I was surprised the other day when someone on Twitter criticized me for defending Michael Milken in my book The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History. Why, didn’t I know he had pleaded guilty?
Here’s Paul Craig Roberts, in an article called “The Criminal Career of Rudy Giuliani,” giving us a taste of the actual story:
Giuliani once bragged that by giving negative treatment to his targets, “the media does the job for me.” Giuliani certainly had no difficulty manipulating Wall Street Journal reporters James B. Stewart, Daniel Hertzberg and Laurie Cohen or The Predators’ Ball author Connie Bruck. Milken, who had done nothing except make a lot of money by proving Wall Street wrong about non-investment grade bonds, was branded the “Cosa Nostra of the securities world.”
Milken’s “junk bonds” financed such household names as CNN, Barnes & Noble, Stone Container Corporation, Time-Warner, Safeway, and Mattel. Milken provided capital to companies with promising futures that lacked investment-grade credit rankings. Milken operated out of Los Angeles, not Wall Street. His earnings and those of his upstart firm, Drexel Burnham Lambert, aroused envy and hatred among the Wall Street hot shots. Milken failed to use his money to purchase political protection in Washington. Instead, he gave his money to organizations that help poor black children.
Milken was set up perfectly for an ambitious and unscrupulous prosecutor like Giuliani.
Giuliani leaked to his media pimps that a 98-count indictment was coming down against Milken. As Milken had done nothing and Giuliani had no case against him, Giuliani’s strategy was to coerce Milken into a plea bargain. When Milken failed to send his attorneys to work out a plea arrangement, Giuliani used Laurie Cohen to report eighteen times in the Wall Street Journal that Milken would imminently face an expanded superseding indictment of between 160 and 300 counts.
To increase the pressure on Milken, prosecutors threatened to indict Milken’s younger brother, Lowell, unless Milken made a plea deal. US Attorney General Dick Thornburgh quipped to his deputies: “A brother for a brother.” Afterwards, Giuliani’s assistant US attorney, John Carroll, told Seton Hall Law School students in April 1992 that Lowell Milken was a “sort of ready chip in the negotiations.” Giuliani even went so far as to send FBI agents to hound Milken’s 92-year old grandfather.
Milken’s attorneys concluded that Giuliani, lacking any case, was far out on a limb and desperate for a face-saving plea. They worked out a plea to six minor technical offenses that had never carried any prison time. But Giuliani was determined to have his victim, and Milken was double-crossed by sentencing judge, Kimba “Bimbo” Wood, and spent two years of his life in prison.
Giuliani’s assistant US attorney John Carroll later bragged to Seton Hall Law students that in the Milken case “we’re guilty of criminalizing technical offenses. . . . Many of the prosecution theories we used were novel. Many of the statutes that we charged under . . . hadn’t been charged as crimes before. . . . We’re looking to find the next areas of conduct that meets any sort of statutory definition of what criminal conduct is.”
It is a damning indication of the collapse of American law that an assistant US attorney can be well received when he brags to law school students that federal prosecutors frame Americans with novel interpretations that create ex post facto law and violate mens rea — no crime without intent — the foundation of the Anglo-American legal system.