Tuesday, March 14, 2017

While serving as U.S. attorney in Alabama, Jeff Sessions developed a "hit list" of Democrats to target for political prosecutions -- and he used it often

Jeff Sessions
(From cnn.com)
International attention is focused on Jeff Sessions because of false statements the Trump attorney general made before Congress regarding his communications with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign. But the notion that Sessions, a former U.S. senator from Alabama, might be a shady character is not breaking news.

Those who have lived in Alabama for years and are familiar with Sessions' underhanded nature, know it would be improper to compare him to a worm. Many worms probably live most of their lives without harming another living being. Based on a report last week from The Guardian, the same cannot be said of Jeff Sessions.

When Sessions was U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Alabama (appointed by Ronald Reagan and serving from 1982 to 1991), he became known for prosecuting individuals based on politics. Perhaps the best known case involved the 1989 race for mayor of Mobile and a Democrat named Lambert Mims. From The Guardian article, by reporters Jon Swaine and Oliver Laughland:

Arthur Outlaw wanted a second term.

It was 1989 and Outlaw, the Republican mayor of Mobile, Alabama, was girding himself for his re-election campaign. Word was that Lambert Mims, a popular local Democrat, would run against him. Some Republicans were growing skittish.

But a close friend of Outlaw’s had something planned. The friend had been president of the state Young Republicans, chairman of the regional GOP, then a senior official in the Mobile County Republican party. And now he was the top federal prosecutor in southern Alabama.

“Jeff says that Mims won’t be around by that time,” an Outlaw aide said ominously, while discussing the election at a City Hall meeting that February, according to a sworn affidavit from an official who was in the room.

A few months later, Mims confirmed that he would be challenging Outlaw. Then Jeff Sessions made his move.

What move did Sessions make? He wielded his prosecutorial power for political reasons. If Americans are troubled by Sessions' apparent perjury before Congress, they should be worried out of their minds about his history as an unethical prosecutor. From The Guardian:

Sessions, then the US attorney for Alabama’s southern district, indicted Mims on criminal corruption charges relating to obscure four-year-old negotiations over a planned recycling plant. Mims was the ninth notable Democrat in the area to be indicted by Sessions since the young Republican was appointed by President Ronald Reagan. He would not be the last.

Opponents concluded that Sessions used his federal prosecutor’s office, and the FBI agents who worked for him, as political weapons, according to more than half a dozen veterans of Mobile’s 1980s legal and political circles. Some alleged in court filings that the ambitious young Republican actually worked from a “hit list” of Democratic targets.

“Sessions was a gun for hire,” said Tom Purvis, a former sheriff of Mobile County, “and he went after political enemies.” Purvis was acquitted of charges against him that Sessions oversaw after Purvis unseated another Outlaw ally from the elected sheriff’s position.

Let those two highlighted sections sink in for a moment. Mims was the ninth major Democrat in the Mobile area to be indicted by Sessions, and based on court pleadings, Sessions worked from a "hit list" of Democratic parties. Prosecutorial misconduct does not get much uglier than that.

Lambert Mims
(From theguardian.com)
Here's how The Guardian unearthed some of the nastiness in Sessions' reptilian past:

Bolstering the claims are the remarkably thin prosecution cases brought by Sessions against some of those Democrats he indicted, which are detailed across thousands of pages of archived court filings that were reviewed by the Guardian.
Sessions had no direct evidence that Mims had committed a crime. The recycling plant was never even built. “I’ve never seen such a flimsy, weak case as this against anybody,” Mims’s attorney said in court.

Still, Sessions’s office, which boasted a 95% conviction rate, persuaded a jury to find Mims guilty. Mims, a 60-year-old lay preacher, sobbed through his trial. He cried when he was convicted, then cried again when he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. “I will go to my grave proclaiming my innocence,” Mims told Judge Charles Butler.

The Guardian provides details on at least four other cases where Sessions made dubious use of his prosecutorial powers for political reasons. Reading about those cases should scare the living daylights out of any American, of any political persuasion, who cares about justice.

Much has been made of Donald Trump's apparent unfitness to serve as president. Jeff Sessions might be every bit as unfit to serve as attorney general.


Anonymous said...

Nine Democrats were targeted for political reasons? That's horrendous.

legalschnauzer said...

There were more than nine. Lambert Mims, the guy featured at the top of the story, happened to be No. 9. But it didn't end with him.

Chuckles said...

But . . . but . . . Sessions was appointed by Reagan, so he has to be a great, Patriotic American, right?

legalschnauzer said...

Funny you should put it that way, Chuckles, because a political prosecution is one of the most un-American acts one can imagine.

Anonymous said...

Hell, Jeff Sessions was just ahead of his time. He was into political prosecutions before political prosecutions were cool.

Anonymous said...

Wonder how Don Siegelman reacted to this. Probably with a primal scream.

Anonymous said...

Those Brits know how to do journalism -- thank God!

Anonymous said...

Gee, maybe Jeff Sessions taught Karl Rove how to do political prosecutions.

Anonymous said...

No wonder there aren't any Democrats in Alabama anymore. Jeff Sessions sent them all to prison for not eating their vegetables.

Anonymous said...

What are the chances that Jeff Sessions helped steal the 1992 governor's race from Don Siegelman -- or at least knows who did it? It happened way down there in Baldwin Co., in the backwoods that produced Jeffy.

If the answer is yes, you're talking about a guy involved with perjury, political prosecutions, election theft, and God knows what else. And he's head of our justice department!

Come and take me, Jeebus!

e.a.f. said...

Perhaps that is why Trump selected him. Get a hit list and start working with it. When Trump sent out his "tweets" regarding Obama and talk of an inquiry was going on, the first thought which came to mind was the MacCarthy era "inquiries". perhaps Sessions and Trump had visions of calling Clinton and Obama. However, Sessions has had to recuse himself and now thanks to the Guardian more information has come out. Some Republicans may decide he has to go before he trains his "guns" on them for not falling into line. Stranger things have happened. Lets see if Sessions goes after McCain or Grahamn. this will be even better than the t.v. show, Scandal. Only Sessions just looks like such a little weasel, they will need some one much more marketable to play him.

legalschnauzer said...

Sessions going after McCain or Graham? Now, that would be interesting. Hopefully, Sessions will be indicted before he has a chance to pull any stunts like that.

Anonymous said...

I think that while this story naturally focuses on Sessions, it is not a problem confined to Alabama in the 1980s, to Sessions himself, or to political cases. One of the under-reported stories in contemporary society is the near-godlike power prosecutors -- especially federal prosecutors -- enjoy.

Prosecutors are supposed to exercise discretion, serve the public. Many do that. But too often prosecutors are more interested in winning cases than in serving justice. The two are not the same thing. The prosecutions of Martha Stewart and Roger Clemens come to mind as prominent examples. But this happens every day to people who never make the news. Prosecutors file criminal complaints and wring plea agreements through the legalized extortion of threatening more serious charges. They often file charges they should not, either because the "crime" was very technical or never occurred. They want to win, not serve justice. And, they have the power to destroy lives.

The abuse of power by prosecutors in all settings is a major issue in my opinion, and no one ever talks about it. Maybe this blog can focus on that.

legalschnauzer said...

All good points, @2:35. I think DA's offices and clerk's offices are epicenters for courtroom corruption. To be clear, I have focused on this already, with all of our coverage of the Don Siegelman case, probably the most notorious political prosecution in US history. I'm dealing with it personally right now, with bogus charges against my wife in Greene County, Missouri.

Karl Rove realized years ago that if you control the prosecutorial process and go after people for political reasons, you can destroy your opponents It's sick, but he and Sessions have been practicing this stuff for a long time.

e.a.f. said...

with private prisons which need a "full house" to make a profit and the need for money to run their elections in the "law" business, its not surprising there are all these charges.

The U.S.A. has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. it is even large than China's which has a bigger population. Must be costing the taxpayers of the U.S.A. a bundle without making them any safer.