Supremes decision on Minor more relevant to Siegelman case than motion filed by Zach Scruggs

If attaching an “apologist” label on SLABBED was the only error, I’d be getting ready for this weekend’s big family gathering and cooking, not typing.  However, brief though this post will be, it is important to clarify the distinctions between Paul Minor’s appeal and Zach Scruggs’ motion to vacate his conviction.

Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman’s case is the shortcut to that clarification as political contributions central issues in both Siegelman and Minor. Immediately following the USSC decision in Skilling, the Supreme Court ordered a new review of the Siegelman’s conviction:

The court’s brief order vacated the decision of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which had upheld their convictions, and ordered it to review their appeals in light of a ruling that went against what is known as the “honest services fraud” law…

Siegelman attorney Sam Heldman, who handled the former governor’s case before the Supreme Court, called the court’s decision Tuesday “a massive victory”…Siegelman and Scrushy were convicted of swapping $500,000 in campaign donations for a spot on the state health board that decides if hospitals can add beds or new services. Lawyers for the men have argued that what happened was normal politics and not criminal…

Lawyers for both men contend there was no deal to swap donations for an appointment and say prosecutors failed to prove an explicit “quid pro quo” agreement, which is required in federal bribery cases. The defense also argued that U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller of Montgomery did not adequately instruct jurors that such an agreement was necessary.

These defenses are common to both the Siegelman and Minor cases but are not mentioned in nor relevant to Zach Scruggs’ motion to vacate.  Therefore, despite the claims of some otherwise, the Supreme Court’s decision on Minor’s case cannot be seriously considered as one that would significantly impact Zach’s significantly different case.

We are all captives of the picture in our head… – so, whose head pictured honest-services fraud?

Prosecutors have used the following subterfuge with alarming success: Threaten a terrified white-collar defendant with a long jail term in a maximum-security prison with violent offenders, unless he or she pleads guilty to honest-services fraud. In return, the defendant will receive a much-reduced sentence in a relatively cushy federal prison camp.

In this way, prosecutors are guaranteed a conviction. They also don’t have to run the risk of a trial by jury. Even judges have become irrelevant, because they essentially rubberstamp the prison sentence the prosecutors recommend. Cagily, prosecutors, in effect, have usurped the entire legal process for themselves.

Although the columnist (h/t Huffington Post) used far fewer words, his take on honest-services fraud is a summary of the Motion to Dismiss the Indictment for Outrageous Government Conduct filed in USA v Scruggs – which, in turn, brought to mind the Lippman quote:

We are all captives of the picture in our head – our belief that the world we have experienced is the world that really exists.

Unflattering pictures of Dick Scruggs and Paul Minor held some very powerful heads captive.  All it took was for each to commit Continue reading “We are all captives of the picture in our head… – so, whose head pictured honest-services fraud?”