Diane Diamond stokes anger and criticizes statute of limitations

By Larry…..

Ms. Diamond’s column “Hastert prosecution shows justice uneven” strongly criticized former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s plea deal and suggested Mr. Hastert is receiving special treatment because of his status and wealth. Mr. Hastert was speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1999 through 2006 and is scheduled to be sentenced by a federal judge on April 27th.

Ms. Diamond’s column demonstrates that she:

  • does not understand the criminal justice system even though she is an experienced reporter;
  • has little respect for the constitutional presumption of innocence until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt;
  • does not understand the appropriate role a criminal defense attorney plays representing a client, including at the sentencing hearing; and
  • would prefer that the Statute of Limitations (SOL) be abolished.

It troubles me that so many, including Ms. Diamond, do not care that Mr. Hastert is being sentenced for the crime of lying to the FBI and structuring withdrawals to avoid bank-reporting requirements, not sexual abuse of a minor. While I do not condone the crimes for which Mr. Hastert has pled guilty, they are not serious enough to warrant decades of incarceration. My belief is that expensive prison space should be reserved for those who present a danger to society if they are not locked away. On the other hand, Ms. Diamond’s column strongly suggests Mr. Hastert should be punished more severely because of the sexual abuse accusations, although those allegations have not been proven in a court of law. It is inconceivable to me that so many believe Mr. Hastert should be punished for a sex crime even though he has not been convicted of one. We cannot condone punishing a person for a crime he/she may have committed.

Let’s be clear; Mr. Hastert admitted that he made 106 separate bank withdrawals to structure $952,000 of the hush-money to pay off a former student who was blackmailing him. Subsequent to the bank reporting the “suspicious transactions,” Mr. Hastert misled the FBI and did not reveal that he was being blackmailed. The blackmail was allegedly paid as hush money to a man Mr. Hastert had abused while he was coaching wrestling at Yorkville High School. The reality is Mr. Hastert was the victim of blackmail, which itself is a crime.

Ms. Diamond stated, “At sentencing later this month the former politician’s lawyers are sure to bring up his age, 74, the stroke he suffered last year, and his years of public service as mitigating factors…” as if those issues are inappropriate to raise. Clearly Ms. Diamond does not realize or appreciate that a defense attorney’s job is to raise mitigating issues at sentencing. What would she prefer instead? Should Mr. Hastert’s attorney simply throw him under the bus and tell the judge he is a creep who deserves to be sent to prison?

Ms. Diamond also implied that the SOL is something sinister or a loophole that only applies to the wealthy and powerful. The truth is that any person who committed a sex crime in Illinois during the same time-frame as Mr. Hastert’s allegations would be beyond prosecution now, regardless of economic status. The SOL exists for a number of reasons even though it is under attack by victims’ advocates throughout the country. The SOL exists because the passage of time makes it difficult for people to defend themselves when allegations are made. Critical evidence or witnesses are lost through the passage of time, and memories also become blurry and thus eyewitnesses are unreliable. If the SOL is abolished, the conviction rate for serious crimes will soar because many will be forced to plead guilty since viable defenses will not be available years or decades later.

In closing, I posit the following questions.

  1. Should a person be sentenced for a crime he/she may have committed or for the actual conviction before the court?
  2. Should the Statute of Limitations be abolished?
  3. Is it unethical for a defense attorney to put forth mitigating factors such as age and medical condition at sentencing?

 

 

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    • #10145 Reply
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      Paul

      While I agree in principal with everything you said, Larry, Dennis Hastert is someone I do not feel sorry for. As one of the architects of the Adam Walsh Act, I won’t lose any sleep over any punishment Speaker Hastert must now face. I normally am a very compassionate person but I just cannot find it within myself to have compassion for this man. Gail Colletta is in agreement with this as she called Hastert’s work on AWA “hypocritical and self-serving,” To quote her further: ““Hundreds of thousands of individuals and their millions of family members and friends have to live with the draconian punishments he fostered. These individuals are also the victims of Mr. Hastert’s actions.” I couldn’t agree more.

      Though it hasn’t been proven in a court of law and the statute of limitations should be respected, I tend to believe he is guilty. I certainly know if his case went to trial, I would not be qualified to serve on his jury. Yeah, I have a bias against him. I admit it. Yet to me at least, there is an irony that he is escaping the very same laws he helped to create or least strongly advocated for.

    • #10146 Reply
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      ab

      1. Should a person be sentenced for a crime he/she may have committed or for the actual conviction before the court?

      If something can be proven to be a crime (taking into consideration other legitimate non criminal explanations) and the intent can be solidified as being nothing else beside the criminal explanation for the act or situation and the person accused demonstrates a full knowledge prior to doing what they allegedly did that the conduct was illegal and they did it anyway, then absolutely a person should legally be sentenced by the court for the proven conduct.

      Should the Statute of Limitations be abolished?

      No. Statue of limitations provide some safeguards against a debate based on the interpretation of one person versus another. Unfortunately in many cases the limitations are still too long because it only takes one person suggesting a different perspective to make someone question their thoughts, feelings, and memories.

      Is it unethical for a defense attorney to put forth mitigating factors such as age and medical condition at sentencing?

      This is one essential part of the job a defense attorney. Any mitigating factors applicable should be brought up when doing so could help a client. Sentencing is the final chance to bring up mitigating factors, but various pre trial or perhaps pre investigation opportunities exist as well.

    • #10147 Reply
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      Paul

      Just so no one misunderstands me, I have long been someone who has disliked the reporting of Diane Diamond. And I agree on principle with Larry’s points. It’s just that Speaker Hastert is such a repugnant person to use as an example of these points. Perhaps Larry used Hastert as an example to show that RSOL even supports a person who helped to oppress us….that’s how fair they are. And I guess fairness should apply to even the least among us and that includes Mr. Hastert.

      But I still am devilishly glad his reputation is forever ruined. Call it a guilty pleasure. He didn’t deserve to be blackmailed but we don’t deserve it either, Mr. Hastert.

    • #10148 Reply
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      Paul

      To question Number 1, obviously a separate investigation could result in a separate charge and an altogether separate prosecution assuming the statute of limitations hasn’t run out, which unfortunately was the case here. I don’t think someone should be sentenced for a separate crime at the sentencing hearing for the crime in question. If a charge needs to be brought in the future which requires another sentencing hearing, so be it.

    • #10149 Reply
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      Paul

      As to questions 2 and 3, those we’re (needless to say) silly assertions by Diamond. AB is absolutely right.

    • #10150 Reply
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      ab

      A bit of clarification on my previous statement; I didn’t mean to suggest further investigations or charges at sentencing or after. What I meant was if a prosecution can prove that one or more laws were broken and the defense can’t counter the claim of illegal activity with another valid explanation (something that a defense rarely gets an opportunity to do [questioning the validity of how legal text defines something as illegal]) and it can be proven beyond doubt that the intent of the accused was criminal and the accused knew prior to acting that what they were about to do was illegal, then and only then should someone be allowed to be prosecuted.

      Yes I understand the legal system does not currently work as described above because the decision to prosecute unfortunately happens behind closed doors without any counter points being able to be made because no one is looped in on the potential defense side yet.

    • #10151 Reply
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      Larry

      I’m not sure I understand your answer to question No. 1. There is no question that it is a crime for a coach to molest wrestlers. However, that alleged criminal conduct is not before this court because if it occurred, it is now beyond the reach of the Statute of Limitations (SOL) in the state of Illinois. Is it your position Mr. Hastert should be sentenced as if he had been found guilty of an offense that is outside the legal range of prosecution? If so, I disagree with you. Would you be okay if a person who had pled guilty to DUI was hammered by the judge for some other uncharged conduct such as embezzlement from his employer? It is vital for us as advocates to preserve due process protections for everyone, including those we do not like. I have no love for Dennis Hastert at all. My political leanings are much more progressive that his. However, I believe in providing due process protections for everyone without regard for their politics.

      You did acknowledge and recognize that the conduct should be proven which cannot happen in this case because of the SOL bars a criminal prosecution. You also recognize that the SOL is an important protection and should be preserved. Unfortunately. Ms. Diamond and the victims’ advocates are pushing for the abolition of the SOL which is an important point I was making.

    • #10152 Reply
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      James Townsend

      While a lot of people can criticize a lot of thing even these sex offender laws their many types of sex crimes of a sexual nature from simple to compound and complex.
      Since I got involved with all this three years ago I find it odd that the sex registry is the main registry that is public for everyone to freak out about.
      Sandy’s other post about safety for kids was great and a lot of good comments came out about it but at the same time one has to put some biblical prospective on all this.
      We are all children….. either children of wrath or children of God.
      Punishment is punishment weather harsh or not so harsh and government loves to make examples of others and when it comes to money well that’s a big injustice.
      As far as the sex offender or some on the registry that’s a small piece of cake.
      I was looking up a bible passage last night that said ” resist not evil”. Now for some involved in these internet sex sting operations that was powerful to me. Sure take your punishment if they can prove without a shadow of a doubt, sometimes they can’t and will just give you a plea deal to lighten things and overshadow their devious measures.
      Than I remembered their was a book called “Resist no evil” and that really talks about the justice system and is heart wrenching.
      As far as Ms. Diamond and her column she should read that book and I invite everyone to read that book if they get a chance. Believe it or not that book relates today as it was when it was written in 1902.

    • #10153 Reply
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      Nevada

      I believe that our society does not want to address the issues at hand beyond legislating more laws that do nothing to address the underlying problems of sexual abuse. Our cultural disconnect between child abuse and attempts at prevention are vast. More social workers / cops is not going to get at the zeitgeist of human sexuality out into the open for healthy discussion.

      This ties into your current discussion of the reporter’s correlation between Speaker Hasert’s fraud / lying to the FBI case and the the supposed reason for the blackmail. If Hasert did abuse his position as a high school coach and abused boys, this is clearly a terrible breach of power and trust.

      However, it speaks to my point that human sexuality education is lacking in our society. If Mr. Hasert is gay and did not develop healthy attitudes about his own sexual identity while growing-up because of societal induced shame, it doesn’t excuse the abuse but it gives us a point of concern about our societal norms being unhealthy for many who are gay and are shamed into denial as youth. That imposed shame is a powerful influence. Again, I am not condoning any sexual abuse but am pointing out at a flaw in our conceptions of human sexuality.

      Living in fear of exposure because of a (healthy!) sexual identity that is not considered socially acceptable is still a problem in this country even after the legalization of same gender marriage. Imagine if you will that you are an adolescent who has heard most of his or her life that being gay is shameful, wrong, evil, Etc. A young mind cannot cope with this double standard; on the one hand are the same gender attractions going on in the gay youths development and on the other is a culture that may loath her very existence for these attractions that go beyond a platonic relationship.

      If this is the case with Mr. Hasert than I feel sorry for him as well as his (if any) victims. If you grow up with this shame in the back of your mind, growing up with a lower sense of self esteem may and will carry over into adulthood with varying degrees of problematic events and consequences.

      No on all three of your questions.

    • #10154 Reply
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      Paul

      I wish I could disagree with you because we’re talking about Speaker Hastert, but I can’t. I personally would like Mr. Hastert to experience the AWA since he helped to create it. But if Due Process and the Statute of limitations is ignored for certain people (even one’s we don’t like) we all lose those protections. Crimes that fall outside the statute of limitations should not be prosecuted, even for Dennis Hastert. End of story.

    • #10155 Reply
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      Paul

      With that said, I still believe he’s guilty as sin. All that time he was oppressing us with his tough talk in getting this law passed, he was acting with less of a conscience than 99% of us. That’s what burns me up.

    • #10156 Reply
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      Paul

      Ooops. Paul made the comment above, not Larry. I must have put in Larry by mistake in thinking about Larry.

    • #10157 Reply
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      Paul

      Nevada,

      You and Larry certainly have more compassion for this man than do I. I aspire to be as forgiving as you are. I do agree he must have endured tremendous trauma in having to hide and even deny his identity, through his childhood, his adolescence and into his professional life as an adult. But out of that torment, confusion and pain came the need to oppress others for the same behavior HE HIMSELF engaged in. What he did didn’t just effect a few people but hundreds of thousands and arguably millions of people.

      You know, it’s the same reason I don’t have pity for Hitler. He had one testicle, you know. It’s true. I haven’t researched his life but he might have had a difficult childhood. I don’t care. The bad outweighs whatever hardship he endured. I’m not comparing Hastert to Hitler in proportionality but on principal. Anyone who uses negative life experiences in a hypocritical way to justify oppression and bigotry which than enacts laws that help transform a segment of the population into untouchables, I cannot forgive. Do I wish Mr. Hastert had lived in an era where he could have been more open about himself? Of course. Do I wish he had never abused anyone (assuming he did). That goes without saying. But to KNOWINGLY effect the lives of millions of individuals for conduct that YOU YOURSELF are engaging in?? That’s a hard one for me to forgive.

    • #10158 Reply
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      Stay focused on the actual crime matter….

      In my opinion, the sentencing should be focused on the money restructuring crime which he was found guilty of and leave it at that. Other factors, e.g. as to why he was restructuring payments, are irrelevant here and should be looked into on their own merits including any potential blackmail threats related to the payments regardless of what precipitated the potential blackmail for hush money and if the sexual allegations are true.

      Statute of Limitations are in place for a reason. You can read about them online and should left in place. However, if you are like the Congressman in Pennsylvania who wants to extend them to 50 years, you are only inviting trouble as his fellow Congressman realize and state in opposition.

      Stating mitigating circumstances in sentencing hearings is the role of the defense atty and thus should be continued. No reason not have the mitigating circumstances stated.

    • #10159 Reply
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      A meet n greet possibly??

      Maybe the RSOL can have a meeting with the ABQ Journal editorial board, including Diane herself, and go over the finer points of this topic overall?

    • #10160 Reply
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      Paul

      Actually, if the client doesn’t intend to go to trial, mitigating circumstances should begin in the negotiating phase with a prosecutor to try to get a lesser charge or get a charge dropped. Lots of defense lawyers wait until sentencing, which is wrong.

    • #10161 Reply
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      Larry

      Diane Diamond is a syndicated columnist which means she is not under the control of the Albuquerque Journal. Her column is published in many newspapers across the United States. She also appears regularly on many media platforms other than just print. Her website describes her as “a modern day journalist who defies a category…”

      Her reach and influence is substantial which is the reason I wrote what I did. She will have tremendous influence in terms of the ongoing campaign to abolish the statute of limitations.

    • #10162 Reply
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      Paul

      Diane Diamond’s journalism has always been slanted towards victim advocates. Years ago when the Michael Jackson case was going on (which he was acquitted of), she was persecuting him in the press. I don’t know what her backstory is but she would be pretty hard to sway, in my opinion.

    • #10163 Reply
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      rpsabq

      I have always found it a big waste of foolish energy disagreeing with Larry.

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