Innocent Until Investigated…

In this town, you’re innocent until investigated ~ Christopher Plummer to George Clooney in Syriana

imageI listen to people (endlessly) talk about ‘Deflategate’ and I realise they have no conception of what an investigation is. They hear ‘investigation’ and immediately conjure up a team of unbiased, dedicated sleuths doggedly following leads, discarding the bad, following the good, rewriting the narrative of the crime to fit the clues until they find the one-true-absolute answer.

This does not happen – if you stop to think about it for a second or two you’d realize it can’t happen – in the real world because if it did about one crime a year would get ‘solved.’

I blame Law & Order (all versions). Everyone, from the cops to Sam Waterston, and everyone in-between are adamant on getting the ‘right guy’, they plea bargain only to insure that a guilty person they may not be able to convict is taken off the streets.

They can do this because everyone in the show is working on exactly one case at a time.

In the real world, when someone is suspected of something they are targeted with white-hot intensity and tunnel vision. After all, a suspect is a suspect for a reason. It takes something earthshaking to remove that suspicion.

That something earthshaking is never – never – going to come from personal testimony. To paraphrase Graham Greene, it’s impossible to explain anything to anyone with power. Especially when they are hardly predisposed to believe you, a suspect. They will listen, they will interrogate, they will spin the answers to meet the narrative. Hence a replaced cell phone becomes ‘destroyed.’

This is why any still-breathing criminal defense attorney will tell you to never submit to voluntary questioning.  Never. Because there is no way to answer the question: “Mr. Brady, when did you stop beating your wife with deflated footballs?” when the guy asking it is picturing the act in his head.

I talked to an investigator once. Once. I didn’t have an attorney –Capture that’s not quite accurate, I had an attorney, I just didn’t have the $15,000 he wanted to start – which removed the ‘sorry, love to talk to you but my lawyer won’t let me,” easy out and left me with the unenviable option of refuse the interview and look even guiltier or open my mouth and make it worse.

By all accounts I did alright, not that it really mattered in the long run. Chunks of the ‘interview’ have stayed with me these last ten years, one thing in particular just plain festers:

The detective was pleasant enough, until he asked me about a case I defended on behalf of the clients who had gone a long, long way toward putting me in the damn chair in the first place.

“How could you defend them?” Came out of nowhere and with real vehemence.

“Because the suit was meritless,” my very meek answer.

He waved the complaint at me with real malice, “You remember this lawyer’s affidavit?”

“The guy bringing the suit?”

“Who else? Yeah the lawyer from Florida, you remember his affidavit?”

“Sure do.”


“He lied.”

“Why would he lie?”

“To win the suit.”

“Well, he makes some real bad accusations at your clients, how could you continue to represent them after readin’ this kinda shit?”

“Because, he lied.”

“So you say.”

“So the court agreed, the case was dismissed.”

“Doesn’t mean anything.”

“Means the court agreed he had no case, as did his lawyers, ’cause they withdrew right away.”

“Still doesn’t explain Gowing’s accusations,” he would not let up, just got increasingly angrier, almost threatening me with the rolled up complaint (I kept picturing him resorting to ‘bad lawyer, bad’). His reasoning – if a South Florida based securities attorney filed a lawsuit, it must be true, regardless of its final disposition.

I had nowhere to go with that kind of logic thrown, literally, in my face, weathered this for a good fifteen imageminutes until he calmed down and moved on to something else.

So, talk about tunnel vision. The detective was intent on hammering me with the affidavit, but had no interest on checking it out. Had he done so, he may very well have stumbled upon what the FBI did a year or so later – a massive scam, international in scope.

I didn’t find out about it, for obvious reasons, for four, five years, but the lawyer in question was running a serious Ponzi scheme and a variation on the Nigerian oil scam, took in tens of millions over ten years or so. Gowing was arrested about two years after my interview, he will be released from federal prison in August, 2028.

Briscoe and Logan would have figured it out.


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