Prosecutorial power is great, and when abused, can cause great damage. The U.S. attorney’s decision to drop fraud charges against David Stockman, Ronald Reagan’s former budget director, in connection with his performance as former chief executive of Collins & Aikman, the bankrupt auto-parts maker, is a victory for common sense and restraint. But few pause to think what personal price Mr. Stockman, and others who are recklessly indicted, pay during the months, and sometimes years, of living under a cloud of unfounded but stubborn suspicion, in an age that has too often seen prosecutors more concerned with scoring a conviction than determining the truth.
Those whose memories of Mr. Stockman may be confined to his storied time in the Reagan administration—during which he was famously rebuked by the president for giving a boisterously freewheeling, and frankly refreshing, interview to The Atlantic in which he directly admitted various stumbles and screw-ups the White House had made in pursuit of its economic agenda—may have missed the news that, last March, he was indicted by federal prosecutors, accused of keeping investors in the dark about Collins & Aikman’s financial troubles. Mr. Stockman argued, with good evidence, that he was trying to save the company—including by continuing to pump money into it—while the auto industry was collapsing around them. When the company went belly up, Mr. Stockman’s buyout firm lost $360 million, and he personally was reported to have lost $13 million. Of course, in the wake of the indictment, his voice was drowned out as he was dragged through the mud and vilified by the media.
At the end of the day, while the prosecutors can’t undo the pain they’ve caused Mr. Stockman and his family, we commend Lev Dassin, U.S attorney for the Southern District of New York, for not losing sight of justice and for dropping the charges.
One hopes that with the many prosecutions that are sure to come with all the financial shenanigans these days, prosecutors will conduct themselves as ego-less, true servants of justice, and as such focus their efforts on those who have committed real wrongdoings.
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