Folks who love horses surely are familiar with the term "blinders" or "blinkers." They are devices that are applied to racehorses, restricting their vision and forcing them to focus on what is ahead as opposed to distractions such as a crowd.
Blinders also can come in mighty handy for a U.S. attorney. Alice Martin, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, is a prime example.
Several weeks back, Scott Horton, of Harper's, reported that Martin had secured 10 indictments of Democratic political figures and their allies. Her idea was to keep the indictments under seal, with plans to release them drop by drop in order to boost the efforts of her Republican compadres to take control of the Alabama Legislature.
The first of Martin's indictments to be released was for Sue Schmitz, a retired 63-year-old school teacher who also serves as a Democrat in the state legislature. At the time of Schmitz arrest, Horton reported that the charge against Schmitz appeared to be a novel crime: school teacher underperforms lesson plan.
This is just one of dozens of politically inspired "public integrity" cases the Bush Justice Department has concocted around the country. But then Horton raised a key issue:
And then let’s look at the flip side: the enormous number of serious crimes which go uninvestigated and uncharged because of an official but unannounced Justice Department policy: “We don’t care.”
Horton pointed to just such a crime that appears to be going unpunished. It involves 38 cases of serious assault or rape involving women working as contractors in Iraq in support of the U.S. military mission there.
How has the Justice Department responded to these crimes?
The Justice Department has adopted a policy of official indifference. It could care less about crimes that occur involving contractors in Iraq, they just don’t matter. Note, it doesn’t matter the nature of the crime. This applies equally to murders, serious assaults, rapes and other crimes. For some reason a murder or the gang rape of a young woman from Houston is far less interesting than prosecuting a 63-year-old social studies teacher who made the fatal error of standing for the legislature as a Democrat.
Then Horton made a statement that gets to the heart of upcoming posts here at Legal Schnauzer:
My suspicion is that the attitude of official indifference is just as corrupt and political in its nature as the political prosecutions. . . . The Justice Department’s failing is not just that it abuses its resources for political schemes. It also neglects its core law-enforcement mission with respect to serious crime. Is there any way to correct this short of a sweeping replacement of personnel? That would be up to Michael Mukasey.
This is precisely what I've experienced when I've tried to bring serious crimes, committed by Alabama state judges, to the attention of the Justice Department. Specifically, I've provided Alice Martin with detailed information about these crimes, which undercut the very bedrock of our state's justice system. But she doesn't want to hear about them.
They involve wrongdoing by Republicans, and it all would reflect very badly on the father of her former campaign manager, Dax Swatek. So these serious crimes--honest-services mail fraud, conspiracy, probably more--go unpunished.
But teacher "underperforms her lesson plan?" Now, Alice Martin can sink her teeth into that, particularly when the teacher is a Democratic member of the state legislature.
We will return shortly to the specific allegations I brought to Alice Martin's attention--and how she sent them to a cold, dark place to never see the light of day.
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