Sidney Powell, the attorney representing President Donald Trump’s former national security advisor Michael Flynn, said in a lecture on Thursday on Capitol Hill that “unfettered prosecutorial power,” as in the Robert Mueller-led investigation, needs to be addressed so that innocent people are not wrongly indicted, prosecuted, and sentenced to prison terms.
“We have a problem in this country with unfettered prosecutorial power and what I call overcriminalization,” said Powell, who authored the book Licensed to Lie: Exposing Corruption in the Department of Justice.
The book “focuses on abusive prosecutors—all of whom rose to very powerful positions in the government,” according to Powell’s biography at the London Center for Policy Research, where she is a senior fellow. “The book’s most prominent villain now leads Robert Mueller’s task force investigating the 2106 presidential election” — Andrew Weissmann — the bio stated.
“There are so many laws that can or have been criminalized by well-meaning or worse overly aggressive prosecutors that any one of us — I mean there goes but by the grace of God — any one of us — if a prosecutor wants to indict you and send you to prison they can do it,” Powell said.
She cited the corrupted prosecutions of former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, Arthur Andersen LLP, Merrill Lynch executives, and the role Mueller played in forming a task force to investigate Arthur Anderson and the Enron scandal.
“They sent four innocent Merrill Lynch executives to prison on an indictment that did not state the criminal offense while they hid the evidence that showed they were innocent,” Powell said.
Powell said the cliche “if they could indict a ham sandwich” is true.
“Mr. Mueller indicted a company that didn’t exist,” Powell said.
Powell spoke about the need for criminal justice reform, including at the highest levels, at the lecture entitled, “What It Really Means to be a Federal Prosecutor,” which was for Capitol Hill interns and sponsored by The Fund for American Studies and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).
“We need to come up with more creative ways to punish people in a way that’s effective but still allows them to spend time with their family, be taxpaying and productive and contribute to society instead of just being locked in a hole and treated like an animal,” Powell said.
She said the federal prison system is a “cesspool” and “needs a major overall.”
“Crimes are committed in prisons every day on both sides of the bars and that needs to stop,” Powell said.
“Our criminal justice system now literally crushes people to dust,” Powell said. “It is virtually impossible to mount a defense against a multi-count federal indictment.”
She noted the conviction rates of prosecutors is over 95 percent.
“We have lost the presumption of innocence,” Powell said. “People think that once somebody is indicted the charges are real, when they can be as concocted as the Arthur Anderson indictment, the Merrill Lynch indictment.”
“We need to remind ourselves every day not to rush to judgment on anything we read in the newspaper on an indictment because it may very well not be true,” Powell said.
She encouraged the interns to support or intern for the Innocence Project.
“Every week they free someone who had virtually no opportunity for a defense who was ground to dust in the system — maybe they had some prior offenses, maybe they were down on their luck,” Powell said. “They didn’t have the resources. They didn’t have the social standing. They didn’t have the public support or anything needed to fight the charges brought against them.”
“They were actually innocent of charges and they have spent decades in prison on the basis of wrongful convictions,” she said, adding that over 50 percent of which is attributable to prosecutorial misconduct.
And “prosecutors, according to the Supreme Court decision, enjoy absolute immunity,” Powell said.
Rand Paul introduced Powell, saying that he had not heard of her before someone gave him her book and that now he is a fan.
Follow Penny Starr on Twitter