Webster Hubble and the Fifth Amendment

This is probably going to end up as a debate on the appropriateness of the fifth amendment, so I’ll start it here, even though my basic question is basically informational.

Remember, I’m getting this information while driving home from work on the radio (NPR, All Things Considered), so I might not get everything precisely correct. But I think I have everything pretty close.


Kenneth Starr gave Webster Hubble (Hubbel?) immunity from prosecution and compelled him to turn over thousands of pages of his business documents to a grand jury. Clinton/Starr bashing aside, this seems very straightforward. Upon subsequent examination of the papers, it was determined that Hubble had committed tax evasion (and possibly embezzlement? fraud?). Hubble then said that because he had turned over the papers under a grant of immunity, he was immune (duh!) from prosecution deriving that evidence. Either an appeals court or the Supreme Court upheld his position and dismissed the charges. All this seems obviously correct by my understanding of the Fifth Amendment and my TV-derived understanding of the legal process.

As part of the story, NPR quoted some High Muckety Muck from the FBI (Justice Dept.?) who said that this decision essentially prevents law enforcement officials from investigating white-collar crime. The guy sounded like the court handed down a license to embezzle.

My question:

Was the big cop just blowing smoke up our asses?

The Fifth Amendment has been around for a while. I’m not sure how long grants of immunity have been around, but it seems such an obvious tactic that it couldn’t have taken much time to think it up. Haven’t law enforcement officials been constrained by the Fifth Amendment and grants of immunity for a while? Or have I missed some big change in interpretation so that now all law enforcement procedure is due for drastic change? Have Fifth Amendment protections and grants of immunity always prevented effective prosecution of white-collar crimes and they were hoping for a big change so they could begin to prosecute these crimes?

well white collar crimes=just bribe whoever. I think we are a long way from a society that actually punishes celebritys.

Nah… Mr. Muckety Muck was probably just trying to raise ire against the decision to grant immunity. If you can’t win, at least you can try to lose with as many people supporting you as possible.

The law enforcement official was not criticizing Starr for granting immunity. He was clearly criticizing the court for enforcing the grant of immunity and claiming the decision would cripple the ability of law enforcement officials to prosecute white-collar crime, presumably embezzlement, tax evasion, mail fraud and other such crimes.

The NPR site is overloaded so I still can’t find a link to the reaction.

I’m not at all interested in discussing whether Hubbell, Clinton, or Starr are upstanding defenders of Democracy or perverted sleaze-mongers. I’m interested only in why a law enforcement official would complain so severely about what seems to be to be an obvious enforcement of Fifth Amendment protections.

Webster Hubbell Indictment Dismissed