Posts Tagged ‘Joe Manchin’

THE CORROBORATION CONUNDRUM

In February 1942, the notorious gangster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel went on trial in Los Angeles for the 1939 murder of fellow mobster Harry “Big Greenie” Greenberg. One of the killers, Allie Tannenbaum, agreed to cooperate. However, District Attorney John F. Dockweiler faced a problem.

California law demanded corroboration by a second witness. The state had that witness: Abe “Kid Twist” Reles, a feared hit man for New York’s Murder, Inc. (Yes, there once were a lot of vicious Jewish gangsters.) Before the trial, the New York Police Department stashed Reles away under 24-hour guard at Coney Island’s Half Moon Hotel. Somehow, the canary flew out the sixth-story window. Lacking wings, he was unable to reach L.A. to sing.

No mob historian would exonerate Bugsy Siegel (a character in the new novel I’m writing). But the requirement for corroboration—or hard evidence—handcuffed Judge A.A. Scott. He dismissed the case.

The recent Senate Judiciary Committee hearing—not a trial—on now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh brings the Siegel trial to mind. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified under oath that as a teenager, she’d been sexually assaulted by a drunken teen-age Brett Kavanaugh. The charges came late in the day, and the committee reassembled to probe the matter. The hearing seemed awkward and incomplete. At the last minute, the FBI ran a short, limited investigation. No corroboration appeared.

Democrats, believing Dr. Ford, supported her. Republicans, with no corroboration to spoil their likely victory, supported Judge Kavanaugh. The 50–48 confirmation vote fell almost strictly along party lines with one crossover on each side: Republican Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) against and Democrat Joe Manchin (West Virginia) for.

The Kavanaugh nomination and hearing divided America. The Great Divider, aka Donald Trump, first found Dr. Ford’s testimony credible, then cited the lack of corroboration, then ridiculed Dr. Ford, then called her testimony a Democratic hoax.

Does corroboration matter? Trump declared that young men must be wary of being victimized by women who attack their character with false claims. He’s hardly a reliable source for such advice. Moreover, millions of women have horrible stories to tell. But Republicans correctly cited corroboration as a basic tenet of American jurisprudence. The accused is presumed innocent; the burden of proof lies with the state.

Still, lack of corroboration did not disprove Dr. Ford’s claim. Moreover, women who have survived sexual assaults ranging from thoughtless and disrespectful to violent often cannot provide corroboration. When they do, their complaints frequently are dismissed, generally by men too busy with “other important matters” and, frankly, unconcerned.

I believe that Brett Kavanaugh assaulted Susan Blasey Ford. However, I do not knowit. This I doknow: The oft-scowling Mr. Kavanaugh, through his belligerence, disrespect towards Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee and partisan statements, resembled a teenager caught with his pants down, snarling and screaming to apply a verbal fig leaf. For this alone, I would have voted against confirmation.

That said, corroboration matters and hence America’s conundrum. We must follow our judicial principles in spite of what we “know” about the accused. That’s why Bugsy Siegel had his case dismissed.

Justice, however, sometimes is served in other ways. In 1947, Ben Siegel met his through a gangland assassination. Regarding Brett Kavanaugh, history may render an unkind verdict.

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THE “C” WORD

Words can offend. One starts with “C.” But we need to talk more about it because given the nature of the world we live in it’s more relevant than ever.

Compromise gets some people riled up. The word suggests a lack of integrity and morality. These folks believe they’re always right and opposing views are by definition flat-out wrong. No quarter ever can be given. A small step towards an opposing view only launches the righteous down a slippery slope.

The refusal to find a middle ground is nothing new. In the novel As a Driven Leaf by Milton Steinberg, published in 1939, the Sanhedrin in Judea debates allowing the study of Greek culture. For some Jews, only Torah is legitimate. Others have drifted towards Greek philosophy, art and science leaving Torah behind. Still others strive for balance. Their faith need not crumble before Greek reason; other cultures offer something of value. When the zealots, who wish to obliterate Greek culture in Israel’s midst, rebel against Roman occupation, disaster follows. Unfortunately this is history not just literature.

Yes, the Sages teach that compromise is not always allowed. One may not commit murder or incest or bow down to idols even on pain of death. Beyond that, the real world requires acceptance of the “C” word. Those who bear direct responsibility for a nation’s wellbeing—presidents, prime ministers and even kings—often understand this. Those who sit on the sidelines—another “C” word, Congress, comes to mind—can promote ideological or selfish positions. The buck does not stop with them.

Jordan’s King Abdullah offers an insight worthy of attention. In an article by Jeffrey Goldberg in this April’s Atlantic, Abdullah notes that his efforts to establish a modern democracy face opposition from the royal family. “The further away you’re removed from this chair [the throne—DP], the more of a prince or a princess you are.”

Fortunately, several new attempts at compromise may pay great dividends.

In Jerusalem, women and men may finally get to pray together at the Kotel—the Western Wall. Natan Sharansky, Israel’s head of the Jewish Agency, presented a plan that may not give liberal Jews everything they seek in an Orthodox-controlled religious environment but nonetheless allows for major progress. The plaza in front of the Kotel would be divided into Orthodox and non-Orthodox areas. To each his—and her—own.

In Washington, Senators Joe Manchin III (D-West Virginia) and Patrick Toomey (R- Pennsylvania) have fashioned a compromise on gun control to include background checks at gun shows. The National Rifle Association, which adheres to the slippery slope theory, will try to kill the legislation in the Senate. But the spirit of compromise just might be too great. In the same vein, reasonable immigration legislation may well be fashioned in the coming weeks. It won’t be perfect, but it will help our immigration policy make more sense.

So let’s get a grip on all our “C” words. Because some should be part of any polite company’s conversation. Oops, here we go again.

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Read the first three chapters of David’s new novel, SAN CAFÉ at davidperlstein.com. SAN CAFÉ is available at iUniverse.com, Amazon.com and bn.com.