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Griles Goes to Jail:

Former Deputy Interior Secretary J. Steven Griles will go to jail for lying to Congress, a judge concluded yesterday. Griles allegedly obstructed the Congressional investigation into the activities of lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Griles pleaded guilty in March to lying to the Senate about his relationship with Abramoff. In the plea agreement, prosecutors recommended a sentence of five months of house arrest and five months in prison.

But [District Court Judge Ellen] Huvelle imposed a sterner penalty of 10 months in prison and a $30,000 fine. She said she wanted to send a message to deter wrongdoing by high-ranking government officials. Defense attorneys had asked for three months of home detention, community service and a "reasonable fine." . . .

The judge said that years of public service were no cause for leniency. "You held a position of trust as number two in the Department of Interior, and I will hold you to a higher standard," Huvelle told Griles. "I find that, even now, you continue to minimize and try to excuse your conduct and the nature of your misstatements."

UPDATE: Those commenters who noted there was no reason to use the word "allegedly" above are correct. Griles pled guilty and was convicted. Since the beginnings of the Bush Administration, the Interior Department has been divided between those who sought to pursue principled conservative environmental policies, and those who pandered to industry interests and well-connected lobbyists. There is little question that Griles fit squarely into the latter camp.

Philistine (mail):
Like the Libby case, it seems reasonable that Judges, when faced with an official misuing his position in public service, will not give any mitigating weight to the defendant's public service.

Rather like the person murdering his parents arguing for mercy because he is an orphan.
6.27.2007 9:43am
DC User (mail):

"Griles allegedly obstructed the Congressional investigation into the activities of lobbyist Jack Abramoff."


I don't think you need to say "allegedly." He admitted it and pled guilty to it. The correct sentence would be "Griles did obstruct the Congressional investigation into the activities of lobbyiist Jack Abramoff."

In addition, a full explanation would note his other illegal activities (some of which were discovered after the plea deal), including intervening on behalf of Abramoff's clients (as well as Abramoff himself) in official Interior Department decisions, and intervening on behalf of his own girlfriend, the lobbyist Italia Federicici, who has just pled guilty herself.

Indeed, Griles was so far in Abramoff's pocket that he sent the National Park Service to crack down on a film crew that was (under a proper license) filming in the vicinity of Abramoff's restaurant.

For the full story on Griles, check out http://www.tpmmuckraker.com/archives/cats/steven_griles/

It ain't alleged if you did it.
6.27.2007 9:56am
Martin Ammorgan (mail):
Megadittoes.

Is Griles also going to jail "allegedly" or, like, for real?

P.S. Where's the amicus brief?
6.27.2007 10:27am
Sebastian Dangerfield (mail):
Martin: "P.S. Where's the amicus brief?"

Hearty guffaws. On that subject, I've noticed that neither Eugene (who sniffed that Judge Walton "Insulted" the Amici at Libby's bail hearing, when in fact the judge cast aspersion on their brief) nor any other member of his conspiracy (notably the one who signed that rather lame and procedurally bizarre effort) has seen fit to mention that the Republican-appointee-dominated panel of the D.C. Circuit that was assigned to Libby's motion for release pending appeal swiftly gave the boot to the amici in a per curiam order.
6.27.2007 10:51am
Kieran (mail) (www):
Why are you talking about this here? Like Orin you must be angling for a position in the Clinton Administration.
6.27.2007 11:17am
fabulinus (mail) (www):

I don't think you need to say "allegedly." He admitted it and pled guilty to it.

That doesn't actually mean that he did it. Innocent people take plea deals all the time for crimes they didn't commit. In many cases it is to avoid the cost of putting forward a defense and because the prosecution will often rather give a sweetheart deal than possibly lose at trial.

If you are innocent and you are offered a deal in which there is little to no jail time and the fines likely to be imposed are less than the cost of putting on a defense, you are likely to take the plea. You take the plea because the cost of putting on a defense plus all of the maximum penalties that could be imposed (jail time and fees) if you are found guilty far outweigh the cost of admitting to a crime you did not commit.

Innocent people take plea deals especially in situations in which the deck is stacked against them (in a manner of speaking.)

Now I am not claiming that the deck was stacked against Griles or that he was innocent and just took a deal to avoid the possibility of having the book thrown at him, but in either case the book was thrown at him. This sort of behavior by the judge could have a chilling effect on the plea bargain process (at least with regard to public official charged with a crime).
6.27.2007 11:35am
Steve:
This sort of behavior by the judge could have a chilling effect on the plea bargain process (at least with regard to public official charged with a crime).

That's true. The harsh sentence might also have a chilling effect on public officials considering whether to commit a crime.
6.27.2007 11:47am
Dave N (mail):
fabulinus,

I tend to agree that people some people plead guilty when they are not guilty--but under our system, by pleading guilty he has admitted the allegations. Perhaps the ideal compromise sentence should be "Griles pleaded guilty to . . "

In any event, with respect to why someone would plead guilty when they are not, in fact guilty, I would suggest anyone who has not done so to read Judge Paul Cassell's testimony (and comment thread) that was posted on the VC yesterday--not that I am suggesting in any way it applicable to Griles and his case.
6.27.2007 11:48am
Waldensian (mail):

That doesn't actually mean that he did it.

He admitted to it. So he's either an actual criminal, or a calculating liar. Either way, he's got no right, or moral entitlement, to the use of the word "allegedly."
6.27.2007 11:48am
Jonathan H. Adler (mail) (www):
Kieran --

I've posted written problems at the Interior Department on and off for years. See, e.g., here and here. Never fear, I may not have been a sufficiently "loyal Bushie" for this administration, but there is no chance I'd be offered a position in a Democratic Administration, nor would I want one. On the other hand, if a President Thompson called, perhaps I'd have to listen.

JHA
6.27.2007 12:16pm
RainerK:
All right, my pet-peeve $0.0001 worth...

She said she wanted to send a message to deter wrongdoing ...

GROAN! All possible Gods please prevent that I ever face being made an example of the social agenda, personal agenda or any other agenda of someone with more power than they are able to gracefully handle.
6.27.2007 12:22pm
Hattio (mail):
I know the post which Professor Adler quotes claims Griles pleaded guilty, but is this actually the case. Most people who take a deal plead no contest (and it's often mis-reported by newspapers). If that's the case, he could in theory be both innocent and not a "calculated liar." But, I'll admit the evidence don't look good.
6.27.2007 12:29pm
Kieran (mail) (www):
I've posted written problems at the Interior Department on and off for years. See, e.g., here and here. Never fear, I may not have been a sufficiently "loyal Bushie" for this administration, but there is no chance I'd be offered a position in a Democratic Administration, nor would I want one

Jonathan, I know this. My target was not you, but rather some of the commenters around here who -- as when Orin was incredulous at Cheney's claims about which branch of government he belonged to -- feel that any Conspirator deviating from the Republican Party line is guilty of some sort of apostasy.
6.27.2007 12:55pm
Steve:
Never fear, I may not have been a sufficiently "loyal Bushie" for this administration, but there is no chance I'd be offered a position in a Democratic Administration, nor would I want one.

For the record, Prof. Adler, you'd certainly be offered a position in my theoretical Democratic administration. If nothing else, you could pick out the music.
6.27.2007 1:07pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
No, most people who take a plea deal actually do plead "guilty." Occasionally, they may make an "Alford" plea, in which they do plead guilty but assert that they do so only because they believe the government would prevail at trial even though they do contest their factual guilt. But that's not all that common, and when a judge hears a defendant start talking about that while making his plea, usually things grind to a halt for a bit while the judge makes sure the defendant really understands what he is doing. I've seen judges many times refuse to accept a plea because the defendant won't admit to actually doing the crime. "No Contest" pleas are found primarily in cases where substantial civil liability might ensue from an admission of guilt, and the defendant wants to at least preserve some settlement negotiation leverage.
6.27.2007 1:12pm
Dave N (mail):
Adding to what Pat said, many judges both state and federal require a defendant to allocute the facts to show there is a factual basis for the plea. Additionally, my understanding is that there is a 2 point deduction in the sentencing guidelines for admitting guilt and showing remorse.
6.27.2007 1:21pm
Huggy (mail):
This forum as a whole seems to think that the Democratic Party is more honest than the Republican party in a group sense. If that is your consensus belief and not a misunderstanding on my part then I have to give a hearty ha ha ha and ask the spirits of the air to prove the truth or falsity of that matter to you to your satisfaction.
6.27.2007 1:31pm
r78:
Hmmm - another news story about the criminality of the Bush administration?

That mean its about time for Mr. Bernstein to put up a negative post about Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton. . . .
6.27.2007 1:41pm
Dave N (mail):
Huggy said:

This forum as a whole seems to think that the Democratic Party is more honest than the Republican party in a group sense.


As a Republican, I disagree. I think criminal behavior is criminal behavior--and I don't care which Administration or which party is in power. The simple fact is that some people seem to think "public service" = "help my friends" or "enrich myself."

Corruption should be non-partisan. There are crooks in both parties.
6.27.2007 2:09pm
ATRGeek:
RainerK,

18 USC 3553(a) enumerates the factors that a federal judge shall consider when setting a sentence. 18 USC 3553(a)(2)(B) provides that the judge shall consider "the need for the sentence imposed . . . to afford adequate deterrence to criminal conduct."
6.27.2007 3:29pm
EricRasmusen (mail) (www):
Question: If Libby had pleaded guilty, do you think he would have gotten this level of sentence? (not a rhetorical question-- I'm curious)
6.27.2007 3:55pm
Steve:
Question: If Libby had pleaded guilty, do you think he would have gotten this level of sentence? (not a rhetorical question-- I'm curious)

I don't even think he had to go that far. I think he would have gotten off a lot easier if he had simply acknowledged his culpability following the jury's verdict. But with as many people as there are who feel like poor Scooter did nothing wrong, I think the judge felt he had to send a message that the justice system takes the opposition position. After all, giving Libby a light sentence only serves to encourage the sort of clowns who compare Fitzgerald to DA Nifong.
6.27.2007 4:25pm
Constitutional Crisis (mail):
Show me a person pursuing "principled conservative environmental policies" and I'll show you a low-level powerless bureaucrat...
6.27.2007 4:57pm
Philistine (mail):

Question: If Libby had pleaded guilty, do you think he would have gotten this level of sentence? (not a rhetorical question— I'm curious)


If he'd pled guilty, he would have gotten 2 points (and likely a 3rd) off the top—putting him at 21 months on the lower range. That is without any other sentencing considerations for pleading.

My guess—with nothing to back it up, was there would have been a deal on the table that would have taken away the cross-referencing issue, putting him in the 8-14 month guideline. But that's totally a SWAG.
6.27.2007 5:21pm
Hattio (mail):
PatHMV,
I don't know where you practice, but in AK state courts essentially every plea is a no contest plea. I have even seen judges question Defendants about whether they really want to plead guilty if they say guilty. They then explain how they can accept the plea by pleading no contest and give the (purported) benefits of the no contest plea. As an aside, for civil liability purposes the advantages of a no contest plea have been essentially nullified in a line of cases.
6.27.2007 5:24pm
DHBerger (mail):
There are no such thing as "principled conservative environmental policies"- at least not in practice.
6.27.2007 6:12pm
llamasex (mail) (www):
10 months in prison and a $30,000 fine is suddenly harsh? Wow, I thought the guy who got years for oral sex with the 16 year old in GA (while being 17 or whatever their ages were) was harsh. All this over 10 months makes this guy seem like Paris Hilton.
6.28.2007 12:54am