The Manhattan District Attorney election

The District Attorney for Manhattan is an important position because that region covers the main financial district in the US and thus the DA can prosecute wrongdoing by the financial giants. The position is an elected one and the current occupant Democrat Cyrus Vance, Jr. has long had a reputation for treating wealthy and powerful people leniently, especially those who happened to contribute to his election campaigns like Harvey Weinstein and the Trump family, while going hard after poor and minority communities. In the last couple of years he has changed course slightly and been investigating Donald Trump’s financial interests, convening a grand jury to present evidence and possibly seek indictments. He has announced that is not running for re-election this year and this has led to a scramble to replace him, with eight candidates.
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Four theories to try and explain Trump’s behavior

I have been trying to think about what the possible motivations could be for Trump’s bizarre behavior in continuing his futile quest to remain in office and have come up with four possibilities, presented here in no particular order.

1. The scorched Earth theory

This theory says that Trump knows he has lost and must leave the White House and what he wants to do, out of sheer spite, is make life as hard as possible for the new administration by refusing to allow the transition team the normal access to information, firing people left and right, filing lawsuits and raging against the integrity of the elections to sow doubt among his supporters as to the legitimacy of the Biden presidency, and possibly even bombing Iran.

The idea is not unlike that during wars when the retreating population burns their crops and homes so that the invading armies cannot use them. In this case, he wants to leave an administration in a shambles. Even if it results in the pandemic raging out of control and needlessly causing excess deaths in the order of tens of thousands, he does not care if he can gloat from the sidelines that things have gone to hell since he left.

He must be smarting from the fact that the stock market has gone up since the election despite his warnings that a Biden win would tank it, and that new vaccines seem to be appearing by the. day. He of course thinks that the vaccine companies conspired to not release this news until after the election because they too are working against him
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How money buys immunization from prosecution

The influence of money in politics lies largely in the fact that if you are a big donor to politicians, you can get immediate access to them. Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. is perhaps the best example of this process in action. It turns out that the Manhattan district attorney’s office is currently considering bringing criminal charges against the Trump organization in the wake of the information released in the recent convictions and plea deals of close associates of Donald Trump.
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Film review: Abacus: Small Enough to Jail (2017)

This is a must-see documentary about one overlooked story on the financial crisis of 2008. I did not hear about it until last week when it was discussed on the radio as one of the Academy Awards nominees for best documentary. There have been many good films about that crisis that I have reviewed before, such as Inside Job, Requiem for the American Dream, The Big Short, Margin Call, Capitalism – A Love Story. In each of them, the viewer is left furious at the fact that the top officials at the big banks were not criminally prosecuted and were able to escape scot-free while so many people suffered as a result of their actions.
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Wall Street-backed candidate loses race for Manhattan district attorney

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the importance of the Manhattan district attorney’s office since it overseas Wall Street and others parts of the city where some of the wealthiest people in the country work, and thus is the hub for all manner of white-collar crimes that the rich indulge in, including but not limited to, tax fraud. The current occupant is Cyrus Vance Jr., who has long been friendly to the New York elites including the Trump family but recently seems to be trying to right that balance by using a grand jury to investigate the Trump organization. Just this week, his office issued indictments of grand larceny and fraud against the Trump organization and its chief financial officer and long-time Trump confidante Allen Weisselberg.
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Will Weinstein be prosecuted vigorously?

I have written before about how Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. does not prosecute big banks or the moneyed class but goes after those who have little power, such as minorities.

Media mogul Harvey Weinstein can be accurately described as a monster. Reporter Ronan Farrow who broke much of the story that implicated Weinstein in cases of rape and sexual abuse is a little wary as to whether the prosecution will be vigorous because of the fact that the person who is in charge of this case is Vance, the same person who dropped charges on earlier allegations after Weinstein’s lawyers made big contributions to Vance’s election campaigns.
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The problem of mandatory sentencing laws

Here is the part of an 4-1 majority opinion by a New York State appellate court that describes the offense committed in the case that was brought before them.

Defendant, a homeless 53 year-old, entered a pharmacy and attempted to pay for a tube of toothpaste using a counterfeit $20 bill. The bill was rejected by the cashier, and defendant left the store without completing the transaction. Shortly thereafter, defendant was observed by the police, where he was attempting to purchase food with a counterfeit $20 bill. The restaurant cashier refused to accept the bill. Defendant was stopped by the police in front of yet another fast-food restaurant. Five counterfeit $20 bills were recovered from him upon arrest.

So here’s a question. What would have been a reasonable punishment in this case?
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The Jeffrey Epstein case is a perfect example of how plea deals favor the rich

I have written before about how plea bargains are used against poor people to get them, even if innocent of the crime were originally arrested for, to plead guilty to some other charge and accept a lower penalty, even if it includes jail time. Poor people do not have the resources to mount a vigorous defense and do not have access to the top prosecutors who make the decisions about who to prosecute and how vigorously. With rich people, it is the other way around, as I have described before with the way that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. treated leniently the wealthy and influential and well-connected and those who contributed to his campaigns (like Harvey Weinstein and members of the Trump family) but went after the poor and Chinese immigrants.
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Prosecutors need to be held accountable for their abuses

Yesterday, I wrote about the case where the Pulse nightclub shooter’s wife Noor Salman was acquitted of all charges, despite the determined efforts of prosecutors to make life as difficult as possible for her and coerce a confession. Fortunately for her, the jury overcame the ‘scary Muslim terrorist’ fear-mongering and cleared her. But as Shaun King reminds us, many people do not escape the heavy hand of prosecutors seeking conviction at all costs and gives the case of Natalie Pollard, where she took a plea deal just to avoid being badgered by the legal system.
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