Mark Steyn is a delightful writer whose continuous blog posts from the trial of Conrad Black and his co-defendants were must-read material for me for the last several month. I had to be careful each day not to be eating or drinking while reading Steyn’s dispatches, lest my sustenance do a sudden U-turn and come back through my nostrils.
As Steyn points out in his Maclean’s manifesto on Chicago’s biggest miscarriage since the 1960 election, there wasn’t anything funny about the trial’s outcome. But it does help to explain why defendants so routinely cop a plea: it’s like a really high-stakes game of “Deal or No Deal?” As Steyn puts it:
Lord Black of Crossharbour is now a convicted felon. And those of us who believe he’s innocent of any crime have to acknowledge that reality. Whether the felon himself does is another matter. In the 48 hours after the verdict, he sent multiple emails to friends and members of the media: “This war has gone on for nearly four years and the original allegations have been worn down to a fraction of where they started,” he wrote. Of the 13 charges against him, he was found not guilty of nine. “We got rid of most of them,” he said, “and expect to get rid of the rest on appeal.”
And if this was a soccer match he’d be right: Crossharbour 9, Northern District of Illinois 4. A cracking victory.
But it’s not soccer. With multiple counts attracting long jail sentences and severe financial penalties, the government only needs to put one ball in the back of the net to ruin your life.
Lord Black had originally been accused of fleecing shareholders of $400 million; in being acquitted on 9 of 13 charges, he finally was found guilty of diverting less that 1/100th of that amount.
The old saw says those who love the law and sausage shouldn’t watch either being made; seeing Chicago’s federal prosecutors put away Black & Co. wasn’t particularly appetizing, either.
Do yourself a favor and read Steyn’s whole article. You will not see finer writing this year.