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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Malcolm Smith Acquitted

The second acquittal of a defendant perp-walked in the Bid Rig / Solomon Dwek investigation: former Hudson County, NJ assemblyman Malcolm Smith was found not guilty on seven counts.


This was a case where the apparently strongest evidence (that is meant both seriously and sarcastically) was Dwek throwing cash into the open window of Smith's car; Smith testified he returned the cash. 

If one can be deemed to have accepted a bribe because someone throws money into your car, then there may be few limits to what falsified, illegitimate charges can be brought...and to the danger that rogue government investigators can pose to our basic rights.

If that was the case, it raises troubling questions about basic organizational judgment -- or indicates outright bias and a dangerous inclination to "get people at any cost."  There is the possibility that the investigators (and perhaps the federal prosecutors supervising or directing them) had an attitude of "not taking 'no' for an answer." 

Some practical question for observers involved in business, political or civic affairs:  When one is liable for being criminally charged because the government informant (here, Solomon Dwek) is all but literally chasing you down the street and throwing money at you, what must you do to show you will not accept the bribe?  What must one do in order to avoid being viewed as guilty?  How high is the standard one must reach in order to demonstrate one's innocence, and to avoid being "investigated," much less charged with a trumped-up crime?


Smith's attorney Peter Willis may have been dead-on correct in calling this a set up. In other words, no bonafide crime, just some investigators looking for a "name" scalp and not taking "no" for an answer.


The eagerness of the federal authorities in pursuing this particular case -- in light of so much other rather obvious corruption and other crime -- is curious.


It has to be disturbing that, in New Jersey at least but assuredly throughout the nation, an elected official (or anyone else) can expect to be subject to a never-ending procession of "integrity tests" to see if he or she can be tricked into doing or saying something suggesting illegality...and that these tests only stop when you die, move out of the country or get thrown in jail.  

Perhaps the most dangerous thing for people -- entirely innocent people -- is to get caught in the crosshairs of someone with a badge, an unlimited budget and a roster of informants ready and willing to do anything to other people to get a reduced prison sentence. 


On the other hand, to be fair, Smith could have -- and at the age of 60 and being a state assemblyman, definitely should have been expected to have been -- much more diligent in choosing better company to employ or associate with. There are issues of judgment which people need to exercise, purely as a matter of self-interest.  A lack of judgment, either in one's individual life or in the case of companies and goverment (that is, organizational judgment), can have major and adverse consequences. 


Eric Dixon
Eric Dixon LLC
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