Mississippi lawyer turned convict Paul Minor recommended for permanent disbarrment in Louisiana

This is a post script to Slabbed’s coverage of Paul Minor’s conviction and subsequent appeal dating back to our earlier days.  My former partner in blog Nowdy had a deeper understanding of what drove some of the events behind the prosecution and while her coverage of same marched to the beat of a different drummer, there is no doubt she well added to the knowledge base of the first Mississippi judicial bribery case to be tried in federal court that would ultimately culminate in USA v Scruggs.  In what would be a sign of the future direction of Slabbed as a community sourced blog, that deeper understanding of what made Paul Minor tick garnered some some quality comments from high quality people.

Without further adieu the LADB motion, made almost 5 full years after Minor’s conviction as the wheels of justice indeed turn very slow. (Hat tip to a long time reader) Continue reading “Mississippi lawyer turned convict Paul Minor recommended for permanent disbarrment in Louisiana”

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.

Louisiana readies for change in "honest services" with new "sweet potato" processing plant

As the rest of the nation ponders the implications of the USSC decision narrowing “honest services” to cases involving alleged bribes and kick-backs, our friends in Louisiana stand ready to open what agriculture giant “ConAgra thinks… is the first factory dedicated to sweet potatoes in North America”.

In Skilling v. United States, Justice Ginsburg’s majority opinion acknowledged that in prior case law there was “considerable disarray” about what it means to deprive omeone of honest services, at least at the outer boundaries of the doctrine.  But six justices agreed that at its core, the doctrine clearly prohibits schemes involving bribes and kickbacks.  The prototypical honest-services fraud case, according to the Court, involves a public official who accepts a bribe or kickback from a third party in exchange for awarding a contract; even if the government incurs no tangible loss, it has been deprived of the official’s honest services…

The implications of the Court’s holding that the honest-services theory of mail fraud encompasses only bribery and kickbacks are significant, to say the least.  The government should expect an avalanche of legal challenges on both direct and collateral review.  Any defendant whose conviction possibly rests on an honest- Continue reading “Louisiana readies for change in "honest services" with new "sweet potato" processing plant”

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”

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?”

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

The Kings of Tort: Did Chapter Four (Paul Minor) provide honest service to the book’s readers? (Part 1 of 2)

For me, on Minor, the different jury instructions given on the same charges doesn’t sit well…

Comment to White Knight takes issue with author of Kings of Tort

The question posed in the title is not rhetorical but, instead, one for readers to decide – preferably after reading the information in this post. As Sop’s comment suggests, the hallmark of Minor’s second trial was same charges with different jury instructions.

The district court required quid pro quo for the same bribery charges in Mr. Minor’s first trial in 2005. As described by the April 17,2008 House Judiciary Committee Majority Staff Report for Chairman Conyers, in the first trial “Mr. Minor was acquitted of most charges while the jury hung on others. 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.” Continue reading “The Kings of Tort: Did Chapter Four (Paul Minor) provide honest service to the book’s readers? (Part 1 of 2)”

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”

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”