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December 2, 1998


The 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.


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