I am not one of those people who is compulsively proud of everything I have ever done and said, and find those who are rather tiresome. But one of my proudest moments was receiving from the Supreme Court of the United States in 2010 a unanimous verdict declaring the Honest services Statute as written and construed to be unconstitutional and ultra vires to the United States Congress.
This was a law that had already been struck down by the high court once before, but resuscitated by then Senator Joe Biden a few weeks later, when he tacked it onto a budget bill just before the Congress rose for
the Christmas recess. The bill was designed to deal with public officials who took bribes from individuals to whom the officials directed government business, to deal with corrupt behaviour even though it didn't evidently cost the taxpayers anything.
The citizens had the right to honest services. In the usual manner of American prosecutors, who have warped a long series of statutes, including the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), and the legislation governing obstruction of justice, Honest Services was redesigned, with the complicity of the courts in many jurisdictions, to apply to any alleged lapse of complete propriety, very thinly and variously defined, regardless of whether the accused was a public official or not.
Various judicial circuits had different criteria for falling afoul of the statute, as they did for RICO and obstruction. Perhaps the most egregious example of this that was well-publicized was the prosecution of Roger Cardinal Mahoney of Los Angeles under RICO for the allegedly insufficiently vigorous suppression of child abuse by several priests in his archdiocese.
If His Eminence was guilty of anything, it was not being influenced by racketeering, but the whole ethos of American prosecutors is to empower themselves with as many catchments as possible for assuring the conviction of their targets no matter how capriciously the targets are selected and no matter how far-fetched the charges.
My pride in having struck down this terribly abused statute and reopening the cases of hundreds of fellow-victims is made more piquant by the unfolding drama on the same general issue in Germany in the last
few weeks. In Stuttgart, Demetrius Soulopolos, unable to impregnate his former beauty queen wife, an utterly delicious woman from her photographs, despite what we are assured were very energetic and frequently repeated efforts, engaged their neighbour, Frank Maus, who had two children and resembled Demetrius, to do the trick for 2,500 Euros. Demetrius was tested impotent, and manfully handed over to his friend and neighbour, to the audible reservations of the wives of both men. (Women are so much better at evaluating these things.)
Despite the misgivings of his wife, Maus (meaning mouse in German), mounted the beautiful Traute, the name in which Frau Soulopolos rejoices (but it doesn't mean the same as it sounds in English, the German translation is "beloved"), 72 times in six months, but the desired result did not occur. Demetrius became disillusioned and required Frank to undergo a potency and virility test, which he flunked, as Demetrius had. He too didn't have the reproductive goods.
Poor Traute had been brokered into coupling with another non-starter. But as Frank had two children with his comely wife, the pressure on the relationship between the couples became intense, and there were naturally questions of Frau Maus (literally, Mrs. Mouse, a misnomer in this case from the sound of things), and she revealed that in the higher interests of the continuation of the Maus family, without destabilizing the ego of her herr, she had had their children through the intervention of another man.
Herr and Frau Maus came into heavy matrimonial weather, as Demetrius sued Frank for violation of the German Honest Services statute. Frank defended himself vigorously, giving new meaning to the role of the righteous cuckolder, and said that he had not promised success; only his best effort, and that he had done that, as Traute acknowledged, (no doubt with a wistful sigh). Frank claimed to have had no idea that he was impotent, and to have believed that his children had been sired by him. He had given it his best shot, and was disappointed to learn that he was destined not to deliver. All Germany is awaiting the court's decision.
Of course, this is far removed from the crisis I had, and is a welcome, light-hearted German farce, salacious, adult Hansel and Gretel stuff, without the Teutonic forest murmurs. Only return of the 2,500 Euros was sought, and for such a footling sock of phennigs, all four members of the Demetrius/Traute, Frank/Frau Maus quartet were embarrassed before the media of all Germany.
Germany's honest services statute is being light-heartedly tested without hundreds of anxious interested parties waiting in their prisons as I did, to see if the Supremes would brush back the prosecutocracy. They did in my case, and required a bribe for the Honest Services statute to apply, which no one alleged against me.
In Germany, prosecutions are only taken after an impartial commission determines that there is sufficient evidence to justify it, not the contemptible rubber stamp of a U.S. grand jury, represented in the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as an assurance against unfounded prosecution. Germany is again proving itself a liberal state. It is simultaneously facing a peculiar test of whether religious circumcisions are acceptable, or are acts of cruelty. As this is chiefly a Jewish rite, and other circumcisions are normally performed by doctors, it has become tangled in the notorious history of German-Jewish relations. The federal chancellor, Angela Merkel, has opposed Rhineland and Bavarian court findings against the practice, but there are aspects to the public controversy that are questionably motivated.
Withal, it is refreshing to see that the Western World's second greatest power can work out these matters, humorous in some respects but affecting in others, in a civilized and judicious way. In Germany there is in no need comparable to that of the United States to have some interloper like me throw a wrench in the insidious works of that most contemptible and least magnificent of the world's jungle beasts, the American prosecutor.