jury has acquitted former Agriculture Secretary Alphonso Michael Espy in a case this
office investigated, presented to the Grand Jury, and prosecuted before this jury.
While we are disappointed with the jury's verdict, we
accept it. Our obligation was to fully and fairly present all of the relevant evidence in
support of the indictment. We met our obligation, and the jury has spoken its verdict and
that ends the matter.
With my appointment as Independent Counsel on September 9,
1994, this office was charged with the duty of investigating and prosecuting allegations
of gratuities given to Mr. Espy, as well as other federal criminal offenses arising out of
and relating to the Espy investigation.
To date, this office has brought a total of 15 criminal
and/or civil prosecutions against 14 individuals, 7 companies, and one law firm. Those
prosecutions have resulted in 15 convictions, and we have collected over eleven million
dollars in fines and civil penalties.
At the time the gratuities statute,
18 U.S.C. ' 201(c), was introduced to Congress, President John F. Kennedy said:
No responsibility of government is
more fundamental than the responsibility of maintaining the highest standards of ethical
behavior by those who conduct the public business. . . . the basis of
effective government is public confidence, and that confidence is endangered when ethical
standards falter or appear to falter.
When a public official accepts gratuities, it calls the
impartial execution of his judgment into question when he has matters before him that
affect the gratuity givers.
If the investigation and prosecutions by our office
dissuade corporations from giving gifts to their regulators -- or the regulators
from accepting gifts from those who are regulated -- I believe that the costs we
have incurred, and the efforts we have expended, are worth the price.
The citizens must have confidence in the integrity of
their leaders. A public official's repeated breaches of the ethical standards of
government breed distrust in government as a whole. The actual indictment of a public
official may, in fact, be as great a deterrent as a conviction of that official.
I thank the various investigative agencies that furnished
top-flight investigators to assist in the investigation and prosecutions brought by this
office, particularly the IG-USDA, the FBI, the Customs Service and the SEC.
I am particularly proud of the excellent prosecutors that
have assisted me in this trial.
I believe the ends of justice have been served.