Yesterday’s report was that Hillary Clinton would have had to have signed the OF-109 separation form in order to be in legal trouble (State now says they have “no record” of her signing it) for deleting 30,000 emails. But Ronald Rotunda, writing for the Wall Street Journal, says that it’s a crime worth up to 20 years in jail “to destroy even one message.”
Here’s the relevant bit from his WSJ column:
The law says that no one has to use email, but it is a crime (18 U.S.C. section 1519) to destroy even one message to prevent it from being subpoenaed. Prosecutors charging someone with obstruction don’t even have to establish that any investigation was pending or under way when the deletion took place. As T. Markus Funk explained in a journal article for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the prosecutor “need only prove that the defendant shredded the documents, at least in part, to make life more difficult for future investigators, if and when they eventually appear.”
Legal commentators call this “anticipatory obstruction of justice,” and the law punishes it with up to 20 years imprisonment. The burden of proof is light. The Justice Department manual advises that section 1519 makes prosecution much easier because it covers “any matters” or “’in relation to or contemplation of’ any matters.” It adds, “No corrupt persuasion is required.”
It’s not just Clinton who could be in hot water:
In addition, rules governing the practice of law forbid attorneys from anticipatory obstruction of justice. These ethics rules are drafted by the American Bar Association, but they are also reflected in real law. Virtually every state court adopts them, and violation can lead to disbarment. Rule 3.4 (which has been around for many years) provides that an attorney shall not unlawfully “conceal a document or other material having potential evidentiary value.” Mrs. Clinton is a lawyer governed by these rules. So are any attorneys who advised her to delete her emails.
Is there a prosecutor with the stones to lean on a lawyer in the Clinton camp hard enough to get them to turn?
And more importantly, just how delicious would that be?