimes; petit larceny, assault, etc. — you are generally treated fairly gently until you start to build up a history of crime and start looking like a career criminal.

    My point is let’s not assume that just because someone with political connections avoids harsh punishment it must only be because of those connections.

    If a non-powerful, lower-ranking officer was caught passing classified documents to his mistress, would he necessarily be imprisoned? Honestly, I don’t know but if (like it appears in this case) the receiver was a military officer with a security clearance, did not disseminate those documents, and national security didn’t suffer, then I could easily see no jail time. Losing his position, dishonorable discharge, being fired, maybe probation or something, but not necessarily jail time.

    • Murc

      If an arrest is made (which even when the war on drugs was in full swing was not certain), and you’re not talking about enormous quantities, a first sentence would almost certainly be probation.

      And a criminal record for a drug bust, which will render you completely ineligible for many kinds of jobs for many, many years. That sort of thing is a death sentence when they run your background during pre-employment screening.

    • Aimai

      Its not true that kids’ futures aren’t destroyed over pot. That’s simply wrong. Not only do people get records for very low level offenses but fines can be basically unpayable or cause other kinds of harms to people who are financially on the fringes. Mercy is very seldom shown or, if shown, doesn’t make up for the thousands of times no mercy is shown or the arrest and court case have already affected someone’s job and family life.

      In addition: if mercy is going to start to be shown it should not start at the top, but rather at the bottom, of the social scale.

    • Two things – Thanks to the War on Drugs and minimum mandatory sentencing, plenty of kids have had their lives ruined for small amounts of pot.

      (Of course, the color of the kid’s skin and whether he can afford a decent attorney will play a role in how gentle the system is with him.)

      Also, we’re talking about whether or not charges will be brought against Petraeus. That’s a long way from jail.

      • cpinva

        “(Of course, the color of the kid’s skin and whether he can afford a decent attorney will play a role in how gentle the system is with him.)”

        this is provable by the FBI’s very own statistics.

        • The FBI is the abode of histrionic SJWs dontcherknowa?

    • Origami Isopod

      Eh, let’s be honest here, we very rarely destroy a white middle-class kid’s future over a little pot.

      Fixed.

      JFC, are you sheltered. Or dishonest.

      • Andrew

        Nah, just familiar with how the criminal justice system actually works in practice, not an internet social justice warrior with histrionic tendencies. And before I get the typical OMG SO YOU’RE SAYING THERE’S NO RACISM IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM, no, that’s not what I’m saying. What I am saying is a first-time misdemeanor pot possession is likely not going to lead to a jail sentence, even for a poor black kid.

        • Aimai

          Jail sentences aren’t the only issue, though. Even being arrested varies tremendously by race and class and having some kind of punishment or record made of the arrest also varies by race and class. So: yes, people have their lives ruined and jobs denied them for very small offenses including being caught smoking or holding amounts that for other people at other times and places might be winked at.

          • Lee Rudolph

            Just another typical internet social justice warrior with histrionic tendencies, that’s you.

        • JMP

          Social justice warrior! I think that’s the first time I’ve seen that used by someone who wasn’t advocating for MRAs or the gamergate bullshit. It is, however, still a good indicator that the person using it is an asshole who has nothing to say worth listening to.

          Also, I prefer the caster classes, so I’m a Social Justice Conjuror.

          • Andrew

            Of course! I’m part of Gamergate! And an MRA! Because I used a term that predates both.

        • cpinva

          “What I am saying is a first-time misdemeanor pot possession is likely not going to lead to a jail sentence, even for a poor black kid.”

          ok, now you’re either being intentionally stupid, or obtuse, take your pick. a jail sentence, horrible as it is, is secondary to the fact of arrest. most first timers, with minor amounts, do get probation, especially if they are pleasantly heartlandishly hued. however, the still have an arrest record, for drugs, which renders their lives permanently fucked.

          • Andrew

            We’re talking about “kids”; juvenile records can be expunged. In some states they are automatically expunged.

        • witlesschum

          Has anyone who’s not a real piece of shit ever used the phrase “social justice warrior”? Asking for a friend.

          • Yeah; to contrast with the real pieces of shit who popularised the term. In its own very limited way it’s becoming like reclaiming other slurs.

            Which isn’t to say it’s not more frequently used by real pieces of shit.

            -Tucker, Social Justice GM

          • Origami Isopod

            Yes. It originated to describe the sorts of people nominally into social justice who doxx others, police the use of words like “stupid,” think the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists deserved it, etc. etc. That usage has declined sharply in response to the Goobergaters and in response to garden-variety racist/misogynist morons who use it, like Andrew up there.

        • …just familiar with how the criminal justice system actually works in on The Practice, I’ve watched every episode twice.

          Fixed.

        • Origami Isopod

          not an internet social justice warrior with histrionic tendencies.

          Thanks for confirming my suspicions, bruh.

          • Malaclypse

            Look, he was careful to use a thesaurus and not use “hysterical.” Is that not enough for you?

    • ColBatGuano

      It’s the same for a lot of low-level crimes; petit larceny, assault, etc. — you are generally treated fairly gently until you start to build up a history of crime and start looking like a career criminal.

      You should visit the U.S. sometime to really see how the Justice system works.

      • Ahuitzotl

        You should visit the U.S. sometime to really see how the Justice system works.

  • howard

    How has he suffered at all?

    • Paul Campos

      Did you miss the part about losing his job?

      “Some” might argue that getting paid millions by an investment bank for a do-nothing sinecure may have softened that blow, but this isn’t just about money.

      • Hogan

        Did you miss the part about losing his job?

        Interesting gloss on “retirement” there.

        • efgoldman

          Interesting gloss on “retirement” there.

          The poor dear’s retirement pay- not affected by any other income – started at about $95k per, increasing to a quarter mil or more over time.

    • He was disrespected by proles.

      • CD

        That’s exactly it. He has been held up for public mockery by his inferiors. If you’re not one of the exalted you can’t even begin to comprehend the anguish.

  • CrunchyFrog

    “This man has suffered enough in my view,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California

    None of them, including Feinstein, has suffered 1 billionth of what they deserve for the misery, pain and suffering that they have knowingly caused by actions that thoroughly enriched themselves and their buddies.

    Seems to me that what these people do is the textbook definition of evil.

    • Mike G

      Since his resignation from the C.I.A. on Nov. 10, 2012, Mr. Petraeus has divided his time between teaching, making lucrative speeches and working as a partner in one of the world’s largest private-equity firms, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts.

      Yes, clearly Petraeus has “suffered enough”.

      It’s the Village double standard, where they are precious little buttercups who deserve coddling and second chances because they are So Very Special, while it’s the steel-fist Security State for the little people. The only person in jail for America’s torture program is the guy who blew the whistle on it, and a kid is hounded to suicide by federal prosecutors for downloading some journal articles. Fuck them all with a rusty chainsaw.

  • Mudge

    Then again, such suffering, this:

    http://www.salon.com/2013/07/02/david_petraeus_paid_a_lot_of_money_for_being_david_petraeus/

    Note that Pareene says “Unless he goes to jail”..

    and this:

    http://www.neontommy.com/news/2013/11/price-political-speakers

    David Petraeus: $100,000-$150,000

    The former CIA director, highly-decorated General and current university professor commands between $100,000-$150,000 for his speeches on the Middle East, terrorism and national security.

    • current university professor

      Ha!

      Ha! I say again.

      • Lee Rudolph

        Okay, I’m convinced. He’s suffered enough.

      • redrob

        Oh, what sad times are these when passing ruffians can say “Ha!” at will to old ladies retired four-star generals who landed in multimillion dollar sinecures after getting caught in affairs and passing documents to their paramours. There is a pestilence upon this land, nothing is sacred.

    • That is unpossible, for

      Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, wrote to Mr. Holder last month that the investigation had deprived the nation of wisdom from one of its most experienced leaders.

  • stryx

    Seriously Campos you’re being too hard on the poor General. I mean it’s not like he tried to download a bunch of journal articles. Now that’s a crime that deserves a long federal prison sentence.

  • Buckeye623

    I wonder how much Feinstein is being paid to say this.

    To be fair, it’s hard to clearly define if it’s a kickback for the F-35 or a kickback for Petraeus.

    • John Revolta

      Pffft. That one, of all people, doesn’t need the money.

      Though I think I would actually be LESS disgusted if I thought that was why she said it.

    • Alan Tomlinson

      If I had a satire magazine in the vein of Charlie Hebdo, I’d have a cartoon of Petraeus on his knees giving head to McCain and Feinstein while the two of them say that Petraeus has suffered enough.

      Too bad I don’t have a satire magazine.

      Cheers,

      Alan Tomlinson

    • witlesschum

      That’s the thing, I don’t think you even have to pay her to say shit like this.

  • joe from Lowell

    Feinstein called Petraeus, who led U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan under President George W. Bush and later President Barack Obama, “the four-star general of our generation”

    So it’s a Peters Principle type of situation: that guy is one heck of a four-star general; let’s give him a bump.

  • thebewilderness

    It seems a bizarre view to me that removing him from the position of power he was abusing is a punishment for abusing that power.

    • Aimai

      Lets all remember John Deutch as well.. Important people abusing their security clearances and potentially exposing information to the wrong eyes is nothing new. Punishing them for it, however, is very seldom done unless they have enemies strong enough to do it.

      • There was the suggestion going around that if Obama officially pardoned the architects of the Bush / Cheney torture program, this would leave their reputations branded with the declaration of guilt. Did that work for Deutch? Is he generally regarded as guilty?

        • Lee Rudolph

          My god, man. He was a Provost! Of course he’s generally regarded as guilty!

  • Reynard

    I applauded her tenacity on getting the intel report out but, really, she’s quite a bit past her sell-by date (And I’ve voted for her every time she’s run for the Senate. Seems like over half my life. May well have been…).

  • My guess as to why so many of our august congress critters are rushing to his defense, is they don’t want to risk Petraus singing like a canary. He’s had top secret clearance longer than freshmen congressmen have been eating solid food. He’s been neck deep in military and intellgence operations for decades. I think that congress fears that he might do something rash with all of that secret info if he were to feel threatened.

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  • Fred

    Ah, The law, in its majestic equality, which forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread, but apparently not to when it comes to giving classified documents to one’s mistress.

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