Sir Walter Scott once wrote, "Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practise to deceive!"
I was reminded of that phrase when a colleague brought to our attention a recent court case out of Silicon Valley, written up in The Daily Beast as "Silicon Valley CEO Pleads 'No Contest' to Abusing His Wife — and Is Offered a Deal for Less Than 30 Days in Jail".
It's a disturbing article to read with its description of the systematic physical and mental abuse dealt to his wife by an out-of-control control freak. It's even more disturbing because it becomes clear in context that this was no isolated incident. The victim who, like her husband, is an Indian national who has worked on highly successful technology ventures, suffered years of abuse at his hands before anything became public when a postal worker reported the husband after witnessing his abuse of her on a sidewalk. He got a sweetheart deal from the courts the first time around.
He did this time, too, despite a smart phone recording of the incident, and when confronted after the fact, both judge and prosecutor are full of excuses as to how and why the husband was allowed to plead "no contest" and receive less than 30 days in jail — although the prosecutor does admit that part of the calculation was in finding a way to help the repeatedly abusive husband defendant avoid deportation for his behavior.
The prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Steve Fein, felt the need to gild the lily by saying this: "Her [the abused wife] understanding of all the intricacies of the case are not as in depth as mine," when confronted by the journalist who interviewed him. That's hilarious because, sadly for this apparently ethically challenged individual, his ignorance of the law exceeded his competence — an irony, isn't it, given that we're talking about a lawyer here. As for myself, I would imagine that the wife fully understands the intricacies of a case that involved her physical and mental abuse over a very long period of time, in ways Mr. Fein can't even imagine.
But as I explained in a recent blog post, domestic violence is one of those crimes that Congress has determined to be so inherently wrong, and so damaging to society, that it has singled the offense out as one for which aliens can be removed regardless of whether the conviction was for a misdemeanor or felony. The particular provision of law providing for removal of domestic abuse offenders can be found at Section 237(a)(2)(E)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(E)(i). So much for knowledge of "the intricacies".
Now, I suspect that when — hopefully not "if" — Mr. X is taken into custody by federal immigration agents and placed in removal proceedings, his dismayed defense attorney will scramble back into court to try to persuade the judge to permit him to withdraw the no contest plea and try some other maneuver to evade the immigration consequences of his spousal violence.
With the spotlight of the media momentarily shined on the dubious proceedings used in the case, perhaps the judge will be a bit more reticent this time to engage in any more abnormally cozy three-way arrangements between judiciary, prosecution, and defense, excluding the victim so completely that she (the judge) snuck away on vacation and left it to an acting judge, who was apparently blind to the backroom goings-on that led to the plea deal, to preside while the sentence was imposed.
Perhaps it's time for someone in a position of authority to look at the canon of ethics for judges and prosecutors, which are supposedly crafted to ensure impartiality in cases before the bar of justice, something that doesn't appear to have happened the first time around. Looks to me like those canons got trampled and that the victim got a raw deal.
As to the defendant? He needs to be arrested by immigration agents so he can try to persuade an immigration judge that he shouldn't be deported, a dubious proposition given the apparent lack of remorse and the way he has been able to manipulate those around him to let him continue living that golden life there in the Valley, consequence-free, while his wife was experiencing a hell on earth.