A Great Day in Criminal Law History.
Monica Goodling, Alberto Gonzales’s White House Liaison, has chosen to plead the Fifth rather than testify before Congress. This is good news. When a highly-placed Department of Justice official, who knows exactly how the system works, avails herself of her constitutional right to remain silent, it sets a good example for the rest of us.
Goodling’s lawyer said that his client would not testify because “certain members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have already reached conclusions about the matter under investigation and the veracity of the testimony provided by the Justice Department to date.” So he’s suggesting that his client is taking the Fifth because her testimony is requested by people who have already made up their minds. That’s not really a useful test for whether a person should take the Fifth, but I can see why the lawyer would want to publicly rationalize his client’s intelligent but unpopular decision to remain silent.
Goodling’s lawyer also wrote:
The potential for legal jeopardy for Ms. Goodling from even her most truthful and accurate testimony under these circumstances is very real. One need look no further than the recent circumstances and proceedings involving Lewis Libby.
Lewis Libby may not be the best example of a person giving his most truthful and accurate testimony — he had a jury trial, and a jury rejected his claims of memory lapses and convicted him of making false statements both to the FBI (part of the DOJ, Goodling’s employer) and a grand jury.
If Martha Stewart and Scooter Libby had had Ms. Goodling’s example to follow, they might not be convicted felons today.
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