Friday, February 27, 2009

Indiana's Problem With Unprosecuted White Collar Crime and Public Corruption

It is growing increasingly apparent that there is an enormous problem in Indiana with unprosecuted white collar crime, including public corruption. The problem appears to be growing worse. There isn't hardly a week go by that I'm not presented with a new shocking set of facts of criminal activity by crooks who wear starched white collar shirts. Given the history in this state of not prosecuting those folks, it is apparent that they have little to worry about.

The problem stems from the prosecutorial system established in Indiana. In Indiana, county prosecutors have sole discretion to prosecute individuals. They gear their efforts at stopping the type of street crime that dominates their communities, drug dealing, burglaries, rape, theft, etc. White collar crime though can be enormously complicated and requires an expertise that few county prosecutors have. Prosecuting white collar crime requires a lot of time and resources that prosecutors don't want to divert from the street crime they are used to prosecuting.

That leaves the Attorney General. Indiana's Attorney General, however, does not have prosecutorial powers. While there is absolutely nothing that prohibits the AG from establishing task forces to deal with white collar crime, conducting investigations and offering assistance to prosecutors who choose to prosecute as a result of the AG's investigation, historically our AG has declined to assume that role.

There is, however, some hope that the new U.S. Attorney will make white collar crime and and public corruption seriously and engage in prosecutions. Of course, for the U.S. Attorney to be involved, there has to be violations of federal law. Many of the legal violations now, concern state laws being broken.

It is time to rethink the prosecutorial structure of Indiana. As things currently stand, white collar crime and public corruption will continue to go unprosecuted under the current structure. We need to have an aggressive Attorney General who is willing to make these types of crimes a priority, and has the legal authority to initiate prosecution.

Public corruption in Indiana is deeply embedded in both political parties. Those involved have little fear of of being exposed in the newspapers or being prosecuted. That has to change.


Leslie Sourwine said...

White collar crime is far more damaging to society than all the street crime combined. The differences are the street criminal is poor and unable to pay the hefty fines the white collar criminals pay. The street criminal goes to prison and the white collar criminal is free to commit more crimes against society.

Leslie Sourwine

Jon said...

I would concur that white collar crime is more damaging to society. When Ken Lay destroyed Enron he destroyed the lives of thousands of employees and shareholder. He was on vacation in Colorado when he died, about three months before his sentencing. Then there is Bernie Madoff who bilked investors of at least 50 billion dollars! Mr. Madoff currently resides in his penthouse suite while he awaits his indictment, hopefully soon.

Leslie Sourwine said...

Even when Madoff is sentenced it is not likely he will receive near what the street criminal receives. Madoff will pay a hefty fine receive a light sentence and get out to continue to enjoy his life. While the lowly street criminal will spend decades behind bars and get out to eat out of garbage cans unless he has family to take him in. The laws are not applied equally to every citizen and the white collar criminal knows even if caught his punishment will be very little. Meanwhile the lives as you said that are affected runs into the thousands.


Citizen Kane said...

One public benefit of prosecuting people is subpoenaing witness and exposing their lies in at least convicting them of perjury, if nothing else.