The Kings of Tort: Did Chapter Four (Paul Minor) provide honest service to the book’s readers? (part 2 of 2)

As the title indicates, the issue explored in this two-part post is how the recently published Kings of Tort treated the circumstances surrounding the indictment and conviction of Paul Minor and the co-defendants of USA v Minor.  On 10 December when the post was written, there was no Fifth Circuit opinion to distract and confuse readers as there is now that part one of the post has published.

Although the Fifth’s opinion has already answered the title question for some, the set of documents linked in part one – a Letter to Attorney General Holder and Minor’s Appellate Brief – provided a start point for developing a detailed and more easily documented response.   The differing jury instructions and the evidentiary issues documented in the Letter and Brief had a significant impact on the outcome of Minor’s second trial; but, there were other equally significant distinctions between the two trials:

…on August 12, 2005, after deliberating for one week, the jury announced a partial verdict, acquitting Mr. Minor on six counts (four mail fraud counts, one bribery count, and one extortion count), partly acquitting Judge Whitfield, and fully acquitting Justice Diaz. (D431 at 1453-58.) The district court declared a mistrial as to all other counts, including eight against Mr. Minor. (Id.)

Despite this failure to obtain a single conviction, the government decided to retry the remaining pieces of the case. On December 6, 2005, it filed a Third Superseding Indictment against Mr. Minor and Judges Whitfield and Teel, recharging those counts subject to the mistrial-racketeering, fraud, and federal program bribery-and adding three new charges: one against Mr. Minor and Judge Whitfield for conspiracy to commit mail, wire, and honest services fraud and federal program bribery under 18 U.S.C. § 666; a nearly identical conspiracy charge against Mr. Minor and Judge Teel; and a charge against Mr. Minor and Judge Whitfield for mail and honest services fraud. (D454.)

These new counts, much like the eight remaining counts against Mr. Minor, were based on the same loan guarantees that Mr. Minor had made to Judges Whitfield and Teel. In total, Mr. Minor -who faced fourteen charges in the first trial and obtained six acquittals-now faced a total of eleven counts: one racketeering; two conspiracy; two bribery; and six honest services, mail, and/or wire fraud. (emphasis) Appellate Brief

Another signification distinction was that Minor started the second trial in a very different setting – already being held in a federal detention center for multiple and flagrant violations of his bail conditions…(Kings of Tort, Chapter 4, p.76)

Judge Wingate… found…he could not be trusted to abide by the terms of his bond.  Wingate ordered Minor detained pending his trial. The pretrail negative publicity created a major problem for Minor…TV news file footage regularly showed Minor being let to court in an orange jumpsuit, looking disheveled and frail. (Kings of Tort, Chapter 4, p.77)

Only someone with a woeful ignorance of the degenerative disease of alcoholism would incarcerate an individual so clearly in need of treatment.  Minor, in fact, was all but a poster child of classic alcoholic behavior.

Classic Alcoholic Behavior: An increase in failed promises and resolutions to one’s self and to others

Sadly, Judge Wingate appears to be far from the only individual unable to see Minor’s symptomatic behavior – otherwise there wouldn’t be comments in the blogoshpere about  Minor’s strutting around, as some have said, bragging in a loud voice that he “owns” the judges in Mississippi.

Classic Alcoholic Behavior: Boasting and a “big shot” complex

Alcoholism is an ugly disease and classic alcoholic behavior hurts others and hurts for others to watch.  It’s also a disease painful to those afflicted and denial is one of the most persistent symptomatic behavior.

When discussing matters of law, I am among the public Chief Justice Roberts had in mind when he stated what he and others called a fundamental principle:

If [the public] can’t [understand what a criminal law means], then the law is invalid.

However, when discussing the disease of alcoholism, I am in a different position – one that combines some recognized measure of professional expertise in the prevention and treatment of the disease with personal exposure to inflicted individuals in my family and among my closest friends.

It was from that professional-personal perspective that I read the Kings of Torts, Chapter Four:

  • During a normally scheduled banking review at the Peopes Bank in early 2002, regulators noticed a strange pattern to Minor’s loans to judges…One of the regulators decided that enough questions had ben rased and that they should reach out to the U.S. Attorney’s Office…In July, upon learning about the investigation, Minor went to Scruggs’s office in a panic. (pages 61-62)
  • Minor had a in law school classmante Leonard Radlaur…[and]…the two would bump into eacher occasionally at…a popular liquor store in New Orleans…According to documents later filed in his trial, Minor told Radlauer that he needed to repay a loan payment for Whitfield and “keep it out of the newspapers”…Radulaur agreed to help… (pages 65-66)
  • A large part of the background of the trial was predicated on Minor’s self-proclaimed prowness as the “Judge Maker”…In the end, Diaz was chosen [by Governor Musgrove] to fill the [vacant] seat [on the Supreme Court]…Minor would also, as he had with judges in the past, notify Diaz of his successful appointment. (page 74)

Each of these three excerpts from the Kings of Tort reflects one or more examples of classic alcoholic behavior – Nameless fears and anxieties such as feelings of impending doom or destruction;  Impaired thinking; Indefinable fears; Aggressive and grandiose behavior; Financial and relationship problems.

Understanding these behaviors as symptoms of the  disease is a very different concept from excusing the behavior to discount the consequential outcome.

The disease is progressive and, in Minor’s case, so was the worsening of situations that likely increased the rate of progression.  His first trial ended August 12, 2005, with a mixed verdict that resulted in the court declaring a mistrial on eight counts against Minor, creating the concomitant possibility of another trial.  Seventeen days later, Hurricane Katrina destroyed his home.

I’ve been told he found housing in Louisiana where his wife, who was also fighting a powerful disease, would have the support of her family. A month  or so later, October 2005, Minor was arrested in Baton Rouge on suspicion of drunk driving.

Like Katrina, alcoholism is an equalizing, destructive force that strikes without regard for either wealth or power – and, as a result, Paul Minor was as powerless against the disease as he was the storm.

To some Paul Minor is a political prisoner, to others he is a man deserving of the punishment meted out; but his alcoholism is beyond debate:

Paul Minor was sentenced by Judge Henry Wingate to eleven years in federal prison for his conviction on bribery charges…In court, a tearful Minor admitted his long struggle with alcoholism. (page 78)

Read the source documents linked in this two part post and those linked by the authors on the book’s website before attempting to decide your answer the question posed in the title.  Mine follows:

Not accounting for the role the disease of alcoholism played in the decisions Paul Minor made that lead to his  indictment and conviction is less than honest service to readers promised the true story.  Unlike other omissions or overstatements in the book, it represents a literary form of denial much like the symptomatic denial associated with the disease.


7 thoughts on “The Kings of Tort: Did Chapter Four (Paul Minor) provide honest service to the book’s readers? (part 2 of 2)”

  1. It occurred to me that the D.O.J. is serving both side to a political issue here. Awards to the prosecutors and a loop hole for Minor. Add to the allegations Minor’s was a selective prosecution.

  2. In the case of these 3 (Minor, Whitfield and Teel) it is not the “crime” as much as the coverup that landed them in the pokey. That said I think Hiram Eastland has some basis for hope the USSC will knock out the rest of this case.

    While Nowdy focused on Minor’s unshareable need largely left unreported is that both Whitfield and Teel both turned out to be highly flawed personally as well to the extent both never should have graced the bench. I think alot of people down here remember that more than anything else about the trio than the minutiae of the criminal case.

    I’ve busted Freeland’s chops a time or two but he laid out a good reason why these gents should still be guests at the Greybar Hotel. I don’t have quite the faith the 5th decision will be the final say in this matter.

    Robert the question of Federal Jurisdiction is not a loop hole it is a fundemental aspect of the case. You might remember Jim Hood’s well publicized foot in mouth “family moment” which was used politically against him while the real issue to me is whether or not we should give the AG the investigative power such as the ability to wiretap (and the resources to actually investigate) such crimes. That fact gets lost in all the axe grinding and political rhetoric.

    I take the fact that the status quo rules as proof the people of state wouldn’t have it any other way.


  3. I just kinda scratch my head. It sounds as though the Supremes are going to strike down the honest services statute in some way or another pretty soon probably?? Right now the sentences are vacated. (Why can’t they get out until sentencing?) If the Supremes rule before the sentencing, substantively changing the law where it was deemed unconstitutional, how can they re-sentence him to time in jail for a law that is unconstitutional?

  4. Oh yeah, and the federal jurisdiction? haha! I guess that is why they allegedly told the press that “they” had been recused!!

  5. Sop, you’re exactly right…the case was smoke but the coverup had enough fire to make it all seem legitimate.

    If both of the Coast judges had been well thought of in the community at large, the fire wouldn’t have been an issue, IMO. One only has to look to the Scruggs case to see how much fire a popular judge can tolerate.

    Teel’s involvement/indictment in an entirely different case was a significant factor despite the lack of a conviction on those charges. Whitfield would not have been as much of a liability, however, if Judge Wingate had continued to hold the position in the second trial that he held in the first.

    I’ve been able to find a few more documents that will help fill the gaps in what we know about the government’s case – including the government’s brief on the Appeal. I’ll try to get them posted when I can break away from the things I’ve not gotten done that have to be immediate priority.

    Before I sign off, however, I need to add that my email messages indicate some are missing the point of the post(s) despite the title…The issue these posts (parts 1 and 2) examine is how the case was treated in the Kings of Torts – not what Minor did or did not do but if the chapter represented the “true story” as claimed.

  6. Your right SOP, too much political B.S. Jimmy’s little statement was a brand indeed. Jim’s family and friends networking is well known.

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