Getting a Pound of Flesh with an Acquittal

 

Here's Major General John Le Moyne promoting Robert Morris to Colonel after the acquittal. LeMoyne's thorough investigation also cleared Morris of all wrongdoing. Too bad the Dallas US Attorney didn't trust the good general.

 

I was going to let the USA Today article about Colonel Robert Morris go, but it will remain stuck in my craw until I write this. It saddens me when the adage “we accuse, you lose” becomes such a motivating factor for prosecutors and accusers.

Colonel Morris faced prosecution by civilian federal courts after a military investigation cleared him of wrongdoing. All of this occurred because the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) muckity mucks were pissed-off. They, in their infinite wisdom, believed that their perspective was more sound, intelligent, wise, and legally correct than that of Major General John LeMoyne.


Here’s what happened, in short.

  1. An anonymous tip arrives accusing Morris and others of fraud. 1999.
  2. An investigation occurs. It is a joint investigation between the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division and the Defense Logistics Agency.  It lasted the better part of 2 years.
  3. The investigation is presented to Major General (MG) LeMoyne who reads it thoroughly and concludes that Morris committed no crime. February 2001.
  4. The Defense Logistics Agency is enraged.  They take the case to US Attorney’s in Columbus, Georgia (the town outside of Fort Benning). US Attorney refuses to take the case.
  5. DLA takes the case to the Dallas, TX US Attorney. They decide to take it. Spring 2001.
  6. Dallas US Attorney obtains indictment from a grand jury.
  7. US District Court Judge Joe Kendall receives the case and immediately expresses doubts due to the obvious forum shopping.
  8. Two week trial occurs in 2002. Prosecutors call 38 witnesses. Defense calls none. A complete acquittal is returned after only 45 minutes of deliberations (by my estimation, just enough time for 12 folks to take a pee break).

Remember what I said a while ago about justice being in the eyes of the beholder? Yeah, ditto.

Even more enraging about this case are the statements from various trustworthy individuals who communicated their observations to the prosecution. USA Today sums it well with the following:

U.S. District Court Judge Joe Kendall in Dallas voiced doubts about the case. He said it looked as if investigators had shopped it to prosecutors in several jurisdictions. Getting a guilty verdict from a Texas jury could be hard, he warned, and prosecuting Morris could be a mistake. The prosecutors went forward, and Kendall granted a defense motion to transfer the case to Georgia for trial.

Le Moyne also tried to head off the August 2002 trial. He reminded prosecutors the Army had exhaustively investigated Morris. In a letter to an Army officer panel, Le Moyne said he had met with the prosecutor, AssistantU.S. Attorney Candina Heath, and told her “she would lose … and be embarrassed in the process.” In a separate memo sent to prosecutors before trial, Le Moyne wrote that Morris had made an “error in judgment” that “did not rise to the level of a criminal offense.” It concluded: “Bob Morris is not a crook!”

During a nearly two-week trial, the prosecution called 38 witnesses. The defense called none. The jury acquitted Morris in 45 minutes, a “lightning fast” verdict that U.S. District Court Judge Clay Land tied to the government’s “woefully inadequate presentation.”

Seriously, how on earth could anyone think that prosecution was a good idea? Hand it to MG LeMoyne. He called this one. Too bad the US Attorneys regarded him as an idiot in a uniform.

Here’s the real rub: the DLA won. They did. I hope they are extremely proud of themselves.

How on earth did they win? You might ask this considering that an acquittal is a huge feather for the defense’s cap. It has to do with punishment. Even with the acquittal, Robert Morris was punished. Lets count the ways.

  • He faced the meatgrinder of justice. You think your job is stressful, or the crying baby, or a couple of thousand dollars of credit card debt? Try facing federal prosecution when you know you did nothing wrong. This weighed on him every day for several years. If he is not on psych medications, ulcer treatments, and huge amounts of Immodium AD, I’d be shocked. Facing prosecution is a meatgrinder. Bar none.
  • Morris’ career is done. Whatever hopes he had of earning the stars of a General are now kaput.
  • $$$. Morris did the right thing. He hired the best military/federal defense attorney possible, Jack Zimmerman. I watched Jack in two trials at Ft. Polk, Louisiana. Both times, his clients were acquitted of the most significant charges. Watching Jack is like watching a masterpiece being painted. Jack has defended cases since I was 10 years old. At the same time, he is in extremely high demand, and his costs reflect that. As a result, Morris’ legal bills were nearly $250,000, a cost he could not afford alone. So, his parents mortgaged their house to assist him. This leads to my third point.
  • The meatgrinder of justice isn’t just about the accused, it chops-up the family too. Can we put a price upon the effect this had upon his wife, children, mother, father, extended family? Try and put a price on this, and I’ll bet it exceeds Jack Zimmerman’s fee.

The USA Today article used Morris’ case and others to make a point about the Hyde Amendment which is designed to make whole those individuals who are wrongfully prosecuted. It didn’t work for Morris. Not at all.

My point, on the other hand, is to look at this from a perspective of “justice.”

Think about these individuals/entities and whether the definition of justice is the same between each of them.

  • Defense Logistics Agency
  • Major General LeMoyne (and his ample legal advisors/staff and military prosecutors)
  • Columbus, GA US Attorneys
  • Dallas, TX US Attorneys
  • Every judge who worked the case (after indictment)

Are they the same? I don’t think so.

Justice?

It’s completely in the eye of the beholder.

He faced punishment despite the fact that he was never found guilty–all because of the deep pockets we’ve provided to some parts of the federal bureaucracy through our tax dollars.

If you are of the opinion that Morris is innocent, then you are on the losing side. Sorry, kiddo.

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