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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Prosecuting the Innocent: Little White Lies

In an era where the ends often are cited to justify the means, and where the rules often seem to be flexible for those with enough financial or human capital (read: having connections in high places, or damaging information on those same people), we face the issue of whether potentially entirely-innocent people should be investigated, indicted, prosecuted and imprisoned on nothing more than the say-so of purported victims or witnesses whose motives to lie may be strong and whose credibility may be lacking to begin with.

This Monday Wall Street Journal article addresses the credibility issues of the alleged rape victim in the case of former International Monetary Fund executive Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

Prosecutors -- and the press corps -- are urged to remember the fateful words of former Reagan Administration Labor Secretary Raymond Donovan, who said after being acquitted of corruption charges in the Wedtech investigation, "Which office do I go to get my reputation back?"

A habitual liar is not necessarily lying all the time.  However, witnesses who have pleaded guilty and are awaiting a favorable recommendation from prosecutors at sentencing -- the so-called 5K1.1 letter, named for the section of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines covering credit for cooperation with the government -- do have every incentive to lie, embellish, exaggerate and otherwise deceive in their account.

Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer who handles strategic analysis, complex investigations, crisis consulting, litigation stress consulting and political matters.

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