'J'accuse!' Not So!
Last updated 6/1/2020 at 11:52am
A recent letter writer (‘J’accuse!’, May 25) cited the Captain Alfred Dreyfus case as an example of judicial injustice that he suggests is similar to that of Gen. Michael Flynn, President Trump’s former National Security Advisor. Dreyfus, a Jewish French officer, was twice convicted by secret courts-martial of treason, despite a paucity of evidence supporting his guilt. Anti-semitism reportedly played a major role in his conviction.
Flynn was convicted of having lied to FBI agents who were then investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and the Trump administration’s possible complicity therein. Unlike the Dreyfus case, anti-semitism played no role here. Flynn left the Trump administration in disgrace, with President Trump stating, “I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the vice president and the FBI.”
The two cases are further dissimilar. Captain Dreyfus did not plead guilty, but proclaimed his innocence throughout. Flynn, on the other hand, admitted under oath in federal court, not once but twice, that he had lied to FBI agents then investigating his suspected contacts with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian Ambassador to the U.S. and resulting discussions about rescinding or relaxing sanctions the Obama Administration had imposed against Russia.
Flynn’s sworn in-court admissions took place during a judicial inquiry into the factual basis for his guilty plea. Federal judges routinely conduct this enquiry to ensure an accused is pleading guilty of his or her own free will and that the facts support the charges. The court will not accept this guilty plea absent the judge’s satisfaction that the accused’s proffered facts support each and every element of the charge(s) to which the accused is pleading. That is the procedure that was followed in Flynn’s cases - twice! Flynn later sought to withdraw his guilty plea, alleging government misconduct (entrapment). The judge in this case rejected Flynn’s request, finding the agents had not acted improperly.
While I wouldn’t presume to know Judge Sullivan’s rationale for not dismissing Flynn’s conviction, my years as a federal prosecutor suggest that he (Sullivan) is uncomfortable with AG Barr’s attempt to have a conviction, supported by the defendant’s own sworn plea of guilty, dismissed, absent convincing evidence or rationale to do so. That the federal prosecutor handling Flynn’s case chose to withdraw from this case rather than be a part of that dismissal request speaks volumes. So too for the 2,000 former prosecutors who have signed their names to a petition seeking AG Barr’s removal from his position. Simply put, it doesn’t pass “the smell test”!
No, Michael Flynn is no Captain Dreyfus!
‘J’accuse” - Hardly!