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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Has Bush DOJ Produced Another Political Prisoner?

The answer to our title question apparently is "yes" after the conviction yesterday of Alabama Representative Sue Schmitz (D-Toney) on federal corruption charges.

Strange isn't it that George W. Bush has been out of office more than a month now, but his Department of Justice is the gift that keeps on giving. In this case, the "gift" is political prisoners--people who have been sentenced to prison terms for crimes they did not commit.

Schmitz joins former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, Mississippi lawyer Paul Minor, and former Mississippi judges Wes Teel and John Whitfield as high-profile individuals who were convicted of "serving or working while being a Democrat."

And you can add Alabama insurance executive John W. Goff to that list. He was convicted of the related crime--"standing up to a bunch of corrupt Republicans, particularly Governor Bob Riley."

Schmitz' case truly was about politics. It was not about any of the ludicrous charges brought against her because she supposedly didn't perform up to expectations in her community-relations job with the Alabama CITY program. As Scott Horton of Harper's has stated, there is no crime called "teacher underperforms lesson plan."

But Sue Schmitz apparently is on her way to federal prison anyway. Will Judge R. David Proctor, a George W. Bush appointee, order that Schmitz be imprisoned pending her appeal? That has happened with Siegelman, Minor, and others, so we can assume the answer is "yes."

Here's the real story of the Sue Schmitz case, which was tried twice and probably cost taxpayers into the high six figures or low seven figures: The felony conviction automatically removes Schmitz from the Alabama Legislature, and that's what U.S. Attorney Alice Martin and her GOP cohorts were after. It's all part of a plan, launched by Riley and Alabama GOP head Mike Hubbard, to take over the state legislature in 2010.

We have said in recent days that the case against Schmitz was a "joke"--and we were being charitable. If the law is followed--a very big if--the conviction cannot possibly stand up on appeal.

But we also stated that when Bush prosectors and a Bush-appointed judge are in control in a blood red state like Alabama, anything can happen. We said that Schmitz could only be convicted if the judge was a buffoon and/or the jury was clueless. One, or both, of the those conditions evidently was in place at the Schmitz trial.

God only knows how much prosecution evidence was improperly admitted. Got only knows how much defense evidence was improperly excluded. God only knows what instructions were presented to jurors.

But I doubt that the prosecutors care that their handiwork probably will be overturned. And they certainly do not care that hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars probably were wasted. By the time the Schmitz conviction is overturned, her seat in the legislature will be held by someone else--probably a Republican.

David Fiderer of Huffington Post, a lawyer by training, has written brilliantly about the weaknesses in the government's case against Sue Schmitz. He wrote that prosecutors were trying to exclude volumes of exculpatory evidence, including the inconvenient truth that Schmitz had prevailed in a wrongful-termination lawsuit after being dismissed from the CITY program. Essentially, Alice Martin & Co. wanted to prevent Schmitz from putting on a defense. And with a Bush-appointed judge in charge, I'm guessing that's what happened.

The Decatur Daily voiced concerns months ago about the secrecy with which Judge R. David Proctor conducted the Schmitz trial. One has to wonder what Proctor was trying to hide.

Scott Horton, a Columbia University law professor, said it was a great surprise that the judge allowed the case to the go to the jury at all. And yet, Proctor did it twice.

Just how crazy is "justice" in Alabama? While a federal jury was convicting Schmitz because she supposedly performed poorly on her job, a state judge was ordering that Schmitz be reinstated, with back pay, to the very same job--because she was wrongfully terminated!

As Dave Barry would say, "I'm not making this up."

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