Outspoken Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz said yesterday that Lois Lerner, the IRS official who was in charge of the division of the IRS overseeing exempt organizations, which targeted the tea party and other conservative political groups, could be held in contempt of Congress and go to jail after her appearance at a congressional hearing on Wednesday, according to The Hill.
Before pleading the Fifth Amendment, Learner made an intial statement saying she had, “done nothing.” Some legal scholars, including Dershowitz have stated that by giving the opening statement, she may have waived her Fifth Amendment protections.
"She's in trouble. She can be held in contempt," Dershowitz told the "Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV. "Congress ... can actually hold you in contempt and put you in the Congressional jail."
Dershowitz, who famously was one of O.J. Simpson’s defence lawyers, said Lerner "should never have been allowed" to make her opening statement and the “ the "law is as clear as it could be" on the issue.
"Once you open up an area of inquiry, you can't shut off the spigot – that's the metaphor that the Supreme Court has used," he said.
"You can't simply make statements about a subject and then plead the Fifth in response to questions about the very same subject," Dershowitz said. "Once you open the door to an area of inquiry, you have waived your Fifth Amendment right... you've waived your self-incrimination right on that subject matter,” he said in the interview.
Chairman(R-Calif.) is in agreement with Dershowitz and indicated he is eager to pursue forcing Lerner to testify and made this statement yesterday.
“Ms. Lerner may have waived her Fifth Amendment rights by addressing core issues in her opening statement and the authentication afterwards. Although I excused Ms. Lerner subject to a recall, I am looking into the possibility of recalling her and insisting that she answer questions in light of a waiver.”
What is next for Lois Lerner?
Since most legal authorities agree Lerner waived her Fifth Amendments rights, Issa must compel her to testify and said, “If she refuses, then she must be arrested and held in contempt of Congress. She can sit in a cell until she agrees to testify,” according to The Washington Times.
How far will Lerner go to not have to testify? And is a past scenario any indication of what to expect?
You might remember the name Susan McDougal. She was one of the few people who served prison time as a result of the Whitewater controversy. Even though fifteen individuals were convicted of various federal charges, her refusal to answer "three questions" for a grand jury about whether President Bill Clinton lied in his testimony during her Whitewater trial led her to receive a jail sentence of 18 months for contempt of court. This comprised most of the total 22 months she spent in incarceration. McDougal received a full Presidential pardon from outgoing President Clinton in the final hours of his presidency in 2001.
The question many want to know is she protecting someone else because she emphatically denies any wrong doing herself. If so, she may be willing to fall on her sword like Susan McDougal.