Turn about is fair play – assuming you want to play fair

Like a man who had his own “tea party” before they became talked about in polite conversation really needs another flap – but then again, Louisiana Senator David Vitter must really enjoy flapping because here he goes again!  However, in that light, columnist John Maginnis might want to rethink the title of this week’s  tell-all Landrieu’s Hard Choices to Make. Actually he did – tough choices were in the headline when the column ran in the Times Picayune today.

Since Sen. Mary Landrieu’s re-election in November, the two issues she and her staff have heard the most about from constituents are: card check and Jim Letten…Whether or not the senior senator recommends that the president reappoint the Republican as U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District is a matter of intense interest beyond the New Orleans region.

For many, the career prosecutor has achieved folk hero status as a corruption fighter, whose ultimate trophy was the conviction of former Gov. Edwin Edwards for racketeering in 2000. Letten, then the first assistant, forcefully presented the government’s case at trial.

Letten’s critics acknowledge his competence while questioning his zeal to prosecute Democratic officials primarily. At any rate, they feel that with a change of administrations, it’s time for a new U.S. Attorney, and they expect Landrieu to recommend one.

Letten’s most fervent supporters proclaim that without him, that part of the state will return to its corrupt old ways–“the Louisiana way” as Letten famously dubbed it–and they demand that Landrieu do the apolitical thing and ask the president to keep him on the job. Leading that charge is Sen. David Vitter, who has promised Landrieu a fight if she goes with anyone but Letten.

What Vitter and like-minded others fail to understand is that one man’s trophy case is selective prosecution to another – and both terms reflect the “gotchya mentality” Jim Brown mentioned in his recent column cross-posted here on SLABBED.

Perhaps, the pressure to hold on to what has always been a time-limited position is the reason  Prosecutors sometimes forget that the prosecutor’s special duty is not to convict, but to secure justice.

We forget, too, because the prosecutor’s special duty to secure justice increases our trust – or did until they started filling some trophy cases and leaving others empty.

There was plenty of room for the supersize trophy Edwin Edwards, for example; but no space at all too squeeze in an insurance company or two after Katrina for crimes against the people of Louisiana.  Some smany believe Edwards would have stopped had he been in the Governor’s mansion and not the government’s custody.

Over in Alabama, Don Siegelman and Richard Scruchy took up so much room and so much time, they didn’t notice a qui tam case was getting trampled in front of their face.  Maybe it was because their counterparts in Mississippi’s northern district had dibs on Dick Scruggs.  Surely even then they noticed that after the trophy seekers here convinced a local judge to commit extortion “as a service to his country,”  they had to make Tim Balducci an offer he couldn’t refuse to reel their trophy in and give Joey Langston a lifetime free pass before they had enough to put Scruggs on their shelf.

You would have thought Paul Minor would have been trophy enough.  After all, they had to drop certain charges so they could withhold the related evidence to grab their trophy at a second jury trial since the jury in the first trial found him not guilty.  Even botching the high profile case of then Senator Ted Stevens was not an incentive to meet Judge Duval’s timelines in the MRGO case.

Some believe one or all of these trophys are guilty, others believe  not; but anyone can see that guilty or not, a trophy each is.  All too often we forget that these “trophies” are someone’s father, son and husband as Sid Salter reminded us so eloquently following the death of Sylvia Minor last week.

Paul Minor’s bribery conviction is what it is and he is enduring the consequences of it.

But Minor and his family are deserving of nothing but Christian sympathy and compassion for the miseries they are suffering in the wake of her death — a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions.

I don’t condone or defend Paul Minor’s actions nor do I subscribe to the notion that he is some type of political prisoner…But I wouldn’t wish what’s happening to the Minor family right now on anyone…especially Sylvia Minor and the many people who loved her.  May God bless and keep them all.

There was no need for Sid to condone or defend Paul – only to see him with fresh eyes and recognize this trophy as a husband, son and father.

Blind justice needs fresh eyes, a different perspective – and that alone is sufficient reason for limiting the term of a USA to that of the President they chose to serve, a President who could only offer what was his at the time.

We have a new President and now the job is his to offer.  That’s how a current USA got his job. Jim Letten knows that and Senator Vitter does, too, and that, plus Vitter’s proclivity for “tea parties,” give Senator Landrieu no choice but to recommend another candidate for the President’s consideration.  Vitter’s threat only gives her more reason to separate herself from both Letten and Vitter.

Letten says as much himself on the District’s website:

…as United States Attorneys representing the people of the United States of America we remain ever mindful that our greatest duty is to truth, loyalty and fair play, principles which we will never sacrifice.

Turn about is fair play.

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