In 1931, the infamous gangster Al Capone, who ruled much of Chicago for decades was finally brought down at the hands of Treasury Agent, Eliot Ness. Despite Ness' intense investigation, the US government was unable to prove Capone had a hand in many of the dealings for which he was sought after, including prostitution and breaking prohibition laws. In the end, Capone's empire was brought down on tax evasion charges and he went on to spend seven years in prison.
This tactic, prosecuting on lesser charges, is an oft used strategy to this day. Even when the "criminal" is a political figure.
During Friday night's Countdown with Keith Olbermann (1/19), Olbermann and White House Correspondent David Shuster discussed the ongoing Scooter Libby trial, and the current jury selection. During the conversation, Shuster noted:
"Well, the credibility of Vice President Cheney and Scooter Libby‘s going to be crucial, especially in the point of whether they were or were not preoccupied with undermining the Wilsons. And this came out when Scooter Libby‘s attorneys twice asked potential jurors how they would feel if Vice President Cheney‘s testimony was contradicted by somebody else who might testify in the case.To date, the role of Vice President Dick Cheney in the Plame Affair is unclear. Questioning of key witnesses during the investigation stalled, and subsequently led to the charge of perjury against the Vice President's aide, Scooter Libby. There is however, evidence that Cheney played an integral role in the outing of undercover CIA agent, Plame. But is there enough evidence for prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald to go after Cheney, or does Shuster's remarks suggest Fitzgerald is looking to use the "Ness tactic?"
That was intriguing, whether it was a hypothetical or whether it was a foreshadowing of something to come, intriguing simply because we know that there is a witness from the CIA who‘s going to testify about briefing the vice president‘s office about the Wilsons."
Shuster's report indicates that the Vice President may provide testimony to the jury that will be contradicted by others testifying in the case. Fitzgerald clearly made an issue of this before the jury during voir dire, which seems to hint Fitzgerald is anticipating testimony from the Vice President that can be proven false. Under those circumstances, the Vice President himself - who will be under oath, would have committed perjury.
While Fitzgerald seems unable to prosecute Cheney for his somewhat ambiguous and protected role in the Plame Affair, could Fitzgerald be looking to charge the Vice President with perjury, if in fact, his official explanation under oath can be proven false or inconsistent?