The complete exoneration of the Duke lacrosse team members of rape charges got me thinking about other seemingly similar abuses of government power, as evidenced by prosecutorial zeal.

I realize that we’re supposed to cheer the TV cops and prosecutors when they bend the rules to get the “bad guys,” but it should be disquieting.

Imagine for a moment what might have happened if there had been one shred of evidence to support the false rape charges. Would the outcome have been any different from those in the prosecutions of Michael Milken, Martha Stewart, or Scooter Libby?

In Milken’s case, his clients loved him. However, by hitting him with nearly 100 counts of fraud with a RICO rider, allowing the seizure of his assets, prosecutors were able to force Milken to enter into a plea bargain. Even Milken, an extremely rich person, wasn’t able to fight effectively against a prosecutor with essentially unlimited assets and power.

In Stewart’s case, we’re supposed to believe that a multi-millionaire went to Byzantine lengths to sell stock worth about $60,000. The kicker in her case was that the prosecution added up each statement to investigators as separate charges. I’ll bet they don’t do that with car thieves and purse snatchers, and I know for a fact that they don’t do it with the criminals crossing the border illegally from Mexico.

In Libby’s case, he turned over all documents in his possession, and then when his responses didn’t match the evidence he’d already turned over, he was adjudged to be guilty of perjury. In the old days, if you had the choice between accepting a document or accepting someone’s testimony about that document, you chose the document and discarded the testimony. Now, if you turn over evidence, but can’t remember every detail about what you turned over, you’re a liar and you’re going to prison.

So, imagine that in the Duke rape case there hadn’t been security camera footage of one of the accused, showing him to be elsewhere at the time of the invented rape. Prosecutor Mike Nifong, who seems to have been less interested in the facts of the case than in grandstanding for the public, might not have had a reason to pause in his rush to judgment. He might not have been removed from the case. The three accused might be on trial right now.

Each of these cases, I think, shows evidence of an disturbing abuse of government power. Furthermore, each I think shows that no matter how rich or powerful you are, if government prosecutors want to get you, they will, regardless of the actual issues in the case.

I see this as more evidence of the United States turning from a representative democracy to some bizarre form of aristocracy where becoming elected automatically transfers to you a special status, such that the rule of law no longer applies to you. The really troublesome aspect of this is that it isn’t restricted just to those at the top of the heap, such as King George (Bush), as even mayors and counsel members in small towns arrogate to themselves special privileges and immunities. Being elected to office now suddenly elevates one above the hoi polloi. Those of us who are not in office are rapidly losing our status as citizens, as we become evermore subjects.

Greg Raven, Apple Valley, CA