Liberty and justice for all

blind justice

For a price

The Fastows, Andrew and Lea, are supposed to enter their pleas in court today, the culmination of long negotiations. Fastow is, of course, the ex-chief financial officer of bankrupt Enron. The deal nearly came apart at the last minute when the judge for Lea Fastow's case said he wasn't sure the terms were right.

Andrew and Lea Fastow take their perp walks

It has been widely reported that a sticking point in the negotiation was an arrangement whereby Mr. and Mrs. Fastow would take turns serving their prison sentences so their children would always have one non-incarcerated parent.

Now isn't that considerate?

The Fastow case nicely illustrates an ugly truth: in the justice system, as is so often the case, you get what you pay for. Suppose that instead of Lea and Andrew it was LaWanda and Tyrone who had ripped off their employer. They'd be sent up to serve the maximum terms allowed under the law, and their children would be turned over to social services. It's not that Lea and Andrew shouldn't get that consideration; it is that LaWanda and Tyrone should get the same consideration.

But because the Fastows are rich (if you can even contemplate paying a fine of $10M you're rich) and can afford high-powered lawyers, they get to play Let's Make a Deal. It also helps that the government thinks that Andrew Fastow can rat out other Enron execs, like former CEO Jeffrey Skilling. Kenny Lay, Enron's former chairman, First Friend and Major Campaign Contributor, probably sees his last best hope in the The Shrub's re-election.

Lofty ideals. The US is rich in soaring rhetoric and lofty ideals: "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," and "All men are created equal" for starters. To be sure, the US comes closer to living up to them than a lot of countries around the world, but the gap between rhetoric and reality is sometimes appalling.

Justice is supposed to be blind, but what it is really blind to is rampant inequity in the way laws are enforced and justice meted out.