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September 30, 2004
Did CBS Commit A Crime?

Attorney and Pace University law instructor Matt Hayes writes an opinion piece today for Fox asserting that Bill Burkett and CBS broke Texas and federal laws in their publication of the Killian fakes:

In Texas, the state in which Burkett concedes the false National Guard memos originated, it is a felony to make or present two or more documents with knowledge of their falsity and with intent that they be taken as a genuine governmental record. Under the U.S. Code, use of an interstate telephone wire, such as the one used to transmit an image of the forged documents from Texas to CBS headquarters, triggers federal jurisdiction. ...

CBS has cause for concern, too. The documents were not just forged; they were obviously forged to the generation over age 40, which has used both a typewriter and a computer to write; CBS did not have to be misled about the source of the documents to be tipped that the documents were not real. While Burkett might have been willfully blind to things that would indicate that the memos were fake, there is mounting evidence that even CBS' experts told producers of 60 Minutes II that they could not verify that the documents were real. The story was aired or in the terms of the Texas forgery statute, "presented" in spite of this.

Well, maybe, but I wouldn't be fitting Mary Mapes for a set of steel bracelets just yet. If Burkett can be proven as the forger -- his Kinko's account would be a good place to start -- then Hayes could be correct about the unstable Bush-hater. I think it's a big stretch to say that CBS has criminal culpability in this, unless Mapes knew for certain that the documents were fraudulent when she put them on the air. We can say that she should have known, and that her disregard for the input of her own experts constitutes at least reckless disregard and possibly malice aforethought, but those are issues for civil cases of libel and not the criminal charges Hayes mentions.

Whoever forged the documents should be prosecuted and put in prison as an example to anyone else who tries to pervert an election. CBS' penalty should be determined by the marketplace, and by all accounts, it already is. Keep letting your affiliates know what you think of Dan Rather, Mary Mapes, and Andrew Heyward. They'll know how to pass that message along. Don't let the conversation get distracted by injecting potential criminal charges into the mix.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 30, 2004 6:28 AM

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» Burketts Children Speak Up from
The children of Bill Burkett, the Rathegate mastermind, have started their own blog where they defend their father (Hat tip: Slings and Arrows). They are not guilty of forging government documents in Texas, but their father is. [Read More]

Tracked on September 30, 2004 10:30 AM

» RatherGate: Is There Really Wire Fraud? from A Stitch in Haste
William Safire suggests that whoever forged the RatherGate documents may be guilty of federal wire fraud. My first reaction is that this would be a hard sell. UPDATE: Captain Ed has a similar view. [Read More]

Tracked on September 30, 2004 11:00 AM

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