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The Origin of the "Honest Mistake"
Andy Bustanoby
(C) February 26, 2005

     At this writing, former Enron Chairman Ken Lay goes on trial for
     fraud, which resulted in the failure of Enron. According to news
     reports, Lay said that he knew nothing about the machinations of his
     chief financial officer that brought down Enron. I suspect that if
     he doesn't enter an innocent plea, he certainly will look for a
     guilty plea agreement (lesser penalty) based on "an honest mistake."
     How was he to know what was going on?

     About the same time this story broke, news that Richard Hatch,
     "Survivor" from the reality show where he won over a million
     dollars, is being charged with false income tax reports for 2000 and
     2001. He failed to report his $1.01 million from the reality show
     and another $321,000 from a Boston radio station. An honest mistake?
     Why not? People are always forgetting to report things on their
     income tax returns.

     The honest mistake is of ancient origin. The First Man was the
     originator. Adam? That's right. You can read it in the Bible if you
     don't believe me. Look at Genesis 3.

     You remember the account. Adam and Eve were told not to eat of the
     tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But the serpent tempted Eve;
     she ate and gave the fruit to Adam, and he ate.

     When they were confronted by God with what they had done, Adam's
     answer was a classic. He said to God, "The woman you put here with
     me--she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it" (Gen. 3:11).

     This answer has all the elements of an honest mistake! "The woman
     you put here with me . . . ." Adam trusted her. After all, God
     Himself placed her with him. Can we find fault with Adam for
     honestly trusting her? In the face of that, how could he honestly be
     charged with anything more than a mistake?

     Eve, of course, learned quickly. She cops out with the

     I hear that since Adam didn't get a jury trial, and the sentence was
     handed down by The Judge, the American Civil Liberties Union is
     appealing the case to The International Court of Justice at The
     Hague. If the appeal fails, the ACLU is offering to represent Adam's
     children in a class-action lawsuit against conservative Christian
     clergy. Though it's unlikely to gain any traction, they talk of
     charging the clergy for emotional damage to the children of Adam by
     preaching Adam's "sin" and the participation of his children in "the
     original sin." But one ACLU attorney observed, "Most of Adam's
     children aren't bothered by the charge of original sin." This case
     would be, however, a major step in widening the gap between church
     and state.

     Whether or not The Court takes the case, a major problem remains. If
     the decision of The Judge is reversed or if a class-action suit is
     launched, The Judge needs to be notified. But neither the ACLU nor
     The International Court of Justice knows how to get in touch with

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