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It's one of the Ten Commandments: Do not lie.
As a child I got a pretty graphic example from a nun of why lying is unwise.
She said if you tell a lie you will have to tell nine more lies to cover up that one lie, and for each of those nine lies you tell, you will have to tell nine more, and for each of those you will have to tell nine more, and so on.
“You 0can't keep track of all the lies, so you will be caught,” she said.
I have a whole new perspective on lying.
Our local federal prosecutor calls it “the Martha Stewart Law.” That's because she's the most famous person convicted of violating Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 1001, when she decided to be cooperative and talk to a federal agent and lied.
When Tony Parker got a call on Aug. 8, 2008, and Sammy Yearty on Aug. 18, each went right in — alone — to chat it up with the agents. The agents used the “ruse” of a probe in Dixie County, then after lots of words, sprung the question about taking a lunch, dinner or gift.
Parker confessed he took a trip from a developer. Yearty, whether confused or not by the agents' lies, did not tell all about his relationship with Sean Michaels and Gideon Development LLC.
The agents knew the law was on their side.
It's OK with the courts if they nicely ask you to talk to them without mentioning the grand jury is debating indicting you. It's OK if they lie to you.
The U.S. Supreme Court said lying is a necessary tool for law enforcement.
Congress also helped the agents by passing a law making it a crime punishable by up to five years in prison for lying to a federal agent or official.
So here's what I learned: DO NOT EVER speak to a federal agent or official.
If contacted or approached, give them the name and phone number of a lawyer you trust to represent you. Politely walk away, hang up the phone, or close the door. Immediately call the lawyer, say you were contacted, and hang up.
Remember, the agents can listen on the phone without telling you first.
And the court says: Should you come to trial, it's OK for the agent and the prosecutor to make a big deal about your uncooperative attitude to the jury.
For those of you who are outraged by this behavior engaged in on your behalf by your government to protect you, here's a fun note: You have something in common with two noted liberal Supreme Court justices.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a Bill Clinton appointee, and the recently retired David Souter, a George H.W. Bush appointee, took note in a 1998 opinion by Ginsburg where they concurred with a conviction for lying to a federal agent.
“I write separately, however, to call attention to the extraordinary authority Congress, perhaps unwittingly, has conferred on prosecutors to manufacture crimes. I note, at the same time, how far removed the “exculpatory no” is from the problems Congress initially sought to address when it proscribed falsehoods designed to elicit a benefit from the Government or to hinder Government operations.”
The “exculpatory no”, based on the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, is a doctrine in federal criminal law that an individual cannot be charged with making a false statement if the statement is a false denial of guilt made in response to a federal investigator's question.
Ginsburg noted that in arguments on the case the U.S. Solicitor General — the government's lawyer — said the law could be used to “escalate completely innocent conduct into a felony.”
The Solicitor General said that when an investigator finds it difficult to prove a crime, the investigator can ask questions about another crime and “If the suspect lies, she can then use the crime she has prompted as leverage or can seek prosecution for the lie as a substitute for the crime she cannot prove.”
Follow the commandment; skip the lie.
Take your mom's advice; don't talk to strangers.
Take my advice — it's not free, it’ll cost you 50 cents — don't talk to government agents or officials. Let the lawyer do the talking.
Lou Elliott Jones is the editor of the Citizen. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 493-4796.