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Losing My Faith In The System

Thursday, October 25, 2012

I told you I’d let you know what U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania Peter Smith said after I alerted him to a dangerous breach of security in his ongoing federal public corruption task force.

I ’m sorry to report that Smith declined to speak with me about what federal and other law enforcement officials claim is a weak link in the criminal justice system that is charged with upholding and restoring the public trust in Northeastern Pennsylvania, a region long poisoned by public corruption.

I sent Smith the column I wrote, published online and read out loud on the air. I asked Smith to read it. I asked to talk with him about what I know. I asked sincerely and respectfully.

Smith responded quickly, sending me a short email saying that he read my column. He brushed off my interview request. He thanked me for sending him the column. And he wished me the “best,” as I had wished him in my short formal communication.

Essentially he told me to stick it, to go screw myself because for whatever the reason he did not want to be bothered with what I had to say.

Maybe I’m being too defensive. Maybe crime fighter Smith launched a rapid-fire investigation into the matter. Maybe he dispatched a squad of aggressive agents on the case. Maybe he called a meeting and read his staff the riot act.

But I doubt it.

If Smith read anybody the riot act he likely raised hell about how I found out about the story that has swept law enforcement circles for more than a year. That’s right. I said more than a year.

If Smith hadn’t yet heard the troubling story before I told him, he might want to get out more. As for prosecutors who have heard the story, they might want to ask themselves why they sat on the news and failed to do anything of substance to correct the matter to make sure it never happened again because if – and when - it does happen again, somebody could get hurt.

A good cop could get killed because a bad cop can’t be trusted.

Instead, I imagine the in crowd at the federal courthouse is laughing and mocking my attempt to blow the whistle on a real leak they should have fixed. Keep in mind that by mocking me they’re mocking you. What they fail to see is that by mocking us they’re mocking the very system they are paid to serve and uphold. What they fail to see is the damage they do to that system and to the public trust by belittling and trivializing serious people who want desperately to believe in and serve that same system. What they ignore and dismiss is the importance of communication between them and us. What they damage sometimes seems beyond repair.

Not that long ago these same powerful prosecutors put out a press release asking for our help in uncovering behavior that might be criminal. They came to us. And we responded with waves of support and a simple, yet brave, willingness to join them as good citizens in a behind-the-lines mission to root out the political and business gangsters who rule our culture of corruption.

Now, with the job far from over, not only do they turn their backs on us, they turn their backs on each other.

Some good cops and others are not happy about this.

Not that long ago these same feds received information about another alleged bad cop. To their credit, they investigated. But they came back empty, clearing the cop of a crime that some people still believe he committed.

He’s still a cop.

And now the “good guys” turn away again, this time from an accusation by other cops who say one of their own helped a now convicted criminal run a license plate on an FBI surveillance vehicle used to help track the criminal and record his voice. The accused cop denied to me that he “ran the tag” but said he believes that a law enforcement official did help the criminal and that FBI agents know the accomplice’s identity.

He’s still a cop, too.

In a manner of speaking so is prosecutor Peter Smith, who, believe it or not, has turned away once again from yet another accusation that could get somebody killed. I am in possession of a letter Smith recently sent to a Scranton man who told Smith about some serious accusations about the men who run the business where he worked.

Six other co-workers have signed statements accusing the men of demanding daily cash kickbacks from the cash the men collect in the course of their shifts. The payments have occurred for years, the men say. They call the transactions “extortion” and wonder if their bosses paid federal taxes on the big money they kicked back in exchange for staying employed. One of the bosses has had past problems with the IRS, a source says.

Prosecutor Smith called the claims a disagreement about conditions of employment and said that no criminal investigation is warranted.

I disagree with that call and imagine that you do, as well. But what we think doesn’t matter to the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. What do we know anyway?

We’re just good citizen taxpayers trying to believe in a system that all too often lets us down – hard-working, law-abiding people who no longer matter to the eagle eyes of the law.

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Topics : Law_Crime
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Locations : Northeastern PennsylvaniaPennsylvania
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