I’m a little confused.
I’ve lived most of my life under the impression that there are certain laws in place, regulations that were enacted by various governing authorities, and as a resident of my community, my state, and the United States, I’m obligated to follow those laws. If I don’t, the legal system has a set of prescribed punishments, ranging from a fine up to incarceration in a jail or prison.
So I’m having a difficult time lately understanding why so many people seem to be getting off nearly — if not totally — scot-free for various offenses. We’ve seen may cases of this locally, from drunk drivers with multiple convictions still out on the street killing people to two local individuals who tortured a baby and then let her die a slow, painful death only to receive what I consider pretty light sentences (less than three years for one, less than nine years for another).
Just this week we had a horrible car crash in Mount Airy that claimed the life of a Hillsville, Virginia, woman. The driver of the vehicle which caused the crash, according to police reports, did not have an operator’s license and ran through a red light and killed someone in a car her vehicle struck. Yet, she was given what appears to be the lightest charge available and was released without any bond to return to her home in another state.
Saying someone is remorseful and really feels badly about what he’s done, or is cooperative and really feels badly for what she’s done, simply doesn’t cut it when it comes to justification for why no one ever seems to be held accountable, yet that’s what we hear time and time again from judges and magistrates.
And now, nationally, we find the FBI has concluded that Hillary Clinton, in her time as secretary of state, was “extremely careless” in her handling of “very sensitive, highly classified information,” yet that agency suggests no criminal charges be pursued.
Here are the exact words of FBI Director James Comey: “Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information…there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”
Is that now the standard? “Oh, sorry officer, I didn’t mean to run over that person,” or “Oh, sorry officer, I didn’t really mean to use that counterfeit money I made in the basement last night, it just got mixed up with my real money.”
Please do not misinterpret my statements as being political. I’m no Donald Trump fan — I’ve always considered him somewhat of a high-dollar buffoon, though I think as a president he’s scary — but Hillary Clinton should be under indictment right about now.
Years ago I covered a trial of a man charged with killing his friend in a hunting accident. The two, along with another man, were out hunting, they separated, then later, as dusk was falling, one of them heard and saw movement and fired his gun, thinking it was a deer. It was his friend, who died there in the woods.
The prosecuting attorney explained to the jury the shooter had no malice, he had no intentions of killing his friend, so he had not committed murder. But he had been grossly negligent, criminally careless in a manner that result in a death. As a result, he should be found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, because simply saying “I didn’t mean to” doesn’t absolve the man of his actions.
I’ve always thought that was a pretty good summation of the difference between killing someone in an accident caused by carelessness vs. an active intention to do so, and a good explanation that even accidents, if caused by gross negligence or carelessness, still carry consequences.
So it is with Secretary Clinton. I don’t believe she sat down one day and said “I’m going to violate national law and risk dozens, maybe hundreds, of state secrets.” To me, that would be treason and cause for life imprisonment.
I do believe that she, in the way the Clintons often do, simply felt she was above the law and shouldn’t have to conform to everyone else’s expectations, so when she was Secretary of State she used a private, personal email server instead of a secure federal one as required for her position. She shared sensitive information over that server, information that could have been lifted by any number of hackers with the skills and experience to do so.
In so doing she was grossly negligent, careless with sensitive documents in a manner that I believe rises to the level of being criminal.
It’s regrettable that the FBI chose not to do its job in this case, and that Attorney General Loretta Lynch is more concerned with being a loyal Democrat than an effective Attorney General. I have no appetite for the grandstanding so often done by the GOP in Congress, calling endless hearings and sounding so much like a shrill, irritating voice. In this case, though, I hope the GOP continues to pursue the case, because it seems to me the former secretary of state violated the law.
If, as a society, we can demonstrate that even at the top, the richest most influential people will be held accountable for their actions, then maybe that will trickle down throughout the rest of the legal system, and we can start seeing positive changes in how our legal system works.
John Peters can be reached at [email protected]