Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Harvey Silberman was found not guilty yesterday. The judge was indicted in 2008 for allegedly violating a State Election Code. He was accused of bribing another candidate in an effort to get her to step out of the race.
In trial, two witnesses testified against Silberman. They were working on his judicial campaign at the time the alleged crime occurred. Silberman’s attorney argued that the witnesses lied about their stories in an effort to get better “deals” from the prosecutor. The two had pled guilty to misdemeanor in order to avoid trial on felony charges. The defense attorney went on to argue that the prosecution was politically motivated because the subject of the alleged bribe was a deputy district attorney at the time of the election.
Whatever Silberman’s attorney argued, it worked, as the judge was found not guilty after a day of deliberations. Judge Silberman, who commented to the media that he is eager to get back to work, says that he believes this experience will only help to make him a better judge.
I hope this is the case Judge Silberman. This investigation and trial cost the County of Los Angeles hundreds of thousands of dollars to prosecute. This happened at a time when those dollars are likely better spent elsewhere. It appears that the trial was based primarily on the testimony of two indicted and convicted co-conspirators as well. It is my hope that the District Attorney’s office had evidence to corroborate the testimony of the snitches (please see yesterday’s blog) and was not relying solely on their testimony for a conviction. While the testimony of indicted co-conspirators is not the same as a jailhouse informant, the co-defendant or co-conspirator certainly has a large motivation to lie. Simply put, in this case, the two witnesses had already been charged with crimes and pled guilty and agreed to testify for the prosecution in order to secure a more favorable deal.
As for me, I have spent the last twenty years working in and around the criminal justice system and I believe that the systems works fairly well, but it is by no means perfect. In order to help the system work at its best, we need hard fighting defense attorneys, and fair-minded prosecutors who are seeking justice and not just victory. Finally, we neutral, impartial judges who are not afraid to make tough decisions which effect the life, liberty and property of real people, even judges.
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