Spitzer Should Be Prosecuted

The FBI was deeply involved in the Spitzer case: Tailing him, eavesdropping on his phone, and examining his bank records. The FBI does not routinely pursue a prostitution case except if it involves minors or slavery.

Neither is the case here.

The scale and intensity of the investigation of Mr. Spitzer, then the governor of New York, seemed on its face to be a departure for the Justice Department, which aggressively investigates allegations of wrongdoing by public officials, but almost never investigates people who pay prostitutes for sex.

If it did, then half of Washington would be running for cover. The FBI has not investigated any of the recent political sex scandals.

A review of recent federal cases shows that federal prosecutors go sparingly after owners and operators of prostitution enterprises, and usually only when millions of dollars are involved or there are aggravating circumstances, like human trafficking or child exploitation.

Millions of dollars? human trafficking? Child exploitation? Nothing like that here.

Bradley D. Simon, a veteran Justice Department trial lawyer who was federal prosecutor in Brooklyn throughout the 1990s, said that although it was rare for the department to use so many resources on the workings of a prostitution ring, the involvement of such a high-level politician must change the equation.

Presently, Mr. Simons represents corporations and individuals in “the areas of white collar criminal defense, complex civil litigation and corporate compliance…In his criminal defense practice, Mr. Simon regularly represents clients under investigation for securities, mail, wire, and bank fraud, tax evasion, health care fraud, political corruption, racketeering ….”

Stakeouts and surveillance are labor-intensive and often involve teams of a dozen or more agents and non-agent specialists.

An affidavit

filed in the prostitution case did not identify Mr. Spitzer by name, only as Client 9, but it provided far more detail, some of it unusually explicit, about Client 9’s encounter with the prostitute than about any of the nine other clients identified by number in the document.

If the government gets a Suspicious Activity Report about a high-ranking public official, they would be negligent not to pursue it, if only to determine whether there was bribery or extortion involved,” said Robert D. Luskin, a defense lawyer and former federal prosecutor. Mr. Luskin said that as the case proceeds, the more difficult questions could well involve how the information about Mr. Spitzer became public and whether the government “will prosecute Spitzer if it doesn’t prosecute others in the same situation.”

Interesting question. We already know how it became public–those banks (North Fork Bank, a subsidiary of Capital One, and HSBC Bank USA)–that Spitzer was investigating for predatory loans. They are in the business of being good citizens.

But what exactly will the FBI prosecute him for? Being a John? Crossing state lines? Hiding money? Looking over the complaint, I found Client 9’s sums very modest.

The unraveling of the Emperor’s Club occurred only because of Spitzer. Client 9 is mentioned 57 times, more than twice as many times as any other client.

I am curious. Why have no other individuals stepped forward? Why just Spitzer? How did that happen? Do the other clients know they are mentioned in the complaint? How did Spitzer learn about it?

Frankly, I would like to see the FBI prosecute Spitzer. I want to see the charges: How they arose, who gave them impetus, who decided to proceed, on what basis….

Spitzer could do us all a favor in insisting there be charges–full disclosure of everything. It might be worth it. It is the least he could do for the rest of us. Before he disappears into the woodwork, let’s have real transparency.