Monday, November 13, 2017

The Political Prosecution of Paul Benton Weeks: Missouri lawyer, who helped reveal corruption involving Judge Mark Fuller in the Don Siegelman prosecution, faces dubious criminal charges of his own


Paul Weeks and son
A Midwestern attorney, whose persistent digging unearthed corruption at the heart of the Don Siegelman prosecution in Alabama, now faces an apparent political prosecution of his own.

Paul Benton Weeks, of Springfield, MO, is charged with securities fraud in a case that two Missouri officials sat on for almost three years, apparently so they could time the announcement to boost their runs for higher public office. Is that a sign the case -- styled State of Missouri v. Paul Benton Weeks (Case No. 1431-CRO7040-01, Greene County) -- has been brought for reasons that have nothing to do with facts or law?

A newly released Judicial Integrity Report (JIR), which is available in both hard-copy form and via a link at judicial-integrity.report, suggests the answer is yes. In fact, JIR lays out more than a half dozen grounds that show the Weeks prosecution has no basis in law or fact -- and that almost certainly means it is a political prosecution. One of the most damning grounds pointing to prosecutorial chicanery is rooted deep in the heart of Alabama -- and the Don Siegelman case.

Two conservative Missouri Democrats -- then-Attorney General Chris Koster and then-Secretary of State Jason Kander -- apparently concocted the Weeks criminal charges to further their political ambitions and to help retaliate against Weeks for his efforts to shine light on government abuses.

The securities-fraud charge grew from a 2009 private-loan transaction between Weeks and a personal acquaintance. Weeks borrowed $200,000, signing and delivering to the private lender a personal promissory note. Over the next two years, Weeks incurred severe financial losses in the stock market and could not repay the note on schedule. The controversy became multi-layered, as the JIR describes:

In the meantime, Weeks discovered that the lender and another person had caused Weeks to lose a substantial amount of money from an estate in which Weeks had an expectancy interest. As a result, Weeks contends he has a legal right to a substantial monetary "offset" against the lender, in an amount that could easily exceed his promissory note obligation to the lender. If so, Weeks may not owe the alleged victim anything, unless and until the offset issue is resolved.

This sounds like a classic civil dispute. But it apparently was ripe for political opportunism, turning it into a criminal and regulatory matter. The transaction occurred in 2009, but Koster (the attorney general) waited until Christmas Eve 2014 to bring criminal charges against Weeks. Why? The JIR explains:

It is a political catechism in Missouri that to win statewide elections . . .  Democrats (such as Koster and Kander) need to pull votes out of the Springfield and southwest Missouri areas, which are traditionally Republican. . . . Koster's prosecution of Weeks over the Christmas holidays generated a lot of free publicity for Koster, who was already committed to running for governor (and by then, had already raised several million dollars to do so.) So, it's clear that Koster used the filing of his criminal prosecution against Paul Weeks, in southwest Missouri, just before 2015 when the campaign would be in full swing, for the purpose of generating a lot of free and favorable publicity for Koster's next election campaign.

Three weeks later (in mid January 2015), apparently with the same idea in mind, Kander (the secretary of state and head of Missouri's Securities Division) brought a regulatory enforcement action against Weeks. As Koster had done three weeks earlier, Kander touted his action to the Springfield-area media, stating that he had nailed a Springfield attorney and "stopped an investment scam." Was that true? The JIR thinks not:

In truth, Kander didn't stop anything; the transaction at issue was a 2009 personal-loan transaction -- and Kander didn't do anything until 2015. Yet, Jason Kander bragged to media outlets and on social media that, in January 2015, he just "stopped" a so-called "scam" that was based on a personal-loan transaction way back in 2009.

Less than a month later, Kander announced he was running against incumbent Roy Blunt (R-MO) for a seat in the U.S. Senate. As for Koster, his run for governor pitted him against Republican newcomer Eric Greitens. Both Koster and Kander lost, indicating their publicity efforts on the Weeks case failed to have much impact on voters in a GOP stronghold.

Weeks, however, still is having to fight for his freedom. Is that because ruling elites in Missouri (and perhaps Alabama) want to extract payback for Weeks' activities as a hard-nosed, accurate whistle blower on issues of statewide and national interest?  The answer appears to be yes. To be sure, Weeks has not been shy about alerting the public to official corruption. These cases include:

(1) The Mark Fuller affidavit -- In 2003, Weeks filed a deeply researched affidavit showing U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller, while serving as a district attorney in south Alabama, conspired with a staffer in a scheme to defraud the Retirement System of Alabama (RSA) out of more than $330,000. The scheme was designed to cover up the fact that Fuller spent much of his time in Colorado Springs, CO, in his role as president of Doss Aviation, a military contracting company that feasted on hundreds of millions of dollars in government business. After President George W. Bush appointed Fuller to a federal judgeship, Gov. Don Siegelman appointed a successor, whose investigation unearthed rampant corruption in the DA's office on Fuller's watch. This generated animus toward Siegelman that should have forced Fuller's recusal from the Siegelman prosecution. Instead, Fuller made a string of unlawful rulings that led to convictions for Siegelman and co-defendant Richard Scrushy.

(2) A Kansas City lawyer with dark secrets in his past -- Several years ago, Weeks became aware that one of Missouri's most powerful lawyers had drugged already intoxicated college boys, and then engaged in criminal sexual acts with them while they were unconscious. The powerful lawyer has ties to the Missouri Attorney General's Office, and he apparently knows that Weeks suspects him of engaging in shocking criminal acts.

(3) The theft of $350 million from a Missouri education-loan program -- In 2006, Weeks spoke out about Missouri politicians he says were scheming to misappropriate hundreds of millions of dollars from the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority (MOHELA). The plan reportedly was to steal money from MOHELA and use it for public-works projects.

(4) Killing prisoners by unlawful means -- Weeks became aware in 2014 that the AG's office was using compounded pentobarbital, an unlawful chemical that generally is limited to use as an agent to euthanize animals, to execute prisoners. Weeks alerted associates that the AG's office was killing prisoners by "unlawful means," which matches the legal definition of murder.

(5) A Missouri judge commits fraud on the court -- In 2000, Weeks alleged that Peter Rea, a judge in Taney County, filed a baseless lawsuit in an effort to steal a widow's farm. A trial court imposed punitive sanctions against Rea, and those were upheld on appeal.

Has Paul Weeks made enemies during his career as a lawyer? The answer obviously is yes. Is the criminal charge against him grounded in law and fact? The answer is no, and we will show just how weak it is in an upcoming post.

(To be continued)

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