Politics Is Still Downstream of Culture
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Yesterday (and I swear I had no idea what was coming down the pike the next day), I responded to a comment by one of Redstate’s more clever mobies (he is clever because he avoids the blam stick by carefully limiting himself to one comment per month or so). Yil, of course, was trying to plant the meme that former US Attorney Chris Christie, the man increasingly looking like a very very serious threat to Jon Corzine’s plans for re-election as New Jersey Governor, was engaged in partisan politics when his office began an investigation of Bob Menendez just before the 2006 elections.
I responded thus;
Yep … Christie wasn’t as smart as those Democrat DOJ staffers that went after Stevens.
Those guys not only prosecuted Stevens in DC, where a Republican is about as likely to escape conviction as a snowball escaping hell in solid form, they leaked slanted info to the AK Press, they also hid exculpatory evidence at trial, and managed to win a conviction right on time for November.
Those guys were pros.
That was yesterday.
Today, totally coincidentally, the papers are saying this;
The Justice Department has moved to dismiss former Sen. Ted Stevens’ indictment, effectively voiding his Oct. 27 conviction on seven counts of filing false statements on his U.S. Senate financial disclosure forms.
“After careful review, I have concluded that certain information should have been provided to the defense for use at trial,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement released this morning. “In light of this conclusion, and in consideration of the totality of the circumstances of this particular case, I have determined that it is in the interest of justice to dismiss the indictment and not proceed with a new trial.”
The Justice Department filed its motion to dismiss the case this morning.
A lot of things bothered me about the Stevens trial – and I won’t claim that I expressed them when it mattered. I do remember that Art (Achance to the newbies) did. One, the fact that it was launched during campaign season, and as the Wall Street Journal last month noted when the prosecution team’s misconduct began to surface; ” Justice rules forbid issuing indictments too close to elections.”
The second thing that bothered me was the numerous highly damaging leaks that could only have come from the prosecution alleging all sorts of misdeeds and quid pro quo transactions that ended up on the front pages of Alaska’s newspapers and in headlines outside Alaska’s borders. Art complained over and over again that Stevens was not even indicted for any of the things he was being condemned for as being obviously guilty of. Again, the WSJ notes; “Though Mr. Stevens was a champion earmarker, the government never alleged much less proved that Veco got anything in return from the Senator.”
Another thing that bothered me was the fact that the trial was held before a DC jury. For those who don’t know or were not paying attention during the farce that was the Scooter Libby trial for perjury – where the man ended up being convicted for outing supposedly the CIA’s most super-duper double code-word top-secret agent – DC is extremely Democratic and the people likely to be willing to serve on any DC federal jury are often extremely political and partisan. I firmly believe that today, the likelihood of a Republican escaping conviction for any crime in front of a DC jury is about as much as the aforementioned snowball escaping hell in solid form.
And to highlight another parallel to the Scooter Libby farce, after all the innuendo and allegations of high end big money corruption, Stevens was indicted on charges of perjury – what the WSJ describes as “lying on forms.” i.e. his Senate financial disclosure forms.
Now let’s examine what happened here.
Not only did these prosecutors seek and issue indictments just a few short months before Election Day, not only did they engage in the strategic leaking of what amounted to no more than innuendo and outright libel/slander against the Senator to friendly reporters, not only did they hold the trial before a DC jury (which may not be their doing) as the Presidential campaign got into high gear, they also “forgot” to share documents with the defense, prevented exculpatory witness testimony from being heard in open court, and when it came to the documents they did share with the defense they actually redacted exculpatory passages from witness transcripts.
To give you all an example of what somehow never made it to Stevens’ defense team; after the renovation work done on his house, Stevens wrote to Bill Allen, CEO of VECO and the prosecution’s star witness, asking him to talk to Stevens’ neighbor (who had overseen the renovation on Stevens’ behalf) about the bill or invoice for the work for Stevens to pay back. As Stevens wrote; “You owe me a bill … Remember Torricelli, my friend. Friendship is one thing, compliance with the ethics rules entirely different.“
Now according to Bill Allen sitting in the witness box, Bob Persons (the neighbor) told him when he went to talk to him about the bill; “Don’t worry about getting a bill, Ted’s just covering his ass.”
Which sounds condemning until you find out that Bill Allen had told prosecutors some months earlier (when his memory should have been a bit fresher) that he could not recall ever meeting Bob Persons about providing a bill to Ted Stevens. Add in the fact that it’s not in dispute that Stevens paid every bill that was presented to him – over $180,000 out of his own pocket. This and more potentially exculpatory information were in the interview notes that the prosecution somehow “forgot” to provide to the defense.
So it is no surprise that the trial judge found the prosecution team in contempt in February for their continued failure to provide these documents unredacted, undoctored, to the defense for the sentencing phase. The DOJ had to assign another DOJ lawyer to review their case files and send the documents to the defense. These would be including those documents relating to complaints by the FBI agent in charge of the investigation about prosecutors covering up evidence unhelpful to their case and trying to prevent a witness from testifying because his/her testimony would have harmed their case.
Ted Stevens may have been a pork-addicted fiend. He may have made a mockery of fiscal restraint as a principle of Republican politics, and he has rightly been pilloried for it over the years. But it’s obvious he was no crook if prosecutors had to go to such dishonest lengths to get him convicted – and by a DC jury during a Presidential campaign with partisan passions running high.
Now, maybe I’m going dangerously close to conspiracy theory territory here, but looking at everything, the timing of the indictment and trial (finishing about a week to election day), the leaks, the trial venue (almost guaranteed to return a conviction), the deliberate withholding/doctoring of evidence by the prosecution, the fact that the lead prosecutor is a registered Democrat with ambitions of being appointed the US Attorney for Boston … and I’m starting to think this was more of a political operation than anything to do with justice.
The second thing is that I have to note that Achance, again, was right. Republicans, in a bid to appear as white as the driven snow, have been tricked, again and again, into committing fratricide. For all that Obama can give the world lessons in throwing people under the bus once they become inconvenient, Republicans are hardly slouches. All it takes is an accusation, a news headline and the entire concept of “innocent until proven guilty” is thrown out the window in a rush to condemn and disassociate (as if the MSM would ever forget to attach the big scarlet ‘R’).
Nothing p*ssed me off more than seeing Democrats and their pet talking heads condemning Republicans for attempting to change their Caucus rules to enable Tom DeLay (another victim of prosecutorial misconduct – whatever happened to his trial anyway?) stay on as Leader while he fought his indictment by a clearly dishonest and partisan Ronnie Earle. And there were Republicans who got on TV and print to echo them -e.g. Chris Shays. This while Democrats have no such rule in place for their leadership.
Simply put; we need to start defending our own. I’m not saying we should emulate the Democrats who had no problem with criminals like William Jefferson and Chris Dodd serving in their midst, but the fact that someone is on our side means we should give him/her the benefit of the doubt, extend them the courtesy of believing them innocent until proven guilty.
We condemned Stevens from the moment he was indicted, we believed the leaks, we joined the Democrats in labelling him corrupt – a quid pro quo player.
And we were wrong. He was one of our own. He deserved better.