So it was odd to learn recently that the feds seemed anxious to pay restitution to an Alabama defense contractor who was the victim of a botched prosecution during the George W. Bush administration. Why was the government willing to compensate Alex Latifi for the harm that was heaped upon him, his family, and his business, Axion Corporation?
We might have gained some insight into that question the other day, and it came from an unlikely source. The bottom line? We suspect the government is trying to hide the gross misdeeds of Alice Martin, former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama and surely one of the worst prosecutors in our nation's history.
What about our unexpected source? Well, we generally try to avoid the inane scribblings of Birmingham News columnist John Archibald. But we made it through several paragraphs of Sunday's column, and darned if Archibald didn't enlighten us on something.
Specifically, he might have helped us understand why the federal government was anxious to pay restitution to Alex Latifi. The settlement came recently after Latifi's lawyers had issued subpoenas for the Bush-era prosecutors who handled his case, led by Alice Martin.
Archibald provides data that gives some idea of how much doo-doo the federal government might be in if the truth about Martin's corrupt tenure were to be uncovered.
As an aside, we can't help but chuckle almost every time Archibald writes about Alice Martin. The man seems physically incapable of removing his lips from Martin's fanny. You would think Archibald might be embarrassed to be such a blatant sycophant in print, but apparently shame has no hold on columnists for The Birmingham News.
Martin, thankfully, has been out of office for more than a year, but Archibald still misses no opportunity to suck up to her. In fact, we suspect the whole purpose of Sunday's column was to burnish Martin's image in the aftermath of the Latifi settlement.
Archibald seems desperate to remind us that Alice Martin was one active prosecutor. Consider this passage:
Prosecutorial momentum built by years of no-nonsense digging into white collar crime and public corruption is pretty much spent by now. Our scared-straight public officials seem to have little more to fear.
Look at the numbers.
Between 2002 and the end 2008 -- Alice Martin's volatile reign as U.S. Attorney -- 96 public corruption cases were prosecuted in the Northern District, federal records show. That comes out to about 14 corruption cases a year.
Archibald then informs us that Martin's successor, Obama appointee Joyce White Vance, has prosecuted only three public-corruption cases.
But here is what Archibald does not tell his readers: Alice Martin's butchery of the Alex Latifi case was so blatant that the federal government was willing to pay $290,000 to make sure that she and her underlings did not have to testify under oath about their handling of the case.
Archibald makes no mention of the Latifi case, which calls into question everything Alice Martin did during her eight years as north Alabama's chief prosecutor. Archibald only seems interested in the number of cases Martin brought. He seems totally disinterested in whether those cases were prosecuted lawfully.
Imagine this: Discovery in civil matters generally is broad, and Latifi's lawyers probably would have been able to question the Martin Gang about other public-corruption cases. The lawyers also probably would have been able to subpoena documents--e-mails, internal memos, etc.--about the Latifi matter and other cases. What might the public have learned about the Bush administration's apparently orchestrated efforts to prosecute Democrats and people of color in Alabama.
Archibald informs us that Alice Martin prosecuted 96 public-corruption cases from 2002 to 2008. How many of those involved prosecutorial misconduct? Are we to believe that the Martin Gang misbehaved only in the Latifi case?
Here is our guess: If full discovery had been completed in the Alex Latifi case, it probably would have shown that Alice Martin and her staff engaged in criminal behavior. It almost certainly would have shown that they committed serious ethical violations in numerous cases.
And that probably means that the federal government would be called to either let a whole lot of people out of prison or, at the very least, conduct a bunch of new trials.
The federal government probably wanted no part of that scenario. So it settled with Alex Latifi in an effort to keep the cellar door shut on the ugly mess Alice Martin created.
That means, of course, that quite a few people who might have been unlawfully prosecuted will remain in prison. But the feds probably prefer that to letting the public know the truth about Alice Martin.