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Hugh Grant plus high crimes and misdemeanors

By Rachel Alexander
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 15, 1998
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Arizona Daily Wildcat

Rachel Alexander

Remember when Hugh Grant was caught in a compromising position in his car with a prostitute? The police officer who observed him arrested him and hauled him off to the police station.

Both the police officer and the prosecutor did not "look the other way." They did not let Hugh Grant off without punishment, simply because he was such a "nice" person, or "so good-looking," or "doing such a good job acting."

Everyone feels bad that Hugh Grant was publicly subjected to this embarrassing arrest, especially we women who find him extremely attractive and really did not want to hear about his sexual deviations. But should we have made an exception for Hugh Grant?

No, because that would be selective prosecution. Consider the ramifications if police officers everywhere decided to overlook every celebrity they saw engaging in illegal behavior. And even if we think, well, it was consensual adult behavior and should not be subjected to the criminal law, police officers and judges are not the ones to be making that decision; the legislature is the body that makes the laws and they are the ones to whom we should convey our doubts about the law.

Similarly, President Clinton's conduct must also be held to the same standard as other lawbreakers. Just because Clinton is attractive, and is well-liked by more than half the population, does not mean he should be above the law.

Nor does apologizing make him above the law. If we let Clinton off the hook for apologizing, why stop there? Why not let any accused escape punishment by apologizing? Or, if that seems like too many potential convicts to let go, why not just let the rich, famous, attractive crooks have that option?

Clinton will be tried by Congress for "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors," the criteria for impeachment. "High crimes and misdemeanors" is a phrase taken from English law, referring to political crimes against the state, and violating the public trust.

It is not a criminal proceeding referring to ordinary criminal misdemeanors. Rather, it is a legislature procedure used to remove civil officers from office.

As such, it is not subjected to the same rules that apply in legal courtrooms. The House will conduct an investigation, putting forth its findings to the Senate, and then the Senate will act as a jury and conduct a trial. A two-third vote by the Senate is necessary to impeach.

Since this is not criminal law, the standard for determining whether Clinton has committed "high crimes and misdemeanors" is not "beyond a reasonable doubt." It is a much easier standard to prove.

The Starr investigation was restricted to finding statutory violations. This is different from the actual impeachment inquiry that is being done by the House Judiciary Committee, which will also focus on political crimes.

The Judiciary Committee's report on the Nixon impeachment proceedings in 1974 clarified that the "high crimes and misdemeanors" standard does not require a criminal law violation, it can apply solely to "political crimes."

Therefore, it is futile for Clinton supporters to focus on the argument that Clinton did not commit perjury since he believed his behavior did not constitute "sexual relations." Technical legal arguments may have to pass muster in front of the grand jury in a legal courtroom, but not in impeachment proceedings.

The Starr report lays out 11 statutorial violations. Only two-thirds of the Senate need to find Clinton guilty of only one of these in order to impeach him.

Even if perjury is dismissed as inconsequential, since it was in response to inquiries into his adultery, it cannot be denied that the constant media exposure of these lies has severely damaged the public trust of Clinton, throughout this country and the rest of the world. He can no longer be trusted to tell the truth. The definition of "high crimes and misdemeanors" includes "violating the public trust."

President Clinton is obviously guilty of this. True, there have been worse violations of the law by Clinton, not addressed in the Starr report, for which he should be impeached. But just because someone gets caught for the lesser of two crimes is no reason to ignore the lesser crime.

Rachel Alexander is a third-year law student. Her column, Common Sense, appears on alternate Tuesdays and she can be reached via e-mail at

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