The Selective
Prosecution Farce

 

The Selective Prosecution Farce

 

          

As might be expected, this story in Time, by senior writer

Adam Zagorin, answered the question in the headline with a big YES.

For a critical analysis of that story, see the chapter in my book,

called, "Dumb and Dumber."

 

           “There is extensive evidence that the prosecution of former Governor Don Siegelman was directed or promoted by Washington officials, likely including former White House Deputy Chief of Staff and Advisor to the President Karl Rove, and that political considerations influenced the decision to bring charges.”

              -- From introduction to April 2008 majority report by the House Judiciary Committee on “selective prosecution” by the Bush Justice Department.

            

        "In making its case that the Bush Justice Department engaged in a pattern and practice to target Democrats, the Judiciary Committee

achieved just the opposite, not that anyone seemed to notice. Consider that the Siegelman case was the most egregious example of this pervasive

effort during the entirety of the Bush presidency. That's according to the to the majority’s own findings."

              -- From, "The Governor of Goat Hill."

             

      By putting wheels on Siegelman's claims of political martyrdom, Jill Simpson's affidavit kick-started a new Justice Department outrage -- the "selective

prosecution scandal."

              “Selective Justice in Alabama?” asked an October 2007 headline above a long piece in Time magazine by Adam Zagorin on the Siegelman case. Time was on the same page as the Times, which two months earlier stuck the headline, "Selective Justice" atop an editorial that used Simpson's claims as a basis for suggesting Siegelman was the victim of a "political hit."

         A slightly altered version of the mantra was subsequently appropriated by the Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee. Simpson's affidavit and the pieces

in Time and the New York Times are repeatedly cited as evidence in the report and footnotes. Even the blog "Raw Story" shows up. No one, though, was as

heavily footnoted as Scott Horton of Harper's. I believe -- but could not prove -- that he authored or partly authored the report.

              The following is a slightly abridged segment from my book comparing the case that Democrats were selectively prosecuted by Republicans against

a list of Republican officials prosecuted by the same "Bush Justice Department."

              The segment starts with the second quote from the top of the page, and then:

              The two other signature outrages proving the slam dunk case against the Justice Department were the prosecution of a state procurement officer in Wisconsin (Georgia Thompson), and the one against Cyril Wecht, the coroner of Alleghany County (Pa.)

              A third, involving Mississippi trial lawyer Paul Minor, was also to gain some traction with Horton, the Times’ editorial page, and the Judiciary Committee.

              For the sake of argument, let’s assume that Thompson, Wecht and Minor are all shining examples of rectitude and were nailed without cause by overzealous federal prosecutors. The fact remains that John Conyers and his committee assembled this national scandal with cases brought

against a defeated washed-up former governor, a civil servant in Wisconsin, a Mississippi trial lawyer, and the coroner of a county in Pennsylvania.

              Compare that slugger’s line-up to some of the Republicans prosecuted or under investigation by the same Justice Department.

              In 2003, federal prosecutors indicted recent former Illinois governor and Republican powerhouse George Ryan, primarily for activities

that occurred years before, when he was secretary of state. Ryan, in my mind over-prosecuted, was found guilty at trial and sentenced to more

than six years in prison.

              In 2004, Connecticut Gov. John Rowland, a Republican, resigned as the Bush Justice Department probed accusations that he used his office to help a contractor and a jet company in return for vacations, free construction work and other favors. He pleaded guilty and served 10 months in prison – an indication, among other things, that those who plead serve far less time than those who go to trial and lose (as did Ryan and Siegelman.)

              The resignation of Tom DeLay, arguably the most powerful man in Congress, was in considerable part triggered by the Justice Department’s

investigation into Republican super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff . Two White House officials, Ohio congressman Bob Ney and a host of other Republicans were found guilty or pleaded guilty as a result of the Abramoff scandal. Chief among those was Abramoff.

              In 2005, Duke Cunningham, eight-term Republican congressman from California, pleaded guilty to federal charges related to his acceptance

of $2.4 million in bribes from a defense contractor who Cunningham helped win almost $90 million in federal contracts.

              In 2006, national-level fundraiser Tom Noe pleaded guilty to violating federal campaign laws in a case that shook the Ohio Republican party

and spread embarrassment to Washington. Politicians including President Bush had benefitted from Noe’s largesse. Noe was also convicted of embezzlement and sentenced tomore than 15 years in prison on another matter.

              In February 2008, the Justice Department charged Rick Renzi, a Republican congressman from Arizona, with extortion, money laundering and other crimes related to a scheme in which he collected hundreds of thousands of dollars after using his position on the House Natural Resources Committee to push land deals for a business partner.

              Later that year, the Bush Justice Department charged Alaska’s Ted Stevens -- the longest-serving Republican senator in U.S. history -- with seven felony counts related to hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts and services received from an oil services contractor and not disclosed by Stevens.

The indictment came four months before he was to face a re-election challenge from Mark Begich, the popular Democratic mayor of Anchorage, and

with the new Democrat majority in the Senate slim and frail.

              In late October a jury found Stevens guilty on all seven charges. A week later, he lost to Begich in an election so close that there is no question

but that he would’ve won if the Justice Department had not prosecuted him.

              (The Justice Department, admitting to apparent legal ethics failings by prosecutors on the Stevens case, later sought and was granted dismissal

of the Stevens’ charges.)

              Two points to make: If Rove could successfully demand that the Justice Department prosecute Siegelman, why could he not order the same

department to cease going after Ted Stevens?

              Stevens was an infinitely more important to the White House. Siegelman, truth be known, was of no consequence whatsoever to Rove or the White

House.

              The second point: In June 2009, John Conyers wife -- Detroit city councilwoman Monica Conyers – pleaded guilty to extorting bribes in return for

supporting companies with business before the city. The investigation was conducted by the Bush Justice Department at the same time that Conyers was

using his committee to attack the department for "selective prosecution."

              As I wrote in the book: "In light of Monica Conyers’ prosecution, the Judiciary Committee’s overheated probe into 'selective prosecution'

seems tainted not just by bad facts and a reliance on the likes of Jill Simpson and Scott Horton, but a conflict on the part of the man leading it."

         A third, unrelated point: Republicans accusing the current crop of Democratic congressmen of being corrupt might want to look in the

ear-view mirror. The Democrats have a ways to go to catch up with the record set by Abramoff and the above-named others.

Here is the top and a portion of an Aug. 6, 2007, editorial in the New York Times called: "Selective Prosecution."

EDITORIAL

Selective Prosecution

         One part of the Justice Department mess that requires more scrutiny is the growing evidence that the department may have singled out people for criminal prosecution to help Republicans win elections.

        The House Judiciary Committee has begun investigating several cases that raise serious questions. The panel should determine what role politics played in all of them....

       Individual Democrats may be paying a personal price. Don Siegelman, a former Alabama governor, was the state’s most prominent Democrat and  had a decent chance of retaking the governorship from the Republican incumbent.

       He was aggressively prosecuted by both the Birmingham and Montgomery United States attorney’s offices. Birmingham prosecutors dropped their case after a judge  harshly questioned it. When the Montgomery office prosecuted, a jury acquitted Mr. Siegelman of 25 counts, but convicted him of 7, which appear to be disturbingly weak.

         The prosecution may have been a political hit. A Republican lawyer, Dana Jill Simpson, has said in a sworn statement that she heard Bill Canary, a Republican operative and a Karl Rove protégé, say that his “girls” -- his wife, the United States attorney in Montgomery, and Alice Martin, the United States attorney in Birmingham  — would “take care” of Mr. Siegelman. Mr. Canary also said, according to Ms. Simpson, that Mr. Rove was involved....

 

 

 


 
 

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