The issue of selective prosecution in the Deep South has focused on the Don Siegelman case in Alabama and the Paul Minor case in Mississippi. But a Georgia columnist says the press in his state should turn its attention to the subject.
"The conduct of the Bush Justice Department here in Georgia has received little media scrutiny," says Bill Shipp of the Athens Banner-Herald. "That should change."
Shipp notes that last year Republican Governor Sonny Perdue appointed Atlanta mega-developer Stan Thomas to the powerful state Board of Economic Development. "There is no dispute that the board seat is of great value to Thomas, who speculates in land and tries to build upscale, huge retail and residential complexes in areas with growing, affluent populations," Shipp writes. "His seat on the board gives him an inside, early look at the state's development plans and no doubt gives his real-estate bets better odds."
Then Shipp cuts to the chase.
"Applying the Siegelman-Scrushy standard to the Perdue-Thomas relationship, it is hard to imagine why the U.S. Justice Department, namely Atlanta-based U.S. Attorney David Nahmias, is not closely scrutinizing it. Thomas and his development companies have given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Perdue and the state Republican Party (through which Perdue funded much of his re-election campaign). Perdue uses Thomas's fleet of aircraft practically as a private air force. To top it off, Thomas carved off a piece of land inside a massive development he's building near Disney World in Orlando and sold it to Perdue as an investment opportunity."
Shipp has a hard time understanding how that differs from the transaction that landed Don Siegelman and Richard Scrushy in federal prison.
"If (Karl) Rove's special interest in Alabama could lead the Bush White House to demand the prosecution of the state's most prominent Democrat, couldn't the same sentiment lead to the improper protection from scrutiny of Georgia's first Republican governor since Reconstruction?"
Shipp raises a monumental question, one that goes to the flip side of selective prosecution. The Siegelman and Minor cases involved individuals who allegedly were prosecuted for political reasons. The scenario in Georgia involves individuals who apparently are protected from prosecution for political reasons.
We've seen a similar situation here in Alabama with Republican Governor Bob Riley receiving a large campaign contribution and providing a major chunk of state dollars to support a biotech center in Huntsville, bypassing the state's already strong biotech presence in Birmingham at UAB.
And in the weeks ahead, we will lay out a classic example of suppression of prosecution here at Legal Schnauzer. It involves clear federal crimes by Republican state judges and a determined effort by U.S. Attorney Alice Martin to sweep the wrongdoing under the proverbial rug.