My Turn: My right to the presumption of innocence
Since the genesis of our country, the presumption of innocence has served as the foundation of our judicial system. Despite that fact, history is replete with examples of an overzealous government, press and public jumping to unfounded conclusions and destroying the reputations of innocent people in the process.
Many of us remember Ray Donovan, President Reagan’s Secretary of Labor who was irresponsibly indicted for larceny and fraud.
After the government provided little evidence that he had done anything wrong, a jury quickly acquitted Donovan of all counts. Upon leaving the courthouse a beleaguered Donovan famously asked, “Which office do I go to to get my reputation back?”
My wife, Julie, and I understand those feelings. Next month will mark three years since the government first contacted Julie with questions about her work for Jack Abramoff. Since then, Julie has been responsive to every request that the government has made of her. Despite that fact, we have been subjected to leaks by the government, which in turn have led to irresponsible speculation and sensationalized reporting by the media, which in turn has led to the erosion of support and trust of my constituents.
All of this activity culminated in last month’s unnecessary search of our home which I am convinced had much more to do with an attempt to intimidate us and garner media attention than the pursuit of the truth.
In fact, the search occurred after my attorney had a meeting with the government, and I now believe that the search of our home was in large measure an attempt to strong arm my wife in order to get me to admit to a crime ” a crime that I did not commit.
During the search, Julie was sequestered in the kitchen and not allowed to move without an escort. She was not even allowed to use the bathroom in our own home without an FBI agent escorting her there. Then, the agents systematically searched our home, removing every book, turning over every couch cushion and every pot and pan, and rummaging through every drawer, file cabinet, cupboard and closet.
Even though the search warrant only pertained to items related to Julie’s business, agents seized many personal items that clearly had no relevance to their investigation. Julie’s personal journals, sensitive information about our two children, phone lists and personal files were all taken and have yet to be returned. They even took her mobile phone and iPod.
However, what is more revealing about the government’s motives is what they left behind. While the agents were busy rummaging through our personal items, they failed to take an accordion file with information about the work Julie did for Jack Abramoff, all of which was legitimate and legal.
Then four days later, details of the search were leaked to a Washington, DC, newspaper. I do not believe it was a coincidence that the leak came the day before Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez testified before Congress on charges that his office was overly partisan in its firing of eight U.S. Attorneys, especially considering Gonzalez specifically cited his recent prosecution of Republican Members of Congress as evidence to the contrary.
In my mind, these events clearly indicate that there was more behind the search of our home than the pursuit of justice. As such and while my political opponents work to exploit this incident to further propagate speculation of my guilt, I ask my constituents to withhold judgment and stand with me in protecting my right and that of my wife to the presumption of innocence while we work to ensure that the truth is revealed.
In the interim, I will continue to perform my duties as the representative of this district to the best of my ability. I will continue to return to my district to meet with my constituents and fulfill the commitment I made to them to be more accessible and responsive. I have been an effective representative for this region, and I am committed to remain one despite this unfortunate situation.
U.S. Rep. John T. Doolittle has served in the House of Representatives since 1991 and represents the 4th Congressional District.
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