A star federal prosecutor spills the dirt about the tough moral compromises his job required.
If Kroger’s life were a film, it would seem almost ridiculous: Rambunctious teen from the Houston suburbs signs up with the Marines for lack of anything better to do and ends up distinguishing himself in an elite Recon unit; graduates from Yale in philosophy, works as deputy policy director for Clinton’s 1992 campaign, then gets a degree from Harvard Law; winds up a federal prosecutor in Brooklyn chasing down counterfeiters, putting mob assassins behind bars and helping dismantle what was left of New York’s Five Families. A tough guy with a scalpel-like intellect and a streak of humility, Kroger tells his life story like it was no big deal. He truly doesn’t seem to mind that “federal prosecutors toil in obscurity.” Exhaustive and fair-minded accounts of several major trials he led show that those philosophy classes did not go to waste; Kroger constantly weighed the utilitarian needs of his job against Immanuel Kant’s directive to treat every human being with complete respect. A later stint in narcotics (he states quite plainly that the government’s drug policy is an abject failure) heightened his belief that no matter how good he was at his job, “sometimes it is impossible to be both a great prosecutor and a good human being.” By the time Kroger found himself prosecuting one corner of the sprawling Enron case, he had come close to complete burnout. The case prompts some accusations against the system that are surprisingly damning, particularly from a current candidate for Oregon attorney general.
Kroger’s assessment of the federal prosecutor’s problematic, overly powerful role in the legal system is well-rendered and crisply delivered, though it may be too sober for law-and-order junkies—the author is evenhanded almost to a fault.