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Friday, September 12, 2008

Will Next Political Prosecution Focus on Mississippi Senate Race?

George W. Bush might have record-low approval ratings, but his Justice Department evidently is going to pursue politically motivated and timed prosecutions, right to its dying breath.

A new investigation from the Bush DOJ appears to be brewing, and it probably represents an attempt to influence the U.S. Senate race in Mississippi between Republican incumbent Roger Wicker and Democratic challenger Ronnie Musgrove.

A source in the legal community has told Legal Schnauzer that the Bush DOJ's desire to target Musgrove probably is behind this curious story, which we reported on Tuesday. The story, written by reporter Johnny Edwards of the Augusta (GA) Chronicle, said two former Georgia legislators have been moved within the federal prison system so that they can testify in a federal case.

Our source says that case probably involves Musgrove, a former governor who appears to have a reasonable chance of beating Wicker for Trent Lott's old Senate seat. Reporter Janet Hook, of The Los Angeles Times, reported in early July that Musgrove might become the first Democratic senator from Mississippi in a quarter century.

Not if the Bush Justice Department can help it.

It looks like the Bush DOJ is busily preparing an indictment of Musgrove connected to the Mississippi Beef Processors case, which recently produced guilty pleas from three Georgia businessmen.

The men had made campaign contributions to Musgrove's re-election campaign for governor several years ago, but Musgrove has denied any wrongdoing on his part. Musgrove told the Associated Press that he had "nothing to do with the awarding of any of the contracts related to the beef-processing plant, and at no time did anyone try to influence him regarding the awarding of such contracts."

As for former Georgia legislators Robin Williams and Charles Walker, it is unclear what information they might provide regarding a possible case against Musgrove. The Augusta Chronicle reported that Williams and Walker might be looking at reduced prison sentences in exchange for their assistance in a federal case.

Similar favorable outcomes appear to be coming for the three Georgia businessmen who entered guilty pleas in the Mississippi Beef Processors case. Charges have been dropped against the companies of executive Robert Moultrie, and the plea deals are expected to bring the businessmen substantially reduced sentences.

If an indictment is issued against Musgrove between now and the November election, it would be a familiar tactic for the Bush Justice Department. Two of the best known political prosecution cases in recent years--the Don Siegelman case in Alabama and the Paul Minor case in Mississippi--involved indictments against prominent Democrats, issued just before key elections.

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