Attorney General Holder, Paul Minor and the feather in the cap culture of DOJ

I’m not wild about calling Paul a “political prisoner,” but I do think the Government overreached Federal jurisdiction in prosecuting an alleged State crime, and I also think the evidence of a quid pro quo was entirely speculative.

I’m not wild about calling Paul a political prisoner either but before I go further, I need to stop and  welcome Ipse Blogit to SLABBED with a h/t for the link to Elusive Justice Overdue in the Case of Political Prisoner Paul Minor on the Huffington Post.

Those who see Paul Minor as political prisoner – including Brendan DeMelle who wrote for the Huffington Post – are seeing Paul in his “role as the top funder of Democratic candidates in Mississippi”.

Without adding to or taking anything away from that connection, I see Paul as a feather-in-the-cap prisoner — a highly valued prize in cultural environment of a Justice Department with two measures of success: conviction rates and high-profile convictions.

As Jim Brown’s April 16 column explains, those measures reflect a value contrary to a prosecutor’s duty:

As federal appeals courts have said repeatedly: “A prosecutor has a special duty commensurate with a prosecutor’s unique power, to assure that defendants receive fair trials. Prosecutors sometimes forget that the prosecutor’s special duty is not to convict, but to secure justice.”

Asking General Holder to concede the errors in Paul’s case is asking him to pluck feathers without tossing the caps.

DeMelle’s post is below the jump and you don’t have to believe Paul is a political prisoner to question his conviction or see he has been unlawfully confined while his Appeal is pending.

It is time for the Obama Justice Department to reverse one of the most egregiously political persecutions of the Bush era — Paul Minor’s bogus conviction on trumped up charges of public corruption “bribery” despite a total lack of evidence that his role as the top funder of Democratic candidates in Mississippi netted him anything other than misery and a harsh prison sentence.

Attorney General Eric Holder stated recently that “elections have consequences.” That premise should apply not just to President Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court and appointment of new U.S. Attorneys, as Holder mentioned. It should compel a swift review of the unjust prosecutions of prominent Democrats targeted by the Bush Justice Department

Paul Minor’s case is Exhibit A.

Paul Minor’s attorneys recently filed a straightforward, compelling brief with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals outlining the multiple errors the prosecution made in convicting Minor for bribery despite the government not being required to prove a quid pro quo. In such cases, crystal clear case law requires the presiding judge to instruct the jury that they can only convict a campaign fundraiser of bribing public officials if clear “this for that” evidence exists of a quid pro quo agreement leading to a specific official act by the recipient in exchange for the campaign contributions.

But under Bush, partisan DOJ prosecutors wrongfully prevailed upon a Reagan-appointed judge to withhold that crucial instruction and to allow Minor’s conviction without any quid pro quo proof, much less explicit proof of a quid quo pro.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is currently reviewing Minor’s case, heard oral arguments from the government and Minor’s legal team on April 1st and later requested further written clarification, which both sides submitted on June 4th. The clarification the Court requested involved whether the government even had jurisdiction to prosecute Minor using one of the federal bribery statutes under which he was convicted. Now that all the legal briefing has been completed for the court, the case is ripe for decision and the court could soon conclude that the government erred in convicting Minor.

The U.S. Attorney’s office has repeatedly opposed Minor’s release pending the outcome of his appeal, even though he undoubtedly qualifies for mandatory bail pending appeal under the federal bail statute.

Minor has endured a cruel and distressing ordeal since his 2007 conviction, spending the last two years locked up in prison while his wife of four decades battled terminal brain cancer and recently passed away in April. Minor’s repeated requests to visit with his dying wife in her final days – and to attend her funeral service where he planned to deliver a eulogy honoring her memory and their 40 years of marriage – were all callously denied by the Bureau of Prisons, despite the black letter law requiring the release on bail pending appeal of anyone, as here, raising such “substantial questions” on appeal. Since it is highly unusual for an appeals court to seek further clarification after hearing oral arguments in a case, Minor obviously cleared the bar by a mile in presenting compelling arguments to the court regarding his botched prosecution.

The court should recognize the folly of the trial judge’s improper jury instructions and subsequent misuse of the bribery statutes to convict and sentence Minor to 11 years in the Pensacola federal prison camp.

Nothing will bring his wife Sylvia back, but freeing Paul Minor now and reviewing his case is the least that Attorney General Eric Holder can do – as the Obama administration recently did in the cases of former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens and other botched Republican prosecutions. It is time to right the wrongs committed by the overzealous, partisan U.S. attorneys who brought shame and disgrace to the Justice Department under George W. Bush.

8 thoughts on “Attorney General Holder, Paul Minor and the feather in the cap culture of DOJ”

  1. I know this political prisoner pulls on the heartstrings, but read what he did.

    http://yallpolitics.com/index.php/yp/post/paul_minor_appeal_to_be_heard_in_austin/

    I have posted most everything that the government proved (not alleged) at trial. The data is there. No reasonable person can come to anything but the conclusion that he improperly influenced judges for major benefit and then covered his tracks.

    Unfortunately, Minor has paid and effective PR machine. He gets stuff published and then sympathetic media types refer as fact to those things and the lie builds on itself.

    Read the pleadings, just like I know good slabbed readers do on insurance cases and then let me know what you think.

  2. Any benefit from “political prisoner” pulling “heartstrings” of some is offset because it “jerks the chain” on others. Consequently, the issue that should concern those with heartstrings and chains alike is issue lost — it is not what the government proved at trial (#2) but what the government excluded from trial (#1) to reach that proof.

    That’s why I think it important to call on Holder to review the “feather-in-the-cap” culture at DOJ – it’s so much deeper than just the “big feather cases” like Minor’s and it has a trickle-down impact, for example:

    “The Lafayette County Circuit Court has disposed of more than sixty felony cases in the past six working days without a single trial. Every case has been disposed of by plea.”

    The 5th Circuit’s questions about federal jurisdiction have been begging for years.

    What’s amazing to me is that even when a defendant raises the issue of federal jurisdiction, judges here are not conducting a proper inquiry. The DOJ response is simply rubber-stamped and the case moves on.

    It is the combination of “overreaching” prosecutors and “underexamining” judges that create the “political” tone that deepens when DOJ withholds evidence favorable to a defendant’s case — Senator Stevens’ trial, Minor’s second trial.

    One of the most chilling statements I’ve ever read was “I’m guilty of what prosecutors say they can prove” – and those who discount the implications because it was said by Dick Scruggs should remember that Frank Trapp echoed that statement on behalf of Sid Backstrom. Yet, Judge Biggers, having previously denied every motion that would allow the defendants to prove otherwise, simply moved on without examining how what prosecutors said they could prove might differ from what defendants could prove if given the opportunity.

    USA v Warr is another example. Although we’ve not written as much as I’d like about it, the “case” according to Sop is coming down to $2500 FEMA dollars.

    Under usual circumstances, a recipient of federal funds would have the opportunity to address the matter via administrative hearings, etc. and charges would only be filed when there was no resolution at the administrative level.

    Unfortunately the federal disaster assistance funds came to the state with an allocation for investigation of fraud that reflected the same DOJ feather-in-the-cap value present in USA v Minor and other cases — the pressure to secure convictions.

    Information comes to us on a case-by-case basis that makes it easy to align with one side or the other of any given case — for some to believe judges were improperly influenced by Minor while others see a judge influenced by a politically motivated DOJ.

    Consequently, “we the people” end up divided when we need to be united in our demand for a Department of Justice committed to the “duty to secure justice” – “equal justice for all”.

  3. I love the “reasoning” of Democrat Mississippians (Are they Democrats because they’re liberal or because they and their Daddy’s and Grand-Daddies refused to register in the Party of Lincoln? A vestige of the “War Between the States” a/k/a the War of the Southern Rebellion). Paul Minor and those of his ilk, whether Democrat or Republican, is an “influence peddler” who corruptly influenced the Mississippi Judiciary with quite large amounts of CASH. If his conviction is overturned, then we’re ALL in serious trouble, because the entire Judicial System, State and Federal, is CORRUPT. I rely on just two (2) points: (1) the amounts advanced on behalf of the Judges; and (2) the fact that Mr. Minor attempted to CONCEAL what he had done by LYING. You all in Mississippi had better hope that the Fifth “Circus” does their duty and affirms, bucause if they don’t, then I repeat: “We’re ALL in trouble.”

  4. Numerous Sections of Title 18, United States Code, including those dealing with honest services fraud, bribery and making false statements. One of the primary reasons these crimes were Federalized are the “cesspools” Louisiana and Mississippi have become, and where the Judges are all for sale, and seemingly “upstanding” citizens have come to believe their own bullshit by praising crooks like Scruggs and Minor, not to mention the Judges they obviously attempted to influence. And another point: With the State Judiciary (and other politicians) in the pockets of certain people, the State Attorneys General and District Attorneys weren’t prosecuting anyone for what we call “public corruption”. Obviously the “beneficiaries” of public corruption, who were allowed to “skate” by State “law enforcement” are going to cry “foul” when prosecuted by the Feds, which is exactly what is happening in the Minor matter.

  5. I well remember the Jim Garrison saga from when I was a kid. There are some things I can not say Victoria because the time is not right but if you tune into our Hugh Sibley coverage we’ll lead you to the rot and yes there are problems with both the federal and state judiciaries in Louisiana IMHO…problems that go beyond judicial activist jurists like Kurt Engelhardt.

    sop

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