Civil Liberties

Contempt of Due Process

|

What does The New York Times do when its hatred of rich, white, white-collar criminals clashes with its fondness for due process? To its credit, it runs a front-page story about Martin A. Armstrong, "a globe-trotting investment manager" who may or may not be a crook but who has definitely been screwed out of a fair trial because he has been locked up since January 2000 for contempt of court. As the Times notes, "Armstrong's years in jail for civil contempt will soon exceed the sentence of 6.5 to 8 years that he would have received if he had been convicted of all 24 criminal counts of securities fraud, commodities fraud and wire fraud."

Advertisement

NEXT: Say It Loud! I Vote for Blacks and I'm Proud!

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Wow. Those hidden documents must show evidence of some really bad heretofore undetected crimes or torts.

    Wonder how many counts it will be when the documents come to light. keep us posted, pls.

  2. When was the NYT ever interested in due process anyway? They want their friends to be off scott free and they want their enemies to go straight to jail without a trial, like Kevin Mitnick.

  3. So the government doesn’t have to actually prove you’re guilty, just demand you hand over something you may not have.

    And they don’t have to prove you did anything to sieze your forfeited assets.

    And they can condemn your property and give it to someone else.

    And if all else fails they can send in a SWAT team and blow you away.

    O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
    O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

  4. The Constitution doesn’t mean anything. The idea that you can throw someone in jail for contempt in a civil case is appalling. We have a 5th Amendment right against self incrimination. That means that you don’t have to give the cops shit. You don’t have to tell them anything, you don’t have to give them anything. They can get a warrant and come seize stuff, but they can’t make you talk to them or give them things without a warrant.

    All of that means absolutely nothing if you allow criminal contempt in civil cases. In a civil case, you don’t need a warrant, you just need a subpoena. You don’t have a 5th Amendment right against self incrimination. Of course if they can throw you in jail if you don’t produce the subpoenaed documents and use those documents against you in a criminal proceeding, then you really don’t have a 5th Amendment right against self incrimination do you? That is what is going on in this case. Civil cases ought to never result in jail for anything. If you don’t turn over the subpoenaed documents, then you get a default judgment against you for whatever the government is asking for, but you don’t go to jail.

    We don’t have a Constitution anymore. We have a “living Constitution” which means that it means whatever the courts say it does and you better not be a politically disfavored defendent or you are screwed.

  5. I love the quote from the judge:

    “Mr. Armstrong has the keys to the jail cell in his pocket by production and telling people where to go to get it and dig it up and turn it over.”

    This presumes that Mr. Armstrong HAS these items to hand over. The judge has effectively imprisoned a man without a trial.

    Moreover, Armstrong was making a killing in NY, not smuggling drugs from some inaccessible Latin American jungle. Let him out, and if the money does appear, he will be in reach of the authorities who can THEN lock him up.

  6. who may or may not be a crook

    Thing 1: He plead guilty to a conspiracy count. That means he is a crook. Unless you are some kind of conspiracy theorist.

    Thing 2: Unable to mount a propoer defense, but yet his lawyer is from Proskauer Rose. I think some people may have banged their head falling off the turnip truck.

    Thing 3: Not that it will be an issue because a new District Court judge has already been bought, err, brought and will “look at the case with fresh eyes,” but can a presidential pardon get you out of jail for contempt?

  7. Another day, another depressing story

  8. Dave,
    Thing 1: He plead guilty to one count of conspiracy, a charge that carries a 5 year sentence, after spending 6.5 years in jail on a contempt charge. I am sure he pled guilty so the trial would move on. Hell, he has already served 2 years beyond what he might be sentenced to on said conspiracy.

    Thing 2: Man has millions in assets but is unable to access them to retain counsel. Proskauer Rose attorney has recieved “nominal compensation” but not from Mr. Armstrong.

    Thing 3: Who gives a shit whether the prez can pardon you for contempt, he shouldn’t be in jail for it in a CIVIL case. By failing to produce said documents, the case Judge should have decided against him and awarded the Govt. the appropriate amount, not tie up his CRIMINAL case for 7 years.

  9. This case is absolutely ludicrous. If the government wants to put you away, all they have to do is file a civil suit against you for supposed fraudulent transactions, demand paperwork that you don’t have and then charge you for contempt. It is perfect.

    Dave W. you have defrauded me for the last time! I am filing a civil suit against you for the $500,000,000 dollars you owe me on that $1 investment in Intel in 1977. When the Govt. supeonas you for the documents in relation to that investment,you’d better hope you can produce them or spend time in jail until you decide to do so.

  10. Thing 1: He plead guilty to one count of conspiracy, a charge that carries a 5 year sentence, after spending 6.5 years in jail on a contempt charge. I am sure he pled guilty so the trial would move on. Hell, he has already served 2 years beyond what he might be sentenced to on said conspiracy.

    If he really stole 15 million dollars (including “antiquities”) then 8 years seems rather light. Remember, this is the same judge who got booted so they could let Quattrone go. He understands that the 8 years is the only penalty that Armstrong is going to get. He did what he could. Not saying it is right, but we are probably a lot closer to justice being served than we would otherwise be.

    Thing 2: Man has millions in assets but is unable to access them to retain counsel. Proskauer Rose attorney has recieved “nominal compensation” but not from Mr. Armstrong.

    Right, from the guy holding and investing the 15 mill (well, probably not the antiquities part so much — if one of those turned up in the world market, then Mr. Armstrong’s secret bud could be toast).

    Thing 3: Who gives a shit whether the prez can pardon you for contempt, he shouldn’t be in jail for it in a CIVIL case. By failing to produce said documents, the case Judge should have decided against him and awarded the Govt. the appropriate amount, not tie up his CRIMINAL case for 7 years.

    Depends on why the first judge was so sure that Mr. Armstrong has the 15 million. From reading the account in the NYT that Big J in the Big D has selected for us to read, I am pretty sure why we know that Armstrong does not have the 15 million. Cause he said so. On the other hand, he is an admitted conspirator. What the article does not get into is why the booted judge was so sure does have the 15 million. I would do the research, but have been busy with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 this pm.

  11. Farceswannamo is undoubtedly the biggest prick ever to post on this site.

    At least Gunnels was interesting. The pimple-faced wanker who posts as Dave W. is just trying to get a rise out of the regulars by acting like a jackass.

    By the way, I know he’s a pimple-faced wanker because the judge who knows the dude has the 15 million told me so.

  12. More:

    If the Internet is to be believed, the $15 million ($14.9 million actually) is largely in the form of gold bars. The theory is that if youcan’t find your gold bars, then you should at least be able to come up with a plausible story of how you misplaced them.

    Here is what the 2d circuit said about his case in 2002:

    http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=2nd&navby=case&no=016159v2&exact=1

  13. Here is a hypothetical to help you think about what is going on in this case and why the court is doing what it is doing:

    Imagine that a defendant like Armstrong is before the court on multi-multi-multi-million dollar criminal and civil white collar crime type charges.

    The court finds out that the defendant had $15 million dollars in gold bars and wants to know where these are so that the court can preserve the gold bars to pay off any fines and the like. So the court asks the defendant where the golod bardrs are.

    The defendant responds that he does not want to tell the court where the gold bars are because his family needs the gold bars to continue living in the style to which they have become accustomed. Therefore, he cannot have the court holding that asset and (if appropriate) seizing it for keeps. For this reason, the defendant refuses to tell the court where the gold bars are hiding.

    If you were the judge in this hypothetical case, how long would you keep this (very candid) defendant in jail for? 18 months? six years? longer?

  14. From the 2nd decision…

    “There is surely a limit to how long someone will choose to stay in jail, even for $14.9 million, but we see no basis for rejecting the district court’s finding that Armstrong’s incarceration continues to serve a coercive purpose. The contempt therefore remains civil in nature and we lack jurisdiction over his appeal. The district court fully recognizes that Armstrong’s civil confinement “cannot last forever.” SEC v. Princeton Econ. Int’l Ltd., 152 F. Supp. 2d at 463. A great prolongation of Armstrong’s incarceration will require a careful reassessment of its coercive potential. For now, we leave this to the sound discretion of the district court.”

    How long would you stay in jail for 15 million dollars?

  15. How long would you stay in jail for 15 million dollars?

    Depends a lot on what kind of prison I was in, I guess.

    If the prison respected the privacy of my spincter, then quite awhile. It is hard for some, and me included, to make $15 mill, even when you work pretty hard.

  16. The district court fully recognizes that Armstrong’s civil confinement “cannot last forever.”

    Nope. Nobody lives “forever” do they?

    Rich man. Camel. Eye. Needle. Heaven.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.