(Editor’s note: Former Monterey Park Mayor, G Monty Manibog is a regular columnist offering legal tips and perspectives in high profile legal cases and events)
Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York, who recently gave up his congressional seat under exceedingly heavy pressure from his democratic colleagues (including former speaker Nancy Pelosi) must have been impressed and influences by that popular TV singing commercial: “I wish I were an Oscar Meyer Wiener, that is what I really want to be. ‘Cause if I were an Oscar Meyer Weiner, everyone would be in love with me.”
The problem is that the singing commercial is about a real brand name tasty hot dog, not about a real live congressmen who used his twitter account to tweet photos of his erect body part clad in grey boxer trunks to a female college student in Washington D.C.
Initially and vehemently denying he posted the image, charging that a political opponent must have “hacked” his twitter account and posted photo tricks, Congressman Weiner eventually admitted and apologized for his bizarre behavior, and conceded to having transmitted the sexually explicit pictures and messages to several women over a 3 year period, even after his marriage to on of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s top aid who is now pregnant.
On his original denial and claim that someone hacked into his twitter account to transmit those photos, Weiner did not request the FBI or D.C. police to investigate, but rather hired a private investigation firm to do so.
The Supreme Court has long extended the 1st amendment right of free speech to allow the publishing and transmitting of even nude photos of the human body and body parts and so Weiner did not commit any crimes.
Had he enlisted the FBI and/or capital police to investigate, however, and continue his lies, he would have been guilty of lying to law enforcement and could have suffered criminal penalties.
It is usually the lies and cover up that ensnare a person into the criminal justice system though innocent of many crimes. Martha Steward, diva of gracious living, lied to Securities and Exchange officials when she denied receiving “insider information” that her Enron stocks were about to tank which caused her to hurriedly dispose of her shares at a high value.
She told investigators that she instructed her broker to sell her shares when they reached a certain value level which was found to be a lie as her broker confessed.
Had she told the truth, that the Enron president (an insider) advised her to sell her shares pronto, she would not have been guilty of any crime since she was not herself an insider.
Because Ms. Steward was merely the recipient of insider information, she could have avoided prosecution and jail time had she been truthful from the beginning.
The Nixon/plumbers Watergate cover up also worsened their situation and President Nixon would not have had to resign and be pardoned by President Ford but for the cover up of their Watergate burglary.
The bizarre and scandalous behavior of Congressman Weiner caused him and his family a great deal of embarrassment and to his fellow democrats who feared irreparable political damage and some radioactive fallout on their party’s reelection prospects, thus impelling them to apply unusually strong pressure for Weiner’s resignation.
Ironically, however, the majority of his constituents in his district did not want him to resign since he committed no crime for his foolish acts.
The lesson for today, therefore, is the age old Washington example admitting to his father that he cut down the cherry tree) that honesty is the best policy.
While an act, though questionable and embarrassing, may not be a crime, you make it so by lying under oath or to law enforcement officials.