The jury has spoken in the trial of Kwame Kilpatrick, the former mayor of Detroit and rising political star. He was recently found guilty on 24 charges related to corruption and contract steering and could face substantial time in prison. The 42-year-old former chief executive of the Motor City was convicted March 11 of “racketeering conspiracy, which carries a maximum punishment of 20 years behind bars,” AP reported.
The conviction of such a promising young man is disheartening and all leaders must have a level of commitment and character which puts the peoples’ interests first and their personal interests second.
But at the same time, it once again appears that Black officials when suspected of wrongdoing or accused of wrongdoing are singled out for special sanction. Meanwhile bigger federal fish, whose crimes have wide impact, are not getting fried–or even snagged by a government legal hook.
Take those who orchestrated the Wall St. and housing debacle, which nearly wrecked the economy and helped wipe out three decades of wealth accumulation by Blacks. Like most Americans, Black wealth was tied to equity in their homes and when the housing market folded like a deck of cards, the wealth evaporated. So today average Black wealth stands at about $28,500 and average White wealth is $265,000, according to a study by Brandeis University.
Late last month, Senators Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, and Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder about the government’s failure to prosecute “certain Wall Street megabanks.”
“Wall Street megabanks aren’t just too big to fail, they’re increasingly too big to jail,” Sen. Brown said. The megabanks “may also enjoy some impunity when they violate the law by laundering money or illegally foreclosing on homeowners. Wall Street should pay the full price of its wrongdoing, not pass the costs along to taxpayers,” he added.
“The best deterrent to crime is to put people in prison,” Sen. Grassley argued. “That includes those at powerful banks and corporations. Unfortunately, we’ve seen little willingness to charge these individuals criminally. The public deserves an explanation of how the Justice Department arrives at these decisions.”
Attorney General Eric Holder testified March 6 at a Senate that Justice Department officials considered what damage going after major bankers could do to the U.S. and world economy when considering whether to charge anyone. He insisted his department’s efforts were sufficiently aggressive. Yet to date, not one Wall Street big shot has faced criminal charges for fraud tied to the financial crisis that almost downed a nation.
By March 11, the senators were blasting the banking industry’s response. “It comes as no great surprise that the megabanks’ trade associations think the Too Big To Fail problem is behind us,” Sen. Brown said. “The trade groups’ actions speak loudest: instead of supporting a bill to have GAO study this issue, some of them worked to kill it in the House of Representatives.”
The senators were responding to Justice Dept. decisions not to prosecute big time banksters.
Sen. Brown wants to limit the size of banks so the fall of any one entity would not collapse the economy or necessitate a federal bailout.
Sen. Grassley “has been critical of the Justice Department’s decisions against holding people criminally accountable in financial cases. He called the Justice Department’s decision to forego any criminal prosecution of HSBC officials involved in that money laundering scandal inexcusable. And he has questioned the Justice Department about the number of mortgage fraud cases brought forward, revealing a failure to bring significant criminal cases against any of the major banks or financial institutions that have faced civil actions for various frauds,” said a statement from the senators.
The senators’ actions were sparked by a remark by his deputy, Lanny Breuer, broadcast on FRONTLINE’s film “The Untouchables.” “PBS’ Frontline program on Tuesday night (March 6) broadcast a new one-hour report on one of the greatest and most shameful failings of the Obama administration: the lack of even a single arrest or prosecution of any senior Wall Street banker for the systemic fraud that precipitated the 2008 financial crisis: a crisis from which millions of people around the world are still suffering. What this program particularly demonstrated was that the Obama justice department, in particular the Chief of its Criminal Division, Lanny Breuer, never even tried to hold the high-level criminals accountable,” wrote Glenn Greenwald for the Guardian in London.
“What Obama justice officials did instead is exactly what they did in the face of high-level Bush era crimes of torture and warrantless eavesdropping: namely, acted to protect the most powerful factions in the society in the face of overwhelming evidence of serious criminality. Indeed, financial elites were not only vested with immunity for their fraud, but thrived as a result of it, even as ordinary Americans continue to suffer the effects of that crisis.”
“Worst of all, Obama justice officials both shielded and feted these Wall Street oligarchs (who, just by the way, overwhelmingly supported Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign) as they simultaneously prosecuted and imprisoned powerless Americans for far more trivial transgressions.”
So much for justice in America.