Trial. A formal inquiry designed to prove and put upon record the blameless characters of judges, advocates and jurors. - Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary
One year ago today I reported the story of Jack T. Camp, a federal judge in Atlanta, Georgia who made a career of throwing the book at people for consensual crimes; he fell for a stripper whom the F.B.I. then bribed into betraying her client by promising to drop other consensual crime charges against her. So she led him into a fake drug deal and the FBI arrested him and charged him with an assortment of drug and weapon charges for which any normal person would’ve faced decades in prison. But since he is a member of the ruling class (albeit a disgraced one), what he actually got was far less time in jail than a Georgia woman who was accused of agreeing to have sex with someone for the “wrong” reasons (like, you know, to pay the bills and feed her kids) might have been sentenced to. This story is from last March, but was only called to my attention a few weeks ago by Norma Jean Almodovar’s guest column:
After telling him he has “a scarlet letter chiseled on his forehead the rest of his life,” a federal judge sentenced disgraced ex-jurist Jack Camp to 30 days in prison for committing repeated crimes with a stripper. “He has disgraced his office,” Senior U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan said…“He has denigrated the federal judiciary. He has encouraged disrespect for the law.”
Camp, who was arrested [on October 1st, 2010] in an undercover drug sting, pleaded for leniency. He asked to be allowed to remain in his home and community to repair his marriage and rebuild his name. “When I look back at the circumstances which brought me here, it makes me sick to think I did them,” he said. “They were illegal, wrong, foolish…The only thing I can say is that I’m so very sorry.” In court filings, Camp’s lawyers told Hogan that depression and a bipolar disorder as well as brain damage sustained in a 2000 bicycle accident — all exacerbated with improper prescriptions — help explain the ex-judge’s erratic and reckless conduct last year.
…Camp’s son, an Atlanta lawyer, asked Hogan to sentence his father to probation…but Hogan…said he could not get around the fact that a high-ranking government official had committed such serious offenses. He then read aloud the oath of office Camp took 22 years ago…[which] included Camp’s pledge, he noted, to follow the law. “Instead, for whatever reasons, the demons he had made him go another way,” Hogan said…[adding] “There was no suggestion this conduct was ending.” Hogan also ordered Camp to serve 400 hours of community service, pay a $1,000 fine and reimburse the government for the cost of its prosecution, which has yet to be determined. Camp will get credit for the weekend he spent in jail after his arrest.
…In one ruling issued Friday, Hogan found that Camp had not committed a felony, as prosecutors believed he…had when they signed the plea agreement. Instead, Camp committed three misdemeanors, exposing him to a sentence of up to 6 months in prison. Prosecutors asked Hogan to sentence Camp to at least 15 days…Camp’s lawyers asked for probation and community service. Camp said the past few months had been a nightmare for him and said it has been a struggle to go out in public because of his humiliation and shame. “I had worked hard as a judge and earned a respected reputation,” he said. “Now I’ll be known as the judge who disgraced himself at the end of his career.”
I’m sure most people who are arrested in elaborate and expensive stings and charged with federal drug offenses feel sick and sorry; I’ll bet lots of them suffer from depression and could even hire quacks to diagnose them with serious mental illnesses or “brain damage” (especially since the Drug Warriors claim that illegal drugs cause brain damage). I’m positive that lots of them would just love to be allowed to remain in their homes to repair their marriages and rebuild their names, and I’m certain they’d be overjoyed if the felonies for which they had already agreed to a plea bargain magically diminished into misdemeanors. And I daresay most of them would consider a $1000 fine plus court costs assessed after only five months of worry to be a bargain compared to the years-long, repeatedly-delayed, resource-draining, often-escalating nightmare of a typical federal prosecution. But they’re not judges, so they are humiliated, bankrupted, forced to commit perjury and betray others and then thrown into prison for an average of six years. But someone who “…disgraced his office…denigrated the federal judiciary…[and] encouraged disrespect for the law” gets a slap on the wrist, because, you know, he’s “suffered enough”. Well, at least this gives us a new legal dodge; we’ll call it the “bicycle defense”. Too bad it won’t work for anyone but a politician.