Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Fuck -me-.

"Just in case you were wondering"

... what a U.S. Attorney needed to do to be a "loyal Bushie" and not get fired, here's a clue: he could indict a state official working under a Democratic governor up for re-election, using evidence that a Federal appeals court judge called "beyond thin." The case was so weak both legally and factually that the Court of Appeals ordered the defendant released immediately, not even waiting to write an opinion.

Of course, by then she had spent four months in prison. The trial judge, a Bush I appointee, had sent the defendant to prison without waiting for her appeal to be decided. (The reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal is wrong: that used to be extraordinary, but is now routine.) So she lost four months of her life and in her lawyer's words, "her job, her life savings, her home and her liberty ...and her good name."

Under our marvellous system of justice, she has no legal recourse and the U.S. Attorney has no legal liability. That's the bad news. The good news is that any member of Congress could file a bill for her relief, which would be the occasion for some lovely hearings.

I'd love to see the U.S. Attorney answer questions under oath about any communications he might have had on the case with Republican party officials or with the White House. And the relief-bill context, by providing a specific injured individual, would help focus press attention on the case. "Just politics" isn't going to fly when it comes to putting an innocent woman behind bars.

Footnote The defendant wasn't a lacrosse player, a White House staffer, or Tom DeLay, so don't expect the wingnut pundits who have been whining about "prosecutorial overreach" in other cases to mention this one.

From one of the articles they're citing, it does sound like they don't have a leg to stand on:

Rare ruling The three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago on Thursday overturned a jury's conviction of state purchasing agent Georgia Thompson on charges that she illegally steered a state travel contract to a company whose officials donated to Doyle.

Former U.S. Attorney Frank Tuerkheimer said the case stood alone in his more than four decades in criminal law. The ruling was highly unusual, the UW-Madison law professor said, both for the way the judges ordered Thompson released from a federal prison and for the speed with which they did it.

"I can't think of any case where an appellate court after hearing oral arguments ordered the release of a person who's confined" the same day, said Tuerkheimer, who was a U.S. attorney under Democratic President Carter.

A written decision, which will explain the judges' reasoning, has not yet been issued, but their statements during Thursday's hearing suggest they felt the case against Thompson was threadbare at best.

Madison defense attorney and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Van Wagner said he had never seen a case like this one and said the judges' decision reflected a strong consensus that prosecutors had no case.

"It will be strongly worded," Van Wagner, a Republican, predicted of the judges' written decision. "It's a statement to the government that you never had enough to get out of the starting gate."

Let's hear some more about "playing politics," shall we?

h/t: the aptly entitled "Disgusted Beyond Belief"

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