Victims v. Rats

Much as the arguments made by former federal judge turned avenging angel for victims, Paul Cassell, usually come at the  expense of the constitutional rights of defendants (so what, they’re all scum anyway), he may be onto something this time.  Caution: Stopped clock ahead.

Via former NYLJ writer Dan Wise, Cassell rips the secret deal given long term snitch Felix Sater:

Sater’s 2009 guilty plea remained under seal until mid-March when Eastern District Judge I. Leo Glasser, who presided over Sater’s criminal case, ordered it to be made public.

The newly available plea made indisputable what was already widely known. Sater had been rewarded for his 11 years of cooperation with a lenient sentence—five years probation and a $25,000 fine. More significantly for Cassell, the sentence made no reference to restitution.

Restitution for what, you ask?  Only a $40 million stock swindle in 1998.

In written testimony delivered to a unit of the House Judiciary Committee, former U.S. Judge Paul G. Cassell, a professor at the University of Utah Law School, cited the Eastern District’s handling of cooperator Felix Sater’s guilty plea to having committed a $40 million stock swindle in 1998 as a prime example of why the enactment of a constitutional amendment protecting victims’ rights is necessary.

“Sadly,” he wrote, it is “my conclusion” that the Eastern District’s handling of the case, and judge’s granting of its request to shroud the plea in secrecy, “is hindering the public and this Subcommittee from learning how crime victims were treated in this case.”

But Cassell being, well, Cassell, this fairly obvious abuse of the system to benefit a government snitch is used to promote the bizarrely unrelated call for a constitutional amendment to “protect victims’ rights.”  You can bet that Cassell’s idea isn’t limited to only those defendants who sign on to become rats.

What happened in Sater’s sentence is hardly an example of the system at work, but rather the prosecution rewarding a particularly useful snitch for the “cooperation” he provided.  While most cooperators get negligible benefit, a rare few (like Sammy the Bull) get away with murder.  As it turns out, the government gets this weird myopia toward heinous crimes when the miscreant becomes their newest, bestest friend.  Suddenly, crimes worthy of death don’t seem nearly as horrible as they were the day before. It’s a miracle.

And when it comes to Sater, Cassell is right (wow, never thought I would write those words).  His $40 million swindle left a huge wake that the government apparently decided was okey-dokey with them.  But that’s not all. Oh, no. It gets worse.

The secrecy surrounding the Sater’s plea had been hotly contested by Long Island lawyer Frederick M. Oberlander, who in 2010 filed a derivative action in the Southern District of New York, claiming that Sater had used the secrecy afforded by the court’s secrecy regimen to perpetuate a $500 million real estate fraud.

Therein lies one of the great joys of being a world-class rat, gaining the love and devotion of an appreciative government for the gifts you’ve given.  If a $40 million scam wasn’t bad enough, add another $500 million to the mix.  Not bad money if you don’t mind being the government’s best friend.

So Cassell is quite right when he speaks to how the snitch-industrial complex allowed Sater to conceal his plea, evade the law’s requirement that restitution be imposed, and deprive the victims of his financial crime their hope of restitution.  And as it happened, the money Sater took has to be somewhere, though that somewhere isn’t in the hands of his victims.

But to bootstrap the problem of government cooperation and concealment into a plea for a general constitutional right for victims is where Cassell returns to his roots and abandons all reason.  Much as the forces of safety-first use the Boston Bombing to exempt anything connected with the T-word from anything connected to the C-word, Cassell conflates the abuse of government cooperation heaped upon victims with abusing criminal defendants by undermining their constitutional rights.  Do it for the victims.

And just to close the loop, the United States Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York had this to say about the Sater deal:

Robert Nardozo, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said it would have no comment.

Of course not. If we don’t keep this stuff secret, how will they ever recruit enough rats to maintain a successful criminal justice system?