Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Stanford criminal law professor provides guidelines for considering allegedly “misleading” statement from climate change-denier Pat Michaels

Etopia News ran an article yesterday about an allegedly “misleading” statement about where he gets his money from the Cato Institute’s Dr. Patrick Michaels before Rep. Henry Waxman’s House Energy and Commerce Committee in 2009.

On February 12, 2009, Dr. Michaels told the committee that he got “three percent” of his income from polluting energy firms. Later, on August 15, 2010, he told the public on Fareed Zakaria’s CNN program GPS that the true figure was “forty percent.”. Rep. Waxman, now the Ranking Member of the Energy and Commerce Committee due to the Republicans’ recent take-over of the House of Representatives, has asked the new Chairman, Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, to ask Michaels to meet with committee staff to clarify this discrepancy.

Meanwhile, Stanford Law School Professor Robert Weisberg has provided Etopia News and its readers with some background material regarding the law that governs such issues. Here’s what he had to say:

“There are essentially two ways to win a conviction in a case like this. One would be to prove he flat-out lied about a provable factual proposition. This would be perjury if the witness was under oath or for false statements if he wasn't. The standard here is difficult for the government if the question or answer was at all vague or ambiguous. You have to catch an outright intentional lie on a clean factual question. So the reference to 40 percent may be too vague or speculative to be intentionally "false." The other route is to charge contempt where the witness was formally required under subpoena to provide Congress certain information and he failed to do so, knowing that it was covered by the subpoena.

“The contradiction in the two Michaels statements would be some evidence toward a false statements charge but probably not a contempt charge. In the latter case it would have to be shown that he was trying to cut off a line of inquiry to prevent Congress from learning something it was entitled to know. In any event, the devil will all be in the details.”

Having this background provided by Professor Weisberg can provide some basis for understanding the liability that Dr. Michaels may have regarding his testimony to the House Energy and Commerce Committee in 2009.

No comments: