Monday, February 22, 2010

Is the Obama DOJ Practicing Deceit in the Paul Minor Case?

The Barack Obama administration hardly has distinguished itself on matters of justice. With the latest news from the Paul Minor case in Mississippi, the Obama Department of Justice (DOJ) appears to be clueless and perhaps downright deceitful.

A report in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger indicates something still is seriously wrong with the U.S. attorney's office for the Southern District of Mississippi, even though it now is led on an interim basis by Obama appointee Don Burkhalter. Writes reporter Jimmie E. Gates:

Officials in the U.S. attorney's office for the Southern District of Mississippi have repeatedly said the office removed itself from the case of former Gulf Coast attorney Paul Minor and two former judges.
But last week, Ruth Morgan of Gulfport, an assistant U.S. attorney in that office, argued in court papers that former Chancery Judge Wes Teel should remain in prison until he is resentenced.

What gives? The office claims to have recused itself, but one of its attorneys clearly remains on the case. Is someone out of touch with reality on the Mississippi Coast? One legal observer in the state seems to think the answer is yes.

Philip W. Thomas, at MS Litigation Review, gets right to the point in a post titled "Burkhalter Looks Horrible in Paul Minor Recusal Flap." Writes Thomas:

For the life of me I can’t figure out why interim U.S. Attorney Don Burkhalter says that his office has recused itself from the Paul Minor judicial bribery case when it's clearly not true. Here is the relevant paragraph from Thursday’s Clarion-Ledger article on the subject:

But interim U.S. Attorney Don Burkhalter of the Southern District said his office is indeed recused from the case, with the exception of two attorneys. He said [Ruth] Morgan and Dave Fulcher are working with the Department of Justice on court filings in the trio's appeal, but he is not involved.

Talk about disgusting. Here you have an Obama appointee sounding just like George W. Bush appointee Leura Canary in the Middle District of Alabama. Canary, of course, claimed to have recused herself in the Don Siegelman case, only to turn it over to two of her lieutenants, Steve Feaga and Louis Franklin. Thanks to DOJ whistleblower Tamarah Grimes in Montgomery, Alabama, we now know that Canary didn't even recuse herself. Thomas isn't buying Burkhalter's nonsensical explanations:

Not knowing to quit when he is behind, Burkhalter digs his hole deeper:

"You don't see my signature on the motion," Burkhalter said.

If you don’t personally sign it then your office is not working on it? You know that is untrue don’t you? Since you are the U.S. Attorney, if anyone who works in the Southern District U.S. Attorney’s office—which includes Morgan and Fulcher—is working on it, then your office is working on it.

Federal public defender George Lucas’ comment is dead-on:

"It appears their perception of a recusal is different than mine."

I would add that their perception of recusal is different from anyone’s living in reality.

Burhalter is playing word games that make him look like a liar. Morgan and Fulcher are assistant U.S. Attorneys in Burkhalter’s office. If they are working on the case, then the office has not recused itself from the case.

Thomas goes on to point out the absurdity in Burkhalter's statements:

Saying that the office is recused—except for the two lawyers who have been assigned to the case—is a bizarre word game that reinforces negative stereotypes about politicians and lawyers. Most people would simply call it a lie. It would be like saying: “I don’t steal—except on Fridays.” The qualifier negates the statement.

Hiram Eastland, an attorney for Paul Minor, issued a statement about the shenanigans that are still going on in the DOJ:

The prosecution of Paul Minor was flawed from the beginning and reeked of political motivations as evidenced by this case being flagged by the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives in 2007 as one of the most glaring examples of prosecutorial misconduct by the Department of Justice.

Off and on throughout this case the U.S. Attorney's office has maintained it has recused itself from the case when it clearly has not. Recusal is a seminal issue in this case simply because–as we have seen from some charges being overturned and the fifth circuit repeatedly questioning key points in the case by requesting re-briefings on the matters–that an objective US Attorney’s office without agenda, would not have proceeded with such an obviously flawed case.

So, the case progresses, the US Attorney’s Office continues to flip-flop on the recusal issue, the appellate court has overturned the main charge that served as the underpinning of the entire prosecution, and yet Paul Minor begins his fourth year in prison.

Do Obama and his attorney general, Eric Holder, plan to sleepwalk for four years on justice issues? It's starting to look that way. Perhaps a few more electoral results like the one in Massachusetts will wake them up. By then, of course, it might be too late for this administration to accomplish much of anything.

You can check out Hiran Eastland's full statement below:

Paul Minor--Hiram Eastland Statement


Anonymous said...

More results like Mass will simply reinforce the Obummer administration's misguided and unjustified lurch to the right, so forget about it. And Holder will ALWAYS protect his former masters at the Bushie law firm for which he previously worked, so forget about it. Both Minor and Siegelman will die as felons even though they didn't do anything wrong. And Obummer will be a one-term prez because people are fed up already with his non-change and non-hope. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Kucinich/Grayson in 2012!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

What is disheartening are the comments made after the article in the Clarion Ledger. It seems the local readership has no clue on the misconduct that has taken place?

Anonymous said...

It is a sad state of affairs to witness the "justice" system at its worst. Many believed change for the good would come with a new administration. Sadly, entrenched politics and "business as usual" prevails. When will Paul Minor, Wes Teel and others see justice? I am afraid it is term.