The Strange and Dangerous Case of the Lottery and Mr. Cahill

The states are often described, in the memorable words of Justice Louis Brandeis, as the “laboratories of democracy,” places in which new laws and practices can be tested and perfected on the local level before spreading to the rest of the nation. Unfortunately, this process can occasionally go awry, as it did with Massachusetts’ recent anti-corruption law. Modeled after the vague and excessively broad federal “honest services fraud” statute, the Massachusetts law ended up criminalizing vast swaths of ordinary political activity.

The first test case pursued by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley was a prosecution of former state Treasurer Timothy Cahill. In light of the jury’s acquittal of the co-defendant and its hung verdict in Cahill’s case, my latest column, which ran in this weekend’s Wall Street Journal, takes a look at the anti-corruption law and the alleged “criminal” activity that Cahill engaged in while making a third-party bid for governor in 2010.

You can find my column on the Wall Street Journal’s website, or, for those without a subscription to the Journal, you can find the full column after the jump.




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To the CEO of Gibson Guitar: It's Not Just a War Against Capitalism

On July 19, there appeared in the Wall Street Journal an interesting Op-Ed by Henry Juszkiewicz, the CEO of Gibson Guitar, claiming that a raid on his company’s facilities by federal agents is representative of a greater “war against capitalism.” Yet as my co-author Zachary Bloom and I argue in our latest piece for my Forbes.com blog, “Injustice Department,” Juszkiewicz’s Op-Ed suffers for being too narrow and self-focused. In reality, the raid on Gibson’s facilities is less representative of a war on capitalism than of a war on all of civil society, being waged by an out-of-control U.S. Department of Justice wielding vague laws passed by a Congress that clearly does not understand the consequences of its legislative actions, and regulations enacted by administrative agencies drunk with their own powers.

The article after the jump...


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NightSide with Dan Rea

Last Wednesday, July 18, I appeared on CBS Boston's NightSide with Dan Rea, to discuss the plight of former Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives Sal DiMasi. DiMasi was convicted in 2009 of committing "honest services fraud," a vague and dangerous law, and is currently serving an eight-year prison sentence. As I discussed in a column in the Boston Phoenix earlier this month, DiMasi's treatment at the hands of the Federal Bureau of Prisons has been unconscionable. And, in light of his recent delayed cancer diagnosis, DiMasi's treatment amounts to a type of torture, with the sole purpose of softening him up to give testimony more favorable to the government before a grand jury sitting in Worcester.

My NightSide interview is a wide-ranging discussion of the DiMasi debacle, and can be found on the CBS Boston website.
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Interview on CBS Boston, NightSide with Dan Rea


Listen to the radio interview on the CBS Boston site, in which I discuss, among other topics, the dangerous elasticity of wire fraud and mail fraud, or listen to the embedded audio after the jump.

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Wall Street Journal editorial shines light on overcriminalization, statutory vagueness


Three Felonies a Day is front-and-center in an editorial in The Wall Street Journal today, "A Fewer Felonies Rule." Underscoring the need for more common sense in the federal criminal code, the editorial praises a bipartisan effort to require all bills to be reviewed by the Judiciary Committee, after a study found that some 450 new federal laws were created from 2000-2007, many of which lacked basic mens rea requirements.

In his book "Three Felonies a Day," attorney Harvey Silverglate describes how the proliferation of criminal statutes has made every American an unwitting felon. That's one reason some prominent legal minds want House Republicans to make a simple rule change to subject new criminal laws to greater scrutiny.

Read the full editorial here.

[End of post.]

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Updates related to Harvey's
book Three Felonies a Day, a critical
take on the Justice Department

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