just in case hell really does freeze over – a mention of USA v Minor, Van Heerden v LSU and a strange Louisiana ruling in Katrina litigation

Some thought hell would have to freeze over for the Who Dat’s to win a Super Bowl – but they did and, lo and behold, snow may cover what looked like the gates to hell after Katrina.

Just in case hell really does freeze over.  USA v Minor co-defendant,  John Whitfield filed a Motion for Release Pending Resentencing and Appeal the very day SLABBED reported the Government’s opposition to the requested release of Minor co-defendant former Coast judge Wes Teel.

Both co-defendants are requesting release on the same general basis – the 5th Circuit’s recent decision reversing part of their bribery convictions and the pending USSC decision on the constitutionality of the honest services statute, the likely-to-be-tossed basis for the remaining portions of their sentences.

The news of the day, so to speak, is Paul Minor is the only defendant that has not filed a motion for release pending appeal with Judge Wingate.  In light of these apparently very significant developments, why not?  Minor has hasn’t hesitated to file for a lawful get out of jail free card in the past.  If his case is as strong as he keeps saying it is, why does he appear fearful now?

Could Minor’s behavior be another indication that hell may indeed freeze over?

Over at the Ladder, Editilla’s update on Ivor van Heerden’s wrongful dismissal lawsuit included the story appearing in the NYT.  A recently posted update to the update calls van Heerden’s case a whistleblower lawsuit! Continue reading “just in case hell really does freeze over – a mention of USA v Minor, Van Heerden v LSU and a strange Louisiana ruling in Katrina litigation”

Do, Did, Dunn and the new math of Teel’s resentencing in USA v Minor

After five on “Super Friday” and what do I see but a copy of what the Government did file in opposition to the Motion for Release Pending Resentencing of former judge Wes Teel, a defendant in USA v Minor.

Unlike Opposition to the Minor defendants’ past requests for release during their Appeal, this opposition was filed by the formerly recused office of the Southern District Mississippi USA – and that Dunn surprised me as there has been no appointment of a new USA to fill the position.

In addition to that big surprise, there are more to come as the risen-from-recusal USA details the argument in opposition to Teel’s release.  The first argument is this eyebrow raising claim, Since defendant has no pending appeal, most of the §3143(b) factors governing release pending appeal do not apply to him”:

In United States v. Olis, 450 F.3d 583, 587 (5th Cir. 2006), the Fifth Circuit held that “§3143(b)’s “pending appeal” language envisions a defendant . . .who has a pending appeal on a matter…” The Fifth Circuit in Olis did find that the reduced-sentence provision of §3143(b)(1)(B) would apply to a defendant like Teel who is awaiting sentencing but whose convictions have been affirmed; but that it would not overcome the presumption against release pending resentencing if the defendant had not served all of his possible sentence. Id. at 586-87.

The government apparently misplaced more than just a modifier or two in the rush to oppose Teel’s release.  Continue reading “Do, Did, Dunn and the new math of Teel’s resentencing in USA v Minor”

Y’all reports Scruggs denies bribing Judge DeLaughter in Response to Patterson’s cross-claim in Wilson v Scruggs

SLABBED covered the cross claim filed on behalf of Scruggs’ co-defendant Steve Patterson in Eastland stands behind Motion to Dismiss – Greer files cross-claim for Patterson in Wilson v Scruggs.  Alan Lange at Y’all Politics has a post up on the Response from Dick Scruggs: Scruggs denies Steve Patterson, also denies bribing Judge DeLaughter .  I have no doubt Lange and I share a common commitment to justice and factual reporting even when we hang our hats on different facts, their meaning, and context.  However, there’s no disputing these facts about the Scruggs’ response:

In…[the cross-claim]…Patterson’s attorney writes:

4. Plaintiff’s Complaint alleges that Scruggs is guilty of bribing Judge DeLaughter, and defrauding the plaintiff, by and through Peters, and that those actions caused a favorable result in the Wilson case. Patterson had no involvement at all in those circumstances other than introducing Scruggs to the local counsel, Peters. Patterson received no funds, was not compensated in any way, shape or form and is therefore guilty of no active negligence, but at most, passive negligence (which,he denies), and was completely unaware of the possibility that Scruggs would allegedly perform any, criminal act of any sort to bring potential liability upon himself and others.

However Scruggs responds:

4. The allegations contained in the first sentence of paragraph 4 are denied. Scruggs lacks information sufficient to admit or deny the remaining allegations contained in paragraph 4. Continue reading “Y’all reports Scruggs denies bribing Judge DeLaughter in Response to Patterson’s cross-claim in Wilson v Scruggs”

Honest Services (part 2) – a Supremely interesting commentary

“ The prosecutor has more power over life, liberty, and reputation than any other person in America.”

United States Attorney General and Supreme Court Jus tice Robert H. Jackson

Former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz provided a supremely interesting commentary on his  “up close and personal” experience  with the honest services law and federal prosecutors, USA v Minor et al,  in a review of the Kings of Torts published in the  Northside Sun, a popular Jackson weekly .

We are left to wonder why the court records were not sufficient to support the author’s positions and opinions? Why do they resort to unsworn statements and unproven allegations?

Specifically, why did the authors feel compelled to state as fact that I lived in a condominium owned by Paul Minor free of charge when prosecutors offered no proof of this because they discovered that it was not true? Why did they describe an event involving Paul Minor at a hotel bar, when court testimony clearly showed the event did not occur? Continue reading “Honest Services (part 2) – a Supremely interesting commentary”

White Knight takes issue with author of Kings of Tort

Given his history as former chief counsel to former Senator Trent Lott, others may not consider Jackson attorney Steve Seale a white knight for taking issue with King of Torts author and former AUSA Tom Dawson at the monthly meeting meeting of the Capitol Press Corps.  However, before Mr. Seale went to Washington, he was a member of the Mississippi State Senate who earned white knight status for the strength of character he regularly demonstrated in discussions of difficult issues. Given that history, Mr. Seale’s remarks are worthy of more consideration than the clarification published yesterday:

As Magnolia Marketplace reported here, Seale had some pretty strong words for Dawson, who was the lead prosecutor in the judicial bribery cases that led to Dickie Scruggs being hauled off to prison.

Anyway, Seale was a little upset because I didn’t talk to him afterward to get a completely clear picture of what he meant before I posted the original entry. Fair enough.

So after a 15-minute phone conversation with Seale, here’s what we know:

Seale said he has no problem with Dawson writing a book about the Scruggs cases per se. The issue is Dawson profiting from work he performed while he was a federal prosecutor. (Dawson has since retired from the post.)

“I think a prosecutor should be held to a higher standard,” Seale said. Continue reading “White Knight takes issue with author of Kings of Tort”

Attorneys for Minor co-defendant John Whitfield write Attorney General Holder

We tell this to go beyond our lawyer’s talk of Brady violations and honest services statutes and quidpro quo and to put a human face on the victims of the corruption of the Department of Justice and the Public Integrity Section under the previous administration— to put a human face on this victim of a baseless, legally void political prosecution.

Whitfield Appeal provides timely review of law re: judicial bribery, USA v Minor, a late July SLABBED post, reported Mr. Whitfield’s Appeal to the 5th Circuit.  One man’s convicted felon is another’s father, son followed in early August.

Some roll their eyes at the mention of a politically motivated prosecution of Whitfield, Minor and Teel.  Others are more adamant in their believe politics was not involved. Drew Martin and David McCarty, Mr. Whitfield’s new counsel, took the issue head-on in their recent letter to Attorney General Holder

Mr. Lampton actually said to Mr. Whitfield and his previous counsel before the first
indictment was returned, “[y]ou wouldn’t be a target of this investigation if it wasn’t for your politics.” This statement, combined with the curious removal of Mr. Lampton’s name from the second list of U.S. Attorneys slated for firing by the Bush Justice Department, raise serious questions as to the propriety of Mr. Whitfield’s prosecution from its inception.

I’m uncertain how long Mr. Whitfield was without counsel; however, his current attorneys point out he filed his first Appeal with the Fifth pro se over a year ago. Continue reading “Attorneys for Minor co-defendant John Whitfield write Attorney General Holder”

One man’s convicted felon is another’s father, son

Nowdy, those other blogs are eating your lunch on the Delaughter story.

Maybe so, concerned reader, but I was lost in other thoughts; and, frankly, just not hungry.

Some years ago, I was the guest speaker for a Mother’s Day luncheon held at what was then called the “women’s prison” – a mother talking with other mothers about our shared concerns. I wasn’t hungry then, either.  In fact, as I recall, I started losing my appetite when the first big metal door locked behind me.

Locked doors, however, do not frighten me as much as closed minds.

Stone walls do not a prison make nor iron bars a cage…

I note those who decry the notion of “political prisoners” seem to be, in many cases, prisoners of their own politics – and I hunger for the justice of a vigorous public conversation about judicial bribery and the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Yearger (June 18, 2009): Continue reading “One man’s convicted felon is another’s father, son”

SLABBED Daily: July 30 all politics is local

With the Washington Post reporting Rove Had Heavier Hand in Prosecutor Firings Than Previously Known, today’s SLABBED Daily looks at the firing of federal prosecutors from the perspective of all politics is local.

…Rove described himself as merely passing along complaints by senators and state party officials to White House lawyers…

The story focuses on three of the nine U.S. Attorneys fired in 2006 – a group that includes Missouri’s Todd Graves, known to SLABBED readers as counsel for Zach Scruggs in the case that became USA v Scruggs, Scruggs, and Backstrom.

Graves, the U.S. attorney in Missouri, was removed after staff members of Sen. Christopher S. “Kit” Bond (R) repeatedly complained to political aides and lawyers in the White House, according to interviews and the inspector general. Rove, who had done political consulting work for Bond earlier in their careers, said in the interview that he had become aware of the turmoil on the eve of President Bush’s visit to the state.

Graves brings the story home; but Dunn Lampton actually brought it closer.  Lampton, who until his recent resignation had been U.S. Attorney for Mississippi’s Southern District  since 2000, was once slated for a pink slip – and that brings us full circle to Rove’s testimony suggesting all politics is local. Continue reading “SLABBED Daily: July 30 all politics is local”

Whitfield Appeal provides timely review of law re: judicial bribery, USA v Minor

Alan over at Y’all recently reported Judge Wingate’s largely unreported denial of Paul Minor co-defendant John Whitfield’s motion for release pending Appeal, adding this link to the Order.  Wingate hung his hat – or flipped his lid – guided by Rule 9(c) of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure:

The applicable provision in the instant case, Title 18 U.S.C. § 3143(b )(1), says that the defendant in this case shall be detained unless this court is able to find that the appeal raises a substantial question of law or fact…this court is not persuaded that the defendant has submitted any substantial question of law which would result in reversal or a new trial on all counts for which the defendant has been sentenced to prison. Therefore, the motion of the defendant to be released pending appeal is denied.

Earlier this week Whitfield filed an Appeal at the 5th Circuit and SLABBED was among the media outlets receiving a copy of the Appeal brief from his new counsel.

A review of the Appeal provides the opportunity to explore the basis for his appeal in the context of related information about applicable law, cases currently in litigation with similar issues, and the circumstances surrounding Mr. Whitfield’s relationship with Paul Minor and subsequent conviction.

In its review of Mr. Whitfield’s Motion for Release, the District Court applied the wrong standard in two instances, resulting in a flawed ruling that is clearly erroneous. Continue reading “Whitfield Appeal provides timely review of law re: judicial bribery, USA v Minor”

SLABBED exclusive: Eastland to Holder – re: Minor and prosecutor’s duty to refrain from improper methods designed to produce wrongful conviction

Hiram Eastland, counsel for Paul Minor, has written Attorney General Holder a letter requesting …at a minimum… Mr. Minor’s immediate release pending full review of his case. The full text of Eastland’s letter to General Holder, followed by the text of footnotes incorporated into the body of the letter, is below.

I encourage reader’s to consider Minor’s first trial was also before a jury of his peers and the first prosecution of Mr. Minor ended with an acquittal on various charges and a hung jury on other charges. On retrial. after the presiding judge revised his evidentiary rulings and relieved the prosecution of the need to prove certain elements of the alleged [bribery] crime, Mr. Minor was convicted of what have been described as ‘vague’ charges based on alleged efforts to obtain an unfair advantage from the two lower court judges, again through loan guarantees, and again despite the fact that Mississippi law allows such guarantees.”



June 24, 2009

Honorable Eric Holder
Attorney General
United States Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530-0001

Dear Attorney General Holder:

I am writing this letter to request that you implement an immediate full review of Paul Minor’s case and whether the Department of Justice complied with Mr. Minor’s Brady requests for government disclosure of all exculpatory or impeaching material in the United States’ possession, custody or control, the existence of which was known or by exercise of due diligence could have become known to the government before the 2005 and 2007 trials of Paul Minor. See Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963); United States v. Agurs, 427 U.S. 97 (1976); Giglio v. United States, 405 U.S. 150 (1972); see also, Exhibits 1 and 2 attached Brady progeny requests for Paul Minor’s 2005 and 2007 trials. Continue reading “SLABBED exclusive: Eastland to Holder – re: Minor and prosecutor’s duty to refrain from improper methods designed to produce wrongful conviction”