Monday, April 09, 2007

How To Avoid Being A Purged US Attorney

BuzzFlash is flagging up a Milwaukee court case as a possible example of what can happen when a US Attorney bows to the same kind of political pressure the sacked ASA's in the ongoing PurgeGate scandal were likely fired for ignoring.
Steve Biskupic, the U.S. attorney for Milwaukee, indicted and convicted a Wisconsin state purchasing supervisor named Georgia Thompson for improperly awarding a contract to a firm linked to Democratic Governor Jim Doyle's 2006 reelection campaign.

The only problem is that Biskupic never proved that Thompson ever knew about the relationship, which included completely legal donations. Thompson - appointed by Gov. Doyle's Republican predecessor - has never even met Doyle and is not alleged to have sought any personal gain since she was already at the highest civil service pay scale. The winning bid and the runner-up were statistically tied on the seven-member commission's rating scale, but the winner was legitimately chosen because it was $30,000 cheaper and came from in-state.

But an election was coming up, and the allegations proved a great way to attack the Democratic incumbent. Doyle said Republican officials spent "millions of dollars" running ads that turned Thompson into a symbol of corruption in his administration. Caught in the middle was Georgia Thompson, who, her lawyer said, lost "her job, her life savings, her home and her liberty." She was ordered to prison for 18 months by conservative District Judge Rudolf Randa (a member of the Federalist Society) without letting her remain free pending appeal because he had "no real reason to expect her conviction to be reversed."

Fortunately, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals had another idea. Two of the three judges hearing the case were appointed by Republicans, but they each blasted the government's arguments relentlessly, at one point calling them "beyond thin." Oral arguments lasted just 26 minutes, after which they immediately ordered Thompson's release from federal prison. Normally, such reversals take weeks or months and often result only in new hearings.

"It's extraordinary for a U.S. Court of Appeals to issue a decision on the day of oral arguments without a written opinion," said Thompson's lawyer.
The USA in question didn't even show up for the Appeals hearing, sending a staffer in his place. Local Milwaukee wisdom has it that Biskupic was on the Rovian hit-list for not being "tough" enough on the GOP’s bogus "voter fraud" agenda and got himself off the list by handing the Republicans an opportunity to smear their rival by proxy and wreck an innocent woman's life in the process. In which case, neither he nor the GOP care that the case was thrown out - it had done its job. As local blogger Mike Plaisted writes:
The Georgia Thompson case will forever point up the key fact driving Gonzo-Gate – U.S. Attorneys have extraordinary power to investigate, arrest, charge, prosecute and convict. Their appointments are, by nature, political. But the exercise of their duties should not be. Biskupic has prosecuted a lot of Democrats and not one Republican. He has always been a willing bagman for Karl Rove and the state and national GOP. If anyone in the current U.S. attorney corps needs to be relieved of his duties, it is Steve Biskupic.
Yep. But it begs the obvious question. How many more cases are there out there? Let's have this guy in front of the Senate hearings under subpoena and find out what he knows.

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