Harsh Prosecution for the Little People and the Big Guys Skate
The US Department of “Justice” has a distinctly nuanced concept of that term, taking a tough, no-holds-barred stance when it comes to individuals -- especially little people without much power or influence -- and trying at all costs to avoid prosecution when it comes to the powerful, and to big corporations -- especially big financial corporations. That schizoid approach to prosecution is personified in the recent actions--and inaction--of the DOJ’s man in Manhattan, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara.
You remember Preet. He’s the guy who came down so hard on a deputy consul general of the Indian Consulate in New York who was accused by his office of “human trafficking.” Setting aside the deliberately incindiary "slave trade" language, what the 39-year-old Devyani Khobragade stands accused of is lying to US visa officials in New Delhi when she applied for a visa to bring an Indian maid to the US to work in her home, allegedly claiming to them that she would be paying the woman some $4500 a month, when the maid, who left the job, claimed she was paid just $573 monthly. The US prosecutor (himself a naturalized citizen and native of India who grew up in the US) had Khobragade arrested as she dropped her two children off at school, brought her to the federal lock-up in Manhattan, where she claims she was strip searched and cavity searched several times, and finally released her on $250,000 bond, to face felony charges that could potentially result in 10 years’ jail time. (Khobragade has denied the charges and claims that the maid in question was extorting her family.)
Explaining his tough approach to the case, Bharara has stated that Khobragade’s treatment under arrest was not harsh, and that she was simply subjected to “routine procedures of the US Marshal’s Service” for persons being placed in detention following arrest. In fact, he claimed she had been extended “special courtesies” such as being allowed to make multiple phone calls to assure that her children would be cared for in her absence, and being offered coffee by her arresting officers. Bharara also defended his department’s tough approach in this case saying that human trafficking is a serious crime and that “Foreign nationals brought to the United States to serve as domestic workers are entitled to the same protections against exploitation as those afforded to United States citizens.” He went on to declare that the alleged lying to visa officials and the alleged “exploitation of an individual” were something that “will not be tolerated.”
Some might immediately point out that exploitation of low-paid American workers is rampant -- including in Bharara’s jurisdiction of New York--and that the Justice Department largely ignores it. (US workers routinely are defrauded out of overtime, get paid below minimum wage, are denied unemployment benefits they are owed, are forced to work in dangerous conditions, and are abused on the job and the “Justice” Department does nothing.) But even putting that huge hypocrisy aside, there’s the matter of Jamie Dimon and JPMorgan Chase.