Alabama State Sen. E.B. McClain and the Rev. Samuel Pettagrue each were convicted on corruption charges yesterday in federal court in Birmingham.
But the big story of the day was a comment from Alice Martin, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, a Bush appointee, and the lead prosecutor in the case.
"This sends a very strong message that these kinds of cases will be dealt with (through) tough prosecutions," Martin said after the verdict was announced. "We look forward to trying to clean up the Alabama Senate."
Martin's comment is curious on several levels. As we have reported on a couple of occasions, she apparently has no intention of submitting her resignation, as is customary for U.S. attorneys when presidential administration's change hands. And Scott Horton reported at The Daily Beast that Pennsylvania U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan has joined Martin in trying to stay on during a Barack Obama administration.
Martin's statement about trying "to clean up the Alabama Senate" indicates that she plans to be in office for quite some time. Has no one told Martin that she is a Bush appointee, and the Bush administration ended on Tuesday? Is Martin delusional or have she and U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (D-AL) figured out a way to hoodwink the Obama crowd into keeping Martin on for another year or more?
Here's another question raised by Martin's quote: Has she suddenly obtained jurisdiction over all of Alabama? Last time I checked, Alabama has three U.S. attorneys-- in a Northern District, Middle District, and Southern District. Only a portion of Alabama state senators reside in Martin's district--I'm guessing roughly a third of them. So how is Martin going to clean out the State Senate on her own?
Such a plan would require cooperation from the other two U.S. attorneys. And that raises this question: If such a statewide plan exists, who put it together? Who has the authority to develop a strategy to clean up the Alabama Senate? If Martin & Co. are interested in cleaning up state government, why is only the legislative branch in their cross hairs? What about the executive and judicial branches?
Oh wait, those branches are controlled by Republicans.
What about McClain and Pettagrue? It's possible they are scoundrels who got what they deserved. But regardless of how strong the evidence might have been against them, it seems clear they will have strong grounds for appeal.
As we noted in a recent post, there are hazards to having federal prosecutors with questionable ethics. Martin is under investigation by multiple federal agencies. What if it is found that she indeed targeted Democratic officials for political prosecutions? What if she faces professional sanctions, such as disbarment? What if she is found to have participated in a criminal conspiracy?
This would mean the McClain/Pettagrue case was one of several tainted prosecutions in Martin's district, and it would give them strong grounds for having the verdict overturned.
While we're at it, let's compare the apparent wrongdoing involving McClain and Pettagrue to possible wrongdoing committed by Martin. McClain and Pettagrue were convicted for engaging in a bribery scheme involving about $300,000. At least two investigations by Martin--one involving former Governor Don Siegelman and one involving Huntsville businessman Alex Latifi--have already been found to be bogus in courts of law.
How many hundreds of thousands of dollars--more likely millions--have been wasted on such investigations under Martin? Who really is cheating the taxpayer here?
One final point: From my experience with corrupt Republicans, I've learned that they are stupid crooks. They don't even make decent attempts to hide their tracks. For example, Alice Martin pretty much admits in her quotes after the McClain trial that she has targeted the Alabama Senate, which is controlled by Democrats. And she hints that this is a statewide,
coordinated effort. Whoever is behind that almost certainly is using the U.S. Justice Department in an unlawful manner, for political purposes.
So while trumpeting her conviction of E.B. McClain, Alice Martin reveals an awful lot about herself.