Just two days ago we noted that Thomas Jefferson, like Barack Obama, inherited a Justice Department that had been soiled by his predecessor. Borrowing from the work of Scott Horton at Harper's magazine, we opined that Obama & Co. should follow Jefferson's example and take decisive steps to right the injustices perpetrated by the Bush "justice" machine.
We learned yesterday that the Obama Justice Department indeed is taking steps to correct mistakes made under the Bush regime. But Obama & Co. sure picked a strange case to focus on first.
Attorney General Eric Holder has asked a federal judge to dismiss charges against former U.S. Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) because of apparent prosecutorial misconduct. It is encouraging to see Holder moving quickly to review questionable prosecutions brought under Bush.
But many progressives quickly raised this question: What about Don Siegelman?
The Obama Justice Department manages to review the Stevens case and determine that prosecutorial misconduct merits a dismissal? But the Siegelman conviction, which included both prosecutorial and judicial misconduct of a gross nature, remains intact?
It's not like Stevens is a sympathetic figure. First of all, he's a Republican. And like many members of that tribe, he apparently can be one greedy SOB. Plus, evidence strongly suggests he was guilty as charged. Here's how Christy Hardin Smith put it at Firedoglake:
It is beyond disgusting that a skeezeball like Ted Stevens can walk away from all the pocket-lining he did whilst in office because the prosecutors on the case were too craven to follow basic legal principles. But there you are. The vaunted DOJ has fallen to such a level, and it will take an enormous amount of work to lift it back up to where it ought to be.
Siegelman, the former Democratic governor of Alabama, clearly did not commit a crime. But he already has spent nine months in federal prison, and might be headed back there, after an all-Republican three-judge panel erroneously upheld his conviction at the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Why would Holder focus on the misconduct in the Stevens case before considering Siegelman? We can take a few guesses:
* The trial judge in the Stevens case helped bring the prosecutorial misconduct to light. The trial judge in the Siegelman case, Mark Fuller, was part of the misconduct and corruption.
* Stevens was represented by the Washington, D.C., law firm of Williams & Connolly. That's the same firm that produced Obama White House Counsel Greg Craig. And that's the same Greg Craig who, according to Alabama whistleblower Jill Simpson, appears to be providing cover for a number of his former firm's GOP clients--including Karl Rove.
So that's how it works in D.C. these days? If you are a Republican with ties to Williams & Connolly, your case gets reviewed and dismissed? If you don't have those precious W&C ties, you are out of luck?
Don Siegelman took notice of the latest events. Reports TPM Muckraker:
"There seems to be substantial evidence of prosecutorial and other misconduct in my case, that would dwarf the allegations in the Stevens case," the former Alabama governor told TPMmuckraker in an interview moments ago.
Referring to Attorney General Eric Holder, Siegelman said that while he supports the Stevens decision, "I hope that [Holder] will take a look at some of the other cases that are buried on his desk."
Did Siegelman find irony in the Stevens decision? Yes, indeed:
Siegelman is clearly alive to the parallels between the two cases, along with their starkly different results, at least as of now. "That dichotomy did not escape me," he told TPMmuckraker.
"There was quite a bit of underlying facts that distinguished the [Stevens] case from mine," he said, while making clear he respects the former Alaska senator. "I was not charged with a single penny of wrong-doing."