We recently reported that threats against judges and prosecutors are on the rise. And now we have a report that a prisoner in Mobile, Alabama, has been charged with attempting to arrange a hit on a federal judge and prosecutor.
The prisoner is Edmond H. "Eddie" Smith IV, a well-known outdoorsman in south Alabama. Smith is a colorful, larger-than-life character who has received extensive coverage in the Mobile Press-Register over the past two years.
But the Mobile newspaper has largely neglected to report on key aspects of the Smith case, ones that indicate he almost certainly did not try to arrange a hit on anyone--and he should not be in prison at all.
We've been following the Smith case here at Legal Schnauzer since early June. And the more we learn about it, the more it smells like a non-political version of the Don Siegelman story.
What really is going on with the Eddie Smith case? Why has he been held in the Mobile County Jail for more than seven months, awaiting sentencing on a federal ammunition crime that court records indicate he did not commit?
We will be examining those questions in a series of upcoming posts.
For now, we know that Smith is accused of trying to arrange hits on U.S. District Judge William Steele and Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Bordenkircher. If convicted of solicitation of murder, Smith could be sentenced to as many as 20 years in prison. Smith pled not guilty to the charges on August 7.
The federal indictment alleges that Smith tried to hire a fellow inmate named Paul J. Albert and a person identified only as "E" to murder Steele and Bordenkircher. Albert has been convicted on counterfeiting charges, and his attorney indicates in a published report that he could receive a lighter sentence in exchange for his testimony against Smith.
The government's case appears to be built on the word of Paul J. Albert, who is virtually blind and deaf according to one source, and another person who does not even have a name at this point. Sounds like pretty shaky footing for a federal prosecution.
Sentencing on Smith's federal ammunition conviction--the reason he is in the Mobile County Jail in the first place--has been set for Thursday (August 27). Steele presided over that trial, and Bordenkircher was the prosecutor.
Eddie Smith might seem like an odd individual to compare to Don Siegelman. To our knowledge, Smith has no strong political affiliation. He is a hunter, gun enthusiast, and fisherman, which indicates he might lean toward the conservative side. Smith has had a number of civil and criminal legal entanglements in recent years, and to a progressive audience, he might not seem like a sympathetic figure.
But public documents indicate Smith was wrongly convicted in a federal prosecution brought by the Bush Justice Department, in a case overseen by a judge who was a George W. Bush appointee. For good measure, the judge has ties to federal appellate judge and former Alabama attorney general William Pryor.
Even the journalist who is credited with launching the Siegelman investigation has played a central role in the Eddie Smith story.
Does this all sound familiar? If you follow Legal Schnauzer, it should?
My own experience shows that you don't have to be a governor, a high-profile attorney, a famed forensic pathologist, or a "pro-consumer" judge to be targeted in the Age of Rove. And you don't have to be a Democrat. Just ask the nine Republican U.S. attorneys who were fired by the Bushies.
But why would the Bush crowd go after Eddie Smith?
That's a question we will examine closely in the days and weeks ahead.
(To be continued)