We need to make a correction today, and it's the kind we like to make. That's partly because it helps shine light on the rampant corruption that plagued the U.S. Justice Department under George W. Bush--and still is going on under Barack Obama.
In a post yesterday about U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his failure to report income on a financial-disclosure form, we noted that Mississippi FBI agent Hal Neilson was facing federal charges under 18 U.S. Code 1001--the same statute that Thomas appears to have violated.
A reader sent us a note this morning stating that Neilson no longer faces those charges. He was acquitted on two counts, and the jury hung on three others, in a trial that ended on November 20, 2010. Federal prosecutors announced in mid-December that they were dropping the remaining charges against Neilson. The FBI has fully reinstated Neilson to his position at the Oxford, MS, office.
Here is part of what we wrote in yesterday's post:
Neilson was indicted on January 14 for failing to disclose his financial interests and making false statements to a federal agency. According to a Mississippi-based law blog, Neilson was indicted under 18 U.S. Code 1001. That's the same law that Thomas clearly violated when he failed to disclose almost $700,000 of his wife's income over at least a five-year period.
Our mistake came from getting mixed up on the years. We reported that Neilson had been indicted a little more than 10 days ago. But the indictment actually came on January 14, 2010, and the case went to a two-week trial in November 2010. Our mistake helped remind us that it is, indeed, 2011.
We are happy to correct the record, especially since it appears that Neilson might have been the target of a vendetta from the Bush Justice Department. Reports Patsy R. Brumfield, of the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal:
Neilson continues to insist that his legal problems came from a feud with then-U.S. Attorney Jim Greenlee of Oxford, whom Neilson reported to the Department of Justice after 9/11 for alleged abuse of power with a regional investigation into scores of residents with Middle Eastern surnames.
Greenlee consistently declines to say anything publicly about the allegations.
The Bush administration appointed Greenlee in 2001, and it appears he was cut from the same cloth as Alice Martin and Leura Canary in Alabama. In a post from last January about Greenlee's planned departure from the DOJ, mainjustice.com provides more details about charges that Greenlee brought the case against Neilson out of retaliation and spite:
Greenlee's departure has been rumored for months, amid various reports that made his Oxford-based office seem something of a soap opera.
The latest: Mississippi journalist Patsy Brumfield reports that an FBI agent who was indicted last week for failing to disclose a personal financial interest in the FBI building in Oxford had sought whistleblower status a couple of years ago after reporting concerns that Greenlee's office had improperly targeted area Muslims for investigation after the 9/11 attacks.
The so-called Convenience Store Initiative didn't find any terrorist links, but prosecutors did end up charging some 60 people with selling excessive amounts of pseudoephedrine, used to make methamphetamine, an illegal drug.
The agent, Hal Neilson, also reportedly raised ethics concerns about a book that a former Assistant U.S. Attorney in the district, Tom Dawson, wrote about his prosecution of billionaire Mississippi trial lawyer Richard "Dickie" Scruggs in a judicial bribery scandal, Brumfield wrote.
So Neilson reported the unlawful targeting of Muslims and wound up being indicted by the Bush DOJ--and the Obama administration moved ahead with a tainted, and probably bogus, prosecution. To those of us who live in Alabama, that story sure sounds familiar.