Friday, January 12, 2007

"He who pilfers my good name ..."

BREITBART.COM - Judge Dismisses Anthrax Libel Case:
"A federal judge on Friday dismissed a libel lawsuit filed against The New York Times by a former Army scientist once identified as a person of interest in the 2001 anthrax attacks."

It would hard for me to explain how Dr. Steven Hatfill was a "public figure" before this storm of controversy was aimed in his direction by the only government agency that never makes mistakes - the FBI. Apparently it was impossible for the judge to explain the logic of such a judgment since he offered no rationale for it in handing down his ruling.

Thus, it appears that Dr. Hatfill remains one of the luckier victims of the FBI's incompetence (or worse?) along with Richard Jewell the security guard who was hung out to dry in the Atlanta Olympics case, and the lawyer who was falsely claimed to have his fingerprints on one of the London transit system bombs. I call these victims "lucky" because they are still in the land of the living unlike the 15-year old son of Randy Weaver shot at Ruby Ridge and more than a dozen children incinerated at Mt. Carmel.

A public perception that accused persons are probably guilty should be the result of efficient police and prosecutors. It would be a tragedy if those agencies were so inept that they didn't arrest and try persons who were actually guilty in the vast majority of cases. And yet, the public - and especially the press - have an equal obligation to remember that all human institutions are fallible, that zeal for results should not supersede the pursuit of the correct result in each case.

We see the same thing - complicated by issues of racism, sexism and socioeconomic status - unfolding as the Duke Lacrosse "rape" case slowly implodes. In the latest revelation, the "victim" is reported to have changed the timeline of her story to obviate defendant Seligman's ironclad alibi that a cab drive was watching him use an ATM machine nowhere near the scene of the crime at the time she first said the attack took place. Now, we learn that Seligman's cell phone records show that he was speaking with his girlfriend at the new time claimed for the assault. Bill Clinton could carry on a phone conversation while being serviced by Monica Lewinsky, but even such an experienced serial abuser of women would be hard pressed to commit a forcible assault while engaged in a phone conversation.

As former secretary of labor Ray Donovan said after he was cleared of corruption charges, "Where do I go to get my reputation back?" It appears that the federal court for the eastern district of Virginia is not to be that place for Dr. Hatfield.


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