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Tilting at Windmills

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October 31, 2008

CONVICTED.... Maybe there's something about scandal-plagued Alaskan Republicans that leads to denial. When Sarah Palin was found to have violated state ethics laws, she announced that she'd been cleared her of "any hint of any kind of unethical activity." This was the opposite of reality.

Similarly, when Ted Stevens was found guilty of felony corruption charges, he said he hasn't been convicted.

"I've not been convicted yet," Stevens said Thursday in a meeting with the editorial board of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. "There's not a black mark by my name yet, until the appeal is over and I am finally convicted, if that happens. If that happens, of course I'll do what's right for Alaska and for the Senate.... I don't anticipate it happening, and until it happens I do not have a black mark."

Stevens reiterated that position during a televised debate late Thursday night, declaring early in the give-and-take with Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, "I have not been convicted of anything."

Now, I'm not an attorney, but if an accused criminal goes to trial, and a jury founds the accused guilty, I think it's called a "conviction." The defendant can appeal his conviction, of course, but therein lies the point -- he's appealing his conviction.

I even looked it up -- a conviction is "the judgment of a jury or judge that a person is guilty of a crime as charged."

What on earth is Ted Stevens talking about?

Steve Benen 11:33 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (51)

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Steve, obviously he has no legitimate point, but he does have a technically legitimate legal point. The judge has not yet entered a judgment of conviction for him. That will not happen until sentencing. There is a guilty verdict, but there is not yet a conviction.

Posted by: Glenn on October 31, 2008 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

This is just part of the ongoing Republican debasement of language. I can't decide if they're more like Orwell or like Humpty Dumpty, but they've decided that they can redefine any word they want at any time. Worse, too often, they're allowed to get away with it -- did anyone at that meeting say, "Sorry, Senator, but you're flat-out wrong"?

Posted by: Bernard HP Gilroy on October 31, 2008 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

Remember Ken Lay of Enron - convicted, immediately appealed, and died before the appeal was complete. Because of that he (or his estate) had to pay none of the fines from the conviction.

Truly a "what the ..." moment in my understanding of American justice. I wonder if it only applies to the important people in society, or is only apparent because of the stakes.

Posted by: Wapiti on October 31, 2008 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

He hasn't been sentenced yet, and since that doesn't sound innocent enough, he changed it to 'convicted' yet

Maybe he had a senior moment and confused the two terms

But most likely is this is a Sarah variation: The Alaska report found NO ethics violations! Listen to me, don't read the damn thing!

Posted by: Tony on October 31, 2008 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

He is basically threatening the judge and the justice system. Stevens always believed that you were only as good a politician as the amount of extortion you could generate. The fact that this man walks free, and is still pretending he can stand for election after being found guilty of high crimes, tells you how close we are to a police state. I say let's remand this felon to custody. I don't recall jail time being forestalled so one could run for reelection to the Senate. . .

The Senate needs to expell him.

Posted by: Sparko on October 31, 2008 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

The rule in the Ken Lay case is that in the federal system, you have a right to appeal your conviction. If that appeal is cut off because you die, then the long-standing rule of the courts is to vacate the conviction because you didn't have your appeal.

Posted by: Glenn on October 31, 2008 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

Can we assume he is going to try and vote ?

Posted by: ScottW on October 31, 2008 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

I've always wanted to go to Alaska to see the wildlife and the scenery. But with all this weird political humanity wandering around, will the grizzlies, whales, glaciers and Mt. McKinley even hold my attention?

Posted by: shortstop on October 31, 2008 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

Like Bernard HP Gilroy said, it's the modern GOP absolutely destroying the meaning of words. Claiming that a conviction is not in fact a conviction is the logical next step for a party that used the name "Clear Skies Initiative" for a plan that allowed more pollution to be released into the air.

Posted by: Lifelong Dem on October 31, 2008 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

"I've been found guilty but I haven't been convicted yet!"
"I've been convicted but I haven't been sentenced yet!"
"I've been sentenced but I haven't gone to prison yet!"
"They gave me a comfy cell because they know I was railroaded!"
"Vote for Meeeeeeeeeee!"

Posted by: Dennis - SGMM on October 31, 2008 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

C'mon Steve. Alaska's a different country with different rules. I believe an Alaskan Senator is really a combination of roles more like what you'd call a foreign ambassador/emperor from other exotic lands. I wouldn't be surprised to find that the emperor has the right to arbitrarily overturn convictions.

It's a whole new world up there.

Posted by: LJR on October 31, 2008 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

What on earth is Ted Stevens talking about?

He's a Rethug - never admit you're wrong, never apologize.

At this point, all I care about is that he loses on Tuesday. Then he can win on appeal. Just as long as he's out of government.

Posted by: Jeff II on October 31, 2008 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah, what tony said. Apparently, some people think you haven't been convicted until you're a CONVICT, so until sentencing occurs, ITSDO (In Ted Stevens' Dishonest Opinion) he can't possibly have been convicted. And if he gets off with probation and a fine, he'll probably claim he was never convicted, and therefore, he's innocent.

I don't know who the first person was to say Neoconservatism is a mental illness, but I say, give that person a grant and let him or continue the study.

Posted by: slappy magoo on October 31, 2008 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah, what tony said. Apparently, some people think you haven't been convicted until you're a CONVICT, so until sentencing occurs, ITSDO (In Ted Stevens' Dishonest Opinion) he can't possibly have been convicted. And if he gets off with probation and a fine, he'll probably claim he was never convicted, and therefore, he's innocent.

I don't know who the first person was to say Neoconservatism is a mental illness, but I say, give that person a grant and let him or her continue the study.

Posted by: slappy magoo on October 31, 2008 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah, what tony said. Apparently, some people think you haven't been convicted until you're a CONVICT, so until sentencing occurs, ITSDO (In Ted Stevens' Dishonest Opinion) he can't possibly have been convicted. And if he gets off with probation and a fine, he'll probably claim he was never convicted, and therefore, he's innocent.

I don't know who the first person was to say Neoconservatism is a mental illness, but I say, give that person a grant and let him or her continue the study.

Posted by: slappy magoo on October 31, 2008 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

I'm with LJR on this one, Steve. You're using the wrong kind of reality again. (You know, the "real" reality.) In his Republican world, he's not convicted...he's just "confirmed!"

Posted by: Jim H from Indiana on October 31, 2008 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

Rethugs....love that term - they are delusional as usual. TS was convicted and is a felon - deal with it.

Posted by: wom46 on October 31, 2008 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

The judge has not yet entered a judgment of conviction for him.

This wasn't a banc trail. He was convicted by a jury. That's still a conviction.

Posted by: Danp on October 31, 2008 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

Steve's right--Stevens was convicted. He can appeal the conviction and attempt to have it overturned, but he's still been convicted. Period.

Republicans are now constructing a fantasy world of their own, including the McCain/Palin campaign, because they can't deal with reality.
Reality has a liberal bias.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on October 31, 2008 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

Well, there is sort of a legal technical ambiguity in that word. For instance, the collateral proceedings that take place after the direct appeal -- habeas corpus and the motion to vacate sentence -- are called "post-conviction" proceedings, but the direct appeal is not.

That doesn't make Stevens's argument legitimate, of course.

Posted by: The Fabulous Mr. Toad on October 31, 2008 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

I think its called denial, whats frightening is the depth of it.

Reality based world imploded some time ago, you are no longers histories actors and we no longer study what you do.

Posted by: Jet on October 31, 2008 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

Can we assume he is going to try and vote?

Why shouldn't he? Felon status doesn't obtain until sentencing. So, technically, does his conviction.

However, as a former prosecutor, whenever Stevens won a guilty verdict against a defendant, did he hold off the celebrations until sentencing? "Don't pop the champaigne corks yet; we don't have a conviction."

Posted by: Grumpy on October 31, 2008 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

well, considering the repigs well-established contempt for the rule of law*, this is no fucking surprise.

*geneva conventions
torture
harriet miers
joshua bolten
karl rove
executive signing statements
fisa

Posted by: linda on October 31, 2008 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

In criminal law, we talk about the finality of a conviction, which usually refers to the point when "direct review" of trial is completed, generally after the court of appeal denies relief. Typically that period is spent incarcerated unless you have obtained bond pending appeal, which is rare in a system in which so many are indigent. If I were to try to make sense of Stevens' assertion, I guess I would assume he is suggesting that he is not "finally convicted" because his conviction isn't final. But I have tons of clients, "convicts," in the same boat behind bars and I can assure you that the public generally assumes that each has a "black mark" by their name.

Posted by: Billy on October 31, 2008 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK
The judge has not yet entered a judgment of conviction for him. That will not happen until sentencing.

I'm pretty sure this is wrong. After the jury returns a verdict, the judge either enters a conviction or overturns the jury verdict and acquits despite it. Sentencing proceedings are post-conviction proceedings.

So, I'm pretty sure that not only does Stevens not have a substantive point, he doesn't have a valid technical point either, and this is just a garden variety lie.

Posted by: cmdicely on October 31, 2008 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

To Danp at 11:56 a.m.: Yes, I understand this wasn't a bench trial (I assume that's what you were trying to say). Nevertheless, under the federal rules it is for the court, i.e., the judge, to enter the judgment of conviction, which Judge Sullivan will do at sentencing. The federal rules do not refer to a guilty verdict by the jury as a "conviction."

Note, too, that a defendant found guilty can move for a new trial within 7 days if he believes errors were committed, and if the judge grants that motion and the defendant is acquitted at the new trial, then he will never have been "convicted."

Now, look, in common parlance Stevens has been convicted...and obviously he shouldn't get any traction from this ridiculous line of argument. But technically, he is correct.

Posted by: Glenn on October 31, 2008 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, cmdicely, you're wrong. Sentencing proceedings are not post-conviction.

Posted by: Glenn on October 31, 2008 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

Steve; "What on earth is Ted Stevens talking about?"

Add to that "What on earth is Don Young talking about?

found at WaPo..."Speaking of Stevens, his fellow lawmaker, Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), himself under investigation, offered an unusual endorsement, comparing the senator to Richard Nixon. "I can remember Richard Nixon, you know, his years of service, what he's done, and everybody [was] ridiculing him, and he ended up being the greatest president in the history of our century" Young told the Anchorage Daily News. "

"THE greatest president of our century"???

teddy? FDR? st. ronald? wildly spinning in their graves as i type this, one would think...

bonus incoherence: Young: "The senator will be re-elected. He will appeal it. When he does, he will win it because there's no way this is a jury of his peers,"

"reality...what a CONCEPT"

Posted by: dj spellchecka on October 31, 2008 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

Denial is a river in Egypt.

Posted by: Leslie on October 31, 2008 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

Glenn is correct here, as can be seen from Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 32. In the federal courts, after the jury returns a verdict of guilty, there is (usually) a presentencing investigation and report by a probation officer, with time to object by both the government and the defense. The judge considers the report and the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, gives the parties and certain victims the opportunity to speak, and then enters a written judgment of conviction. Only then has someone been "convicted."

So technically, Stevens is correct (though ridiculously technical) that he has not yet been convicted. If he then files an appeal, he has still been convicted; he is merely appealing his conviction.

Posted by: Kenneth Fair on October 31, 2008 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

If gaming the system has worked for you for decades, why would you suddenly stop? The rules apply to everyone else.

Posted by: Piehole on October 31, 2008 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

Sen. Stevens is being very cute with his language, but Kenneth Fair has this exactly right. Stevens has been found guilty by a jury, but his conviction will not be entered until sentence is pronounced by Judge Sullivan. At that time, he will have been convicted, but the conviction would abate if he dies while an appeal is pending. The conviction becomes final when the court of appeals affirms. If Supreme Court review is sought, the conviction becomes final when the Court affirms or denies review.

Posted by: Jake on October 31, 2008 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think that the same rules apply for folks in Alaska...........they just seem to make up their ethics as they go ............is that the real America I keep hearing about ?

Posted by: beastofbourbon on October 31, 2008 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

It's just another example of Republicans completely ignoring the truth whenever it is inconvenient and hoping the voters are too stupid to notice.

Posted by: mfw13 on October 31, 2008 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

What on earth is Ted Stevens talking about?

I think he's taking the same drugs as McCain. Or, more likely, they're each exhibiting the symptoms of senile dementia.

It's time for your naps, Senators,
-Z

Posted by: Zorro on October 31, 2008 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

"In the judgment of conviction, the court must set forth the plea, the jury verdict or the court's findings, the adjudication, and the sentence. If the defendant is found not guilty or is otherwise entitled to be discharged, the court must so order. The judge must sign the judgment, and the clerk must enter it."

Stevens is artfully lying as most/all republicans do when they can't face the truth. The fact that the judgment of conviction has not yet been ENTERED by the Court for strictly procedual reasons, can not and does not change the legal effect of the jury having rendered a verdict of guilty on the facts in evidence, which is the conviction.
To "convict" is "to find or prove to be guilty". Merriam-Webster Online.

Posted by: robert on October 31, 2008 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

You expect a member of the republican party to feel constrained to be truthful? Surely you jest!

Posted by: Observer on October 31, 2008 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

He's banking on low information voters and the truly ignorant.

Posted by: Always Hopeful on October 31, 2008 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

He's banking on low information voters and the truly ignorant. Posted by: Always Hopeful

In other words, the heart of today's Rethug party.

Posted by: Jeff II on October 31, 2008 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

"Final judgment in a criminal case," the [U.S. Supreme] Court has said, "means sentence. The sentence is the judgment." Berman v. United States, 302 U.S. 211, 212.

Black's: "Conviction" and "convicted" mean the final judgment on a verdict or finding of guilty . . ."

Posted by: DefCon1 on October 31, 2008 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

The appropriate retort, of course, was:

"Perhaps not, but you have been found guilty of serious crimes by a jury of your peers who looked at the evidence and declared that you are a criminal."

Posted by: DefCon1 on October 31, 2008 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

Steve, you are absolutely right. If he goes on appeal and tells the court that he has not been convicted then the appellate court would have no ground for hearing his appeal because there would be no decision to challenge in the first place.

Posted by: zie on October 31, 2008 at 5:17 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sorry Glen but I disagree with your first comment. Just like in tort where the case is determined on two main issues, i.e merits and quantum, one following the other, the same thing happens in criminal cases the conviction represents liability for the crime and sentencing can be said to be a quantification of due punishment following your conviction. Your can never be sentenced until you have been convicted.

Posted by: zie on October 31, 2008 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

"Final judgment in a criminal case," the [U.S. Supreme] Court has said, "means sentence. The sentence is the judgment." Berman v. United States, 302 U.S. 211, 212.

Black's: "Conviction" and "convicted" mean the final judgment on a verdict or finding of guilty . . ."

There has been a verdict, but no conviction, legally.

Let it go.

A guilty verdict should be enough.

Instead of letting Stevens get the upper hand by arguing about the term "conviction," which he is going to win, make the focus the guilty verdict and the number of counts it covers.

Stevens's semantic arguments may be loathsome, but this is a legal matter and legal definitions apply - don't add to the travesty of his technically correct but disingenuous claims by playing into his hands with puerile arguments about the "real" meaning of conviction.

Posted by: DefCon1 on October 31, 2008 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

"Steve, obviously he has no legitimate point, but he does have a technically legitimate legal point. The judge has not yet entered a judgment of conviction for him. That will not happen until sentencing. There is a guilty verdict, but there is not yet a conviction. "

One would think that having sat through countless sentencings in federal district court I would be more certain about this, but I don't think that's accurate. A finding of guilt-- the closest thing to a "conviction" in technical legalese that I can think of-- is entered when the jury returns a verdict of guilty. It is true that the judgement is not final (i.e., appealable) until sentence is entered. But I don't think it's at all accurate to say that a defendant has not been convicted of a crime until that point-- indeed, it's the entry of a judgment of guilty, whether by jury verdict or guilty plea, that prompts the production of a Presentencing Investigation Report and gets the sentencing process started.

In any case, Stevens's contention that he hasn't been "convicted" until the case is reviewed on appeal is complete BS. Appellate jurisdiction doesn't even exist until a final judgment has been entered.

Posted by: JRD on October 31, 2008 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

In response to DefCon1, I haven't read Berman but I suspect the Court was addressing the question of when a criminal conviction is appealable? It's certainly the case that a judgment is not final until sentence has been entered, but it is not the case that a defendant has not been conclusively found guilty until that point. So to the extent Stevens is suggesting that the issue of his criminal liability has yet to be conclusively decided by the district court, that is an entirely misleading statement. The only remaining issue is determining his sentence, which obviously is only done for defendants already found to be guilty.

Posted by: JRD on October 31, 2008 at 6:03 PM | PERMALINK

Stevens is playing a semantic game by using "conviction" according to its legal meaning but expecting the public will hear the common parlance. But Glenn and DefCon1 are right in the legal sense. Stevens was tried in a federal court, and so his trial is subject to the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. Rule 32(k)(1) says "[i]n the judgment of conviction, the court must set forth the plea, the jury verdict or the court's findings, the adjudication, and the sentence." As the rule makes clear, there is a distinction between the guilty verdict, an element, and the judgment of conviction.

Posted by: pine on October 31, 2008 at 7:38 PM | PERMALINK

pine,

Even if it's the case that a criminal defendant is not "convicted" until sentence is entered, Stevens is still wroing-- there's no plausible argument (Ken Lay notwithstanding) that a defendant is not convicted until after appellate review.

Posted by: JRD on October 31, 2008 at 7:52 PM | PERMALINK

Another funny cartoon at the Reasons To Be Cheerful, Part 3 blog: "Alaska: State of Denial."

Posted by: fdeblauwe on October 31, 2008 at 8:18 PM | PERMALINK

JRD, sorry for the late reply, but two points:

First, while Stevens is correct in the legal sense of the word that he is not convicted yet, I also think he is misleading the public.

Second, a defendant is convicted upon entry of judgment, which occurs in February when the judge sentences him. So you are correct that he is convicted while his appeal is pending (which is why I think he is misleading the public.

Posted by: pine on October 31, 2008 at 10:15 PM | PERMALINK

but if an accused criminal goes to trial, and a jury founds the accused guilty, I think it's called a "conviction."

I think Mr. and Mrs. Stevens founded Ted.

I also find it a bit surprising he was founded guilty as I had thought that all babies are founded innocent.

Of course, his career makes more sense your way.

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on November 1, 2008 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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