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|Hissyspit (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore||Mon Apr-14-08 04:06 PM
|GOP “Justice” In Alabama & Mississippi: Paul Minor & the Siegelman & Shuler Cases (Help Mrs. Minor)|
Edited on Mon Apr-14-08 05:02 PM by Hissyspit
“I’ve always thought that they were bad people with evil intent – and all that, it’s playing out now. You can’t hardly look at any aspect of the government in the seven years so far that’s been run properly.” – John Grisham, on the Bush Department of Justice (Des Moines Register)
“In many respects, the case against Minor looks like a rehashing of the prosecution of Gov. Siegelman next door in Alabama.” – Scott Horton of Harper’s Magazine
Paul Minor’s wife has brain cancer. Her condition is apparently deteriorating and she has not been able to visit her husband or be comforted by him.
Her husband, a Mississippi trial lawyer, former judge on the state Supreme Court, and former president of the Mississippi Trial Lawyers Association, is in prison, convicted in September last year of ‘honest services mail fraud’ and given an eleven-year sentence. Minor argued that the government, through the U.S. attorney in Mississippi, “singled him out for prosecution for political reasons.” He was a major donor to Democratic candidates.
The first trial resulted in a deadlocked jury and after being retried, Minor was immediately shackled and manacled and taken away and not allowed to be free while appealing, unusual for white-collar cases. Some of this sound eerily familiar? It should, if you have paid any attention to the case of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman. Siegelman is out of prison, though not in the clear, as his appeal goes forward both in the courts and in the public forum, the public appeal demonstrated by his interviews with ’60 Minutes’ and MSNBC’s ‘The Verdict’ with Dan Abrams. The House Judiciary Committee wants to talk to him in Washington. Yesterday, the Siegelman case found its way onto the pages of The Washington Post, with a headline proclaiming "Former Alabama Governor Turns Tables On Justice Department".
Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz Jr,, himself twice a target of charges as part of the Minor case, charges of which he was twice acquitted, in an interview in Raw Story’s "Mississippi Justice: Bush U.S. Attorney Targeted My Wife, Supporters and Friends," part of the ‘Permanent Republican Majority’ investigative series by Larisa Alexandrovna and others, described the type of questionable behavior and tactics from prosecutors with which novelist Grisham concerned himself in that Des Moines Register quote. How tied is it all to the now-highly scrutinized practices of the Bush administration’s Department of Justice? Diaz states that he and Minor were “politically prosecuted.” More on this in a moment.
Diaz told Raw Story: “Mr. Minor is not able to visit her husband… Unfortunately, her prognosis is not good at this time.”
If you would like to help do something about this, Larisa posted this at her blog last Thursday and provided a link to the House Judiciary Committee form. She also suggests that someone might set up a support page for Mr. Minor, similar to the one for Don Siegelman:
Update on Paul Minor's wife...
Again, sorry for not posting much, I am still sick. But I wanted to let you guys know some horrible news. Mrs. Minor is back in the hospital. She has brain cancer and had surgery, which seemed to have some initial success. She was an outpatient, but it seems that her lungs have filled up with fluid in the last few days and she is back in the hospital.
Mr. Minor thus far is not allowed out while his case is on appeal - just as with Don Siegelman - and he is apparently being denied access to his wife. If you do not know who Paul Minor is, see HERE and HERE. Since he is not a violent offender, he should be allowed to be by his wife's side as things move toward their conclusion.
Contact the House Judiciary Committee via phone: 202-225-3951 or use the form HERE.
Scott Horton at Harper’s wrote about Paul Minor’s case back in October in a piece called
"A Minor Injustice: Why Paul Minor?" That question - why Paul Minor - was posited as far back as 2004 at the beginning of the prosecution, on the Talk Left site in March of that year: "Why Is Paul Minor Being Prosecuted?."
The connection between Diaz and Minor is a loan. According to Diaz, it was a campaign loan on which Minor had signed on as a guarantor. “This is all perfectly legal in Mississippi,” said Diaz. “Loans to campaigns are a fairly regular thing in Mississippi politics. Not many people can afford to fund the entire cost of a large election.” As Horton points out, in Mississippi, judges are usually first appointed by the governor and must then be elected on their own right. Elections of judges are supposed to be non-partisan. “There is no rule prohibiting attorneys who practice in front of a given judge from donating to, and even advising that judge’s campaign.”
According to Horton, "the actual charges filed were almost incomprehensible. Several public integrity prosecutors with whom I conferred told me they were unfamiliar of any similar case raising charges like these. They were called ‘strange,’ and ‘perhaps unique.’" Horton says that Minor was moved from prison in Mississippi to one in Oklahoma.
On event of Minor's second trial, following the result of a deadlocked jury for the first trial in which some of the charges were dropped, Horton reports that “when the time came for the second trial, Minor found the judge had decided to change the rules. In the first trial, Minor had offered a great deal of exculpatory evidence… The evidence showed that the guarantees that Minor made to the three judges here, to allow them to fund their reelection campaigns, were nothing out of character for him. It directly offset claims that his intent was corrupt.” But as the second trial began, the judge announced that he had changed his mind and excluded the evidence.
Horton points out three concerns in the Minor prosecution, concerns found within Diaz’s interviews, also:
Also covering the Minor situation has been Roger Shuler, an Alabama blogger whose research is cited by Horton in that same article. Links to Roger’s work are found at the end of this article and Horton recommendeded Shuler’s primer on honest services mail fraud, the crime for which Minor was ultimately found guilty, and the prosecution of which Horton makes reference to as “an effort to conjure a crime which does not exist. The crime here is purely ‘political.’”
Siegelman is out of prison pending appeal. Diaz was acquitted. Minor received eleven years and was fined four million dollars, much higher than the legal guidelines. Shuler is still blogging about the attempts to legally seize his house and put it up for auction.
Strong-Arm Tactics and Other Similarities?
Is Minor a victim of injustice? In the Talk Left article from 2004 TChris wrote: “Minor asserts that Richard Scruggs, a Mississippi plaintiffs’ lawyer who happens to be married to the sister of Trent Lott’s wife, also guaranteed and paid off a loan to Justice Diaz. The difference between Scruggs and Minor is that Scruggs’ law firm had two cases pending before the Mississippi Supreme Court at the time.” Minor’s lawyer was quoted: “When the Republican U.S. attorney looks at Republican supporter Mr. Scruggs’ actions, he sees them in a way that avoids any criminal overtone. When the same U.S. attorney looks at Democrat Paul Minor’s actions, he sees racketeering. This is just not right.”
Diaz says that he was acquitted (ultimately charged twice), and Minor was tried again in 2007. For the Department of Justice’s point of view on this case, I offer the link to the Bush DOJ press release on the Minor conviction from April 2007:
As Alexandrovna reported previously, Siegelman’s home was broken into twice during the trial, and his attorney’s office was broken into at least once during the tortuous process of his case. Diaz reports to Raw Story that after he was indicted and before his trial started, his home was also broken into, as well. Dana Jill Simpson, the Alabama Republican whistleblower in the Siegelman case, had her home set on fire and her car run off the road. The home of Judge John Whitfield, tried with Diaz and Minor, was set on fire, according to Raw Story. Whitfield complained that the allowance of U.S. Attorney’s into the arson investigation allowed prosecutors acces to his trial strategy.
Diaz, in the interview with Raw Story, raises questions of whether some U.S. Attorneys brought political indictments and discusses connections and motivations between persons and organizations. A graphic was presented in the Raw Story interview to represent relationships of persons and organizations involved in both the Minor and the Siegelman cases. In particular, emphasis was put on U.S. Attorney Dunnica Lampton, and I reproduce the graphic here.
The Alabama/Mississippi Pipeline
Are there connections between the Alabama and Mississippi GOP, connections that might help explain the Siegelman, Minor, and Legal Schnauzer cases? According to Shuler (dating himself a bit), “You bet your bippy.” See here: http://legalschnauzer.blogspot.com/2008/03/who-is-behin...
Not wanting to go too much further into detail, since much can be found in the Harper’s article and the Raw Story interview, Shuler has encapsulated at my request the Minor case and speculates on how it is connectioned to Siegelman and to his own circumstances, how the situations are bound together, perhaps, as Alexandrovna put it, by "more aggressive prosecutorial tactics and intimidation than has previously been reported.” Some of this, Shuler has put on his blog today in his response post to the Washington Post story from Sunday.
The Deep South could be called Ground Zero for corruption in the Bush Department of Justice.
A growing body of evidence possibly indicates the Bush DOJ has instigated a number of prosecutions around the country not because the defendants had committed federal crimes, but because they were Democrats with either political or financial clout. The Bush DOJ seems particularly threatened by progressives in red states, such as Alabama and Mississippi.
Is that a coincidence, considering that Karl Rove built his national reputation on state judicial races in Alabama and has strong ties to the Mississippi GOP hierarchy, including sitting governor Haley Barbour?
A number of major news organizations, including ‘60 Minutes,’ evidently think it might not be a coincidence, and they have focused national attention on what appear to be politically motivated prosecutions in the Deep South.
Here is a question the mainstream press has not examined in detail: Are there connections between cases where the GOP appears to have targeted certain individuals in Southern states for political reasons? Is there a gameplan the GOP tends to bring out when it feels threatened in a red-state stronghold?
The DOJ scandal, which started with the firings of nine U.S. attorneys in December 2006 (has) (former Gov. Don) Siegelman (as) the best known target of the Bush DOJ. But a case in Mississippi involving attorney Paul Minor, a prominent donor to numerous Democratic candidates, might be an even more alarming and clear example of a political prosecution. The Minor case is not as well known as the Siegelman case, but the facts show that it might be an even more glaring example of political prosecution.
And for Minor and his wife, any redress to his case is of time-sensitive critical importance.
A third case that is even less well known than the Minor case – that of Shuler’s, who lives in Birmingham and writes the blog Legal Schnauzer, may be evidence of the DOJ-related Deep South political prosecution, even if only on a smaller scale.
Shuler started Legal Schnauzer in June 2007 after a seven-year ordeal in which he repeatedly witnessed corruption by Republican judges in Alabama state courts. A neighbor sued Shuler over a property-related matter in late 2000. The neighbor's lawsuit, by law, had to be dismissed (summary judgment) in six to eight months time. But Republican judges made clear and repeated unlawful rulings, causing the case to drag on for years and costing Shuler and his wife--and Alabama taxpayers--thousands of dollars. The case, by law, according to Shuler, could not go to trial. But Republican judges forced it to trial, and a jury found in favor of Shuler's neighbor for $1,525.
Why would Alabama state judges unlawfully favor Shuler's neighbor? Here is what Shuler writes:
"It's not because the neighbor, Mike McGarity, is an upstanding citizen. McGarity has at least eight criminal convictions in his background, including convictions on violence- and sex-related offenses. I have written about this on my blog.
McGarity, however, had a secret weapon--an attorney with strong family ties to Alabama's Republican hierarchy. McGarity's lawyer, who crafted the baseless lawsuit against me, is a man named William E. Swatek. Swatek, like his client, has an unseemly background. He has been disciplined by the Alabama State Bar three times, including a suspension of his license for acts of "dishonesty, fraud, deceit, and misrepresentation." The Bar also found that Swatek had engaged in activities that "adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law." Swatek even was prosecuted in criminal court for perjury.
In spite of all that, Swatek evidently maintains an exalted, and protected, status among Alabama's Republican judges. Why? Well, Swatek's son, Dax Swatek, is a Montgomery-based "campaign consultant" for Republican candidates. His clients have included Alice Martin, now U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, and sitting Governor Bob Riley. Dax Swatek has been a close associate of Bill Canary, the GOP operative who has strong ties to Karl Rove and apparently was at the heart of plans to prosecute Don Siegelman.
Alabama law provides a number of mechanisms for punishing attorneys who file baseless lawsuits. Bill Swatek has managed to escape such punishment, apparently because his son has connections that lead right to the Bush White House.
Bill Swatek, however, has not escaped the critical eye of the Legal Schnauzer. After failing to receive justice in Alabama's GOP-controlled courts, I turned to the blogosphere. I wrote in depth about the Siegelman and Minor cases. And in stark, often biting posts, I provided details about unlawful actions he had witnessed firsthand in Alabama state courts.
At first, my blog seemed to stir little interest in GOP circles. But then Harper's Scott Horton, a leading chronicler of shenanigans in the Bush DOJ, linked to Legal Schnauzer. And when the U.S. House Judiciary Committee held a hearing last fall on selective prosecution, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) entered documents related to the Minor prosecution in Mississippi. Those documents contained repeated references to Legal Schnauzer and my reporting on the Minor case."
Suddenly, it seemed, Shuler had Republicans' attention. And the GOP evidently was not pleased with Legal Schnauzer.
For more than three years, according to Shuler, Bill Swatek had made no effort to collect the $1,525 judgment against him. "No certified letters, no phone calls, no actions of any kind demanding that I pay up."
"But about three months after Legal Schnauzer had started, I received a writ of execution from his county clerk, saying he owed a judgment in the amount of $2,229.64 (the original amount, plus three years worth of interest.) But the document, filed by County Clerk Mary Harris, was about more than money. It said my house and cars were subject to seizure in order to satisfy the judgment.
A few weeks later, I received a notice of levy from Sheriff Chris Curry. This said that my house was to be auctioned in order to satisfy the judgment. You heard that right--a house was going to be sold to satisfy a judgment of less than $2,300.
Curiously, my wife and I never received a ‘Notice of Right to Claim Exemption,’ which by law must be included with any writ of execution. When Shuler filed a claim of exemption anyway, it by law put a stay on the sheriff's sale and required McGarity to file a contest. But Shelby County authorities ignored this requirement and moved forward with plans to sell the Shulers’ house.
The sale was postponed once, because of an error in the ad that must be run three times in a general-circulation newspaper. But a new notice of levy has been issued, and the house evidently will be sold in about a month."
Shuler argues that his case shows that the Southern GOP does not go after only powerful figures such as Don Siegelman or the Paul Minor defendants. “Republicans in the ‘Age of Rove’ even go after bloggers.” The attempt at a ‘Republican Permanent Majority’ (anathema to true representative democracy), seems to know no compassion or empathy. Justice not blind?
We have a well-known case (Siegelman), a somewhat known case (Minor), and a mostly unknown case (Legal Schnauzer) - all involving unlawful targeting of progressives in the Deep South. Are there common threads running through these three cases? The answer, says Roger Shuler, is yes, and you can examine several of those threads. (Links are provided to posts or articles with additional information.):
THE PAUL MINOR CASE LINKS:
Scott Horton: A Minor Injustice
Raw Story: Mississippi Justice – Bush U.S. Attorney Targeted My Wife, Supporters and Friends
Talk Left: Why Is Paul Minor Being Prosecuted?
OTHER LEGAL SCHNAUZER LINKS:
Here is Roger’s latest on the attempt to take his home: http://legalschnauzer.blogspot.com/2008/04/return-of-ja... ”>”Return of the Jack-Booted Thugs”
Schnauzer to The Washington Post
The GOP and the Deep South Gameplan
Honest-Services Mail Fraud: The Magic Charge
The press has reported that the key charge in both the Siegelman and Minor cases was bribery. But in terms of volume, the most important charge was honest-services mail fraud. That accounted for roughly two-thirds of the charges against Siegelman and more than half of the charges against Minor. A close examination of the two cases indicates that none of the defendants actually committed honest services mail fraud. So how were they convicted? In the Minor case, U.S. Judge Henry Wingate (a Reagan appointee) clearly gave incorrect jury instructions. In the Siegelman case, the trial transcript only recently was completed and has not been available to the public. But in an interview with MSNBC's Dan Abrams, Siegelman said U.S. Judge Mark Fuller (a George W. Bush appointee) gave incorrect jury instructions. And what about the Legal Schnauzer case? Shuler has given detailed information to the FBI and U.S. Attorney Alice Martin, outlining clear and legitimate honest services mail fraud. But federal authorities have done nothing with that information, and Martin (who once had a statewide campaign run by Dax Swatek) has taken active steps to cover up wrongdoing by Swatek's father and multiple GOP state judges.
Conflicted Federal Judges
In the Minor case, U.S. Judge Henry Wingate reportedly cherished a seat on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Garnering convictions in the Minor case figured to strengthen his resume for the Bush White House. Wingate got the convictions, but failed to get the promotion. In the Siegelman case, U.S. Judge Mark Fuller had myriad conflicts of interest. While Fuller was a district attorney in Alabama, Siegelman (as governor) had initiated an audit of questionable business practices in Fuller's office. Numerous reports have held that Fuller had a vendetta against the former governor. As for Shuler, he has written extensively at Legal Schnauzer about the conflicts of the two federal judges.
Conflicted Federal Prosecutors
The prosecutorial conflicts in the Siegelman and Minor cases could not be more glaring. Siegelman prosecutor Leura Canary is the wife of Bill Canary, who was a campaign advisor for Siegelman's opponent, Bob Riley. Minor prosecutor Dunn Lampton had seen his family businesses successfully sued by Paul Minor. Shuler was among numerous bloggers who reported on these conflicts, with Harper's Scott Horton leading the way.
Nutty Statements by Federal Prosecutors
The Impact of Oil
Both Don Siegelman and Paul Minor had histories of successfully taking on the oil industry. And Shuler had a history of writing about the Alabama Supreme Court's unlawful ruling that cost the state most of a $3.6 billion judgment against ExxonMobil.
The Impact of Tobacco
Both Don Siegelman and Paul Minor have successfully taken on the tobacco industry.
National Press Discovers Minor Case
The John Grisham Touch
Some of the similarities between the Siegelman and Minor cases sound like they came from a John Grisham novel. Mysterious fires. Cars being run off roads. Break-ins at homes and law offices. In fact, Grisham drew on the Minor case for his latest novel, "The Appeal."
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