As every regular reader knows, Norm Pattis has been following the trial of Geoffrey Fieger with some intensity. One of the themes has been that the government is sending a message to Fieger, and those like Fieger, that nobody stands tall enough to mess with the government.
Just so we’re clear, Geoffrey Fieger is neither a pussycat nor a poor, sad individual. He’s made a ton of money, and comes to this trial with guns a’blazing. He’s got Gerry Spence on his side, and you can’t get much larger than life than Gerry Spence. If you have to be a defendant, then you want to be wearing Fieger’s Gucci loafers.
The David and Goliath theme was clear. But Norm’s old partner in crime, Mike Cernowich, wasn’t buying.
I’ve been following Norm Pattis’ excellent coverage of the Geoffrey Fieger. Many of the comments to his post express this theme :
Fortunately for [the prosecutor], the government doesn’t need a verdict to win the trial. Just the fact it’s in trial is their victory; the message read loud and clear not f–k with our powerful masters as they gobble up what’s left of our country’s wealth.
I’m about to barf reading about the “David v. Goliath” theme. Fieger is a very powerful and rich man. He attempted used his wealth to get around campaign contribution laws. That’s all the case is about.
Mike may well have a particularly sensitive digestive system, but the imagery is still pretty clear (and rather unattractive, I might add).
Since when are the wealthy such underdogs?Incidentally, I’m willing to bet that if I took a poll of Fieger supporters, they’d say they agree with campaign contribution limits.They’d should to the heavens that limiting campaign contributions prevents the wealthy from having too big of a voice.
If the GM Corporation were on trial for what Fieger did, would we have this weeping and gnashing of teeth from Spence groupies? Of course not. We’d hear how great it is that the powerful are being made to follow the same laws as the powerless.
The Fieger prosecution is not a David v. Goliath story. It’s a Goliath v. Goliath story.
He’s got a point. Fieger isn’t exactly the most sympathetic of defendants. Personally, his swagger can be a bit off-putting, and nobody feels particularly sorry for the defendant who drives home from court in his new Porsche.
But the fact that Geoffrey Fieger has done pretty well for himself, having amassed a fortune as a trial lawyer, may make him the 800 pound gorilla under many circumstances. But not when he’s sitting in the defendant’s chair.
When you try criminal cases for a living, a funny thing happens to your brain. There’s a little compartment in there where you stick the piece of information that the United States government has power that is beyond anything you can imagine. They have thousands of people with guns and shields who can collect information and evidence about anyone anywhere.
The strong, wealthy and power collapse on the floor in a paroxysm of fear when a special agent knocks on their door. Doubt it? Ask Martha Stewart, Dennis Kozlowski, John Gotti and a thousand others. The high and mighty to us are nothing more than potential bowls of jello to the government.
But lawyers refuse to acknowledge this hard, cold, nasty truth. We can’t or we would be paralyzed. Instead, we see only the mano a mano fight in the courtroom, the government attorney versus us. They have all the power, but we won’t be cowed. We stand up straight and tall, face the entire might of the government, and tell them they have to go through us before they’re going to get to our client.
All of this, of course, is a shield from a certain truth. We are puny in the face of the government’s vast power. We may reject fear, but we can’t deny that the weapons available to the government dwarf those of the defense, no matter how much cash a defendant has on hand or how great a party he used to throw.
Whether Geoffrey Fieger’s bravado is a sign of boldness in the face of great power or an act to cover the potential impending destruction of his life’s work, I can’t say. But even Fieger, as wealthy and powerful as he was, is a David as he sits in the courtroom facing the Goliath.
No one goes on trial against the federal government on equal footing. Not even close. While Fieger is far better off than most defendants, and is certainly a Goliath in his own right under most circumstances, he is just an ordinary David as Judge Borman stares down at him from the bench.
I’m not saying that anybody has to feel sorry for Fieger, or believe that whatever game he was playing with donations to John Edward’s campaign was either legitimate or just a silly mistake. But I have to disagree with Mike that there is any man, woman or corporation that enters a courtroom on equal footing with the government. In America, we are all Davids to the government Goliath, and we always will be.