Jack Kemp

Using a little-known federal statute (Title 18, Section 1001 of the U.S. Code), federal prosecutors are threatening to send Martha Stewart to jail for lying to government officials and for publicly declaring her innocence of insider trading even though the government refuses to charge her with the actual crime of insider trading. That's outrageous.

Today, the federal government regulates virtually every facet of our lives, and consequently there is hardly a crime conceivable that cannot be swept up in a federal indictment. This includes securities regulations that are so broad and vague that a determined federal prosecutor can literally convict you of making "misleading public statements." This is precisely what federal prosecutors are attempting to do to Stewart. So much for the First Amendment.

Everyone has the right to remain silent when questioned by the police. If police fail to read you your Miranda rights, the courts must exclude from evidence against you statements you made to the police, even a confession.

The rationale for such strict enforcement of the Supreme Court's Miranda

decision rests on the premise that the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination is so fundamental to our freedoms that it must be protected against erosion and government encroachment, even at the expense of occasionally allowing obviously guilty defendants to go free on a technicality.

The problem is that this right can only be exercised once you are in the clutches of the government. Before that, if one stands on his constitutional right to silence and refuses to "cooperate" with authorities by not answering a single question or responding to a single allegation in the press, one's reputation can be ruined, his or her business can be destroyed and their lives can be made miserable by unrelenting, harassing government officials who leak harmful stories to the press and business associates.

The natural inclination is to "cooperate" with authorities and answer allegations levied in the press. Gotcha! The minute you open your mouth or allow your attorney to speak on your behalf, not only does the protection of silence go right out the window, you expose yourself to an assault by federal prosecutors who are given virtually limitless powers to intimidate you under Section 1001.

Jack Kemp

Jack Kemp is Founder and Chairman of Kemp Partners and a contributing columnist to Townhall.com.
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