Only Judges Such as This Could Deny that Chen Che-nan was Deputy Secretary-GeneralUnited Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
July 29, 2010
Former Presidential Office Deputy Secretary-General Chen Che-nan traded political influence for money. He was convicted in the first instance of "fraud involving the abuse of official authority" and sentenced to 12 years in prison. But lo and behold, the judge in the first instance retrial ruled that Chen never abused the authority of his office, and reduced Chen's sentence to a mere seven months. When the news leaked out, there was an immediate public outcry.
The original bill of indictment charged businessman Liang Po-hsiung with making illegal loans, and called for a one year term. It said that Presidential Office Deputy Secretary-General Chen Che-nan knew highly-placed prosecutors and investigators could peddle their influence, and that he had accepted a 6 million dollar check and a 1.1 million dollar "red envelope" from Liang Po-hsiung. That was why Chen was charged with "fraud involving the abuse of official authority," and why prosecutors specified an eight year prison term. A conviction in the first instance with malice aforethought would have increased the sentence to 12 years. A conviction in the second instance on the original charge of corruption would have meant a sentence of nine years. Either would have exceeded the eight years prosecutors were seeking. According to reports, the first instance retrial reduced Chen's sentence to one year and two months, and later to only seven months.
The reason the first instance retrial judge gave for for reducing Chen's sentence to seven months was that the charges had been changed. The "corruption" charge had been reduced to a run of the mill "fraud" charge. The first instance retrial judge said Chen Che-nan deceived Liang Po-hsiung, making him believe he could make Liang's legal problems go away. He said that "over the years Chen Che-nan had cultivated many political and social contacts," and that Chen Che-nan never traded on his status as Presidential Office Deputy Secretary-General. This raises an obvious question, namely, "Did Liang Po-hsiung actually say that?" Presidential Office Deputy Secretary-General Chen Che-nan assured Liang Po-hsiung that he could make Liang's legal problems go away -- for an appropriate sum of money. But the first instance retrial judge, with the wave of a magic wand, reduced Deputy Secretary-General Chen Che-nan to "just another civilian who had cultivated political and social contacts." He instantly transformed Chen Che-nan from high-ranking government official into John Q. Citizen.
Herein lies a question. Did Chen Che-nan offer to broker a deal based on his status as "Presidential Office Deputy Secretary-General?" Let us review the facts. Fact One. Chen was certifiably Deputy Secretary-General. No question about that. Fact Two. Chen knew he was Deputy Secretary-General. Fact Three. Liang Po-hsiung knew Chen was Deputy Secretary-General. The judge knew Chen was Deputy Secretary-General. Under the circumstances, how can anyone argue that Chen's crime was not committed in his capacity as Deputy Secretary-General? When precisely during the commission of his crime, did Chen lose his status as a high-ranking government official? Note that the first instance retrial judge knew Chen was Deputy Secretary-General. But he argued that Chen did not extort 10 million dollars in "litigation fees" by trading on his status as Deputy Secretary-General.
Does such an argument really hold water? Can Wu Shu-cheng really argue that she committed fraud only on the basis of her status as "the mother of Chen Chih-chung," and not as "the wife of the President" or "the First Lady?" Moreover, if Chen Che-nan merely exploited his "years of cultivating political and social contacts," wasn't his status as "Presidential Office Deputy Secretary-General" the highest expression of his "lifetime of cultivating political and social contacts?" This "white horse is not a horse" sophistry is utter nonsense, and cannot possibly restore public faith in the justice system.
The first and second instance trials handed down long sentences, precisely because Chen was a high-ranking government offical who engaged in influence peddling. Who knew the first instance retrial judge would sentence him to only seven months? Who knew the judge would insist that Chen's crime was unrelated to his status as a high-ranking government official? If Chen Che-nan had not been Presidential Office Deputy Secretary-General, would he really have been worth the sky-high price of 10 million dollars Chen demanded from Liang Po-hsiung? In the end, Liang paid Chen 7.1 million yuan to let him walk. Did Full Court judges Tseng Teh-shui, Tsui Ling-chi, Chen Heng-kuan ever confront Chen Che-nan? Did they ever ask him whether he undertood that he was the Presidential Office Deputy Secretary-General during the commission of his crimes?
The key to this case is whether Chen "abused his authority as a government official to engage in fraud and corruption." Suppose for the sake of argument that Chen Che-nan never took advantage of his position to make contact with the presiding judge in Liang's case? The fact remains that Chen used his status to broker a deal for Liang. Is Chen Che-nan's status as "Presidential Office Deputy Secretary-General" is something judges can switch on and off at will, as if by remote control?
Suppose for the sake of argument that the crime was "merely a routine case of influence peddling." The statutory punishment is still five years. Suppose for the sake of argument Chen Che-nan never relied on his status as "Presidential Office Deputy Secretary-General" to commit his crimes? This of course is an impossibility. Chen knew he was "Presidential Office Deputy Secretary-General" when he was committing his crime. The only person who refuses to admit this is the first instance retrial judge. He imposed a sentence of only seven months on an "official within the highest ranks of the Presidential Office guilty of influence peddling." How can other defendants who have been handed down heavy sentences possibly accept such a grotesque double standard?
Presidential Office Secretary-General Chen Che-nan traded legal favors for money. President Chen Shui-bian embezzled money. Each of these crimes committed by high-ranking government officials, was an example of knowingly violating the law. Each of these crimes severely injured our justice system. The courts should ensure that these criminals pay for their crimes. We should expect nothing less. Alas, our judges have helped these highly placed government officials escape justice. Even after Chen Shui-bian confessed that the Southern Front Project was a fraud, the judge insisted it was genuine. A life sentence was reduced to two years. Even though Chen Che-nan admitted he was the Presidential Office Deputy Secretary-General, the judge insisted that Chen never used his official status to peddle influence. A 12 year sentence was reduced to seven months. This is not the defense of justice in accordance with human rights. This is the undermining of justice by perverting the law.
Judges such as these are either hacks or shysters. What else could they be?
2010.07.29 03:22 am