Monday, April 16, 2007

Prosecutor bias in Wisconsin

As Alberto Gonzales prepares to testify before Congress, expect the case of Georgia Thompson to get an extensive airing.

Opponents of Gov. Jim Doyle of Wisconsin spent $4 million on ads last year trying to link the Democratic incumbent to a state employee who was sent to jail on corruption charges. The effort failed, and Mr. Doyle was re-elected — and now the state employee has been found to have been wrongly convicted. The entire affair is raising serious questions about why a United States attorney put an innocent woman in jail.

The conviction of Georgia Thompson has become part of the furor over the firing of eight United States attorneys in what seems like a political purge. While the main focus of that scandal is on why the attorneys were fired, the Thompson case raises questions about why other prosecutors kept their jobs.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which heard Ms. Thompson’s case this month, did not discuss whether her prosecution was political — but it did make clear that it was wrong. And in an extraordinary move, it ordered her released immediately, without waiting to write a decision. “Your evidence is beyond thin,” Judge Diane Wood told the prosecutor. “I’m not sure what your actual theory in this case is.”

What was so unusual about this case? A list:

1. It wasn't even within the jurisdiction of the U.S. attorney who prosecuted it, Steven Biskupic -- it was in the domain of Wisconsin's other U.S. attorney, Erik Peterson.

2. Thompson was accused of improperly awarding a travel contract to a politically connected firm. This ignored the fact that the contract was competitively bid. The firm in question won the contract by the simple expedient of having the lowest bid.

3. Thompson was but one of seven members of a committee that awarded the contract, and she wasn't even aware that the firm was a major contributor to Gov. Doyle.

4. Biskupic leaked the investigation to the media in late 2005, in violation of federal guidelines.

5. The prosecution was timed perfectly to conclude just before the November elections.

Yeah, that looks good.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

A lot of people think the conviction of Lewis Libby was also political and unwarranted. So, if his conviction get overturned, are you going to be asking why they kept Fitzgerald?

Point being---politics seems to be at play for different people according to which side of the aisle you're on.


4/16/2007 5:02 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

You ignore the difference between a prosecutor specifically tasked with investigating a specific case, and a U.S. attorney responsible for enforcing the law fairly across an entire region of the country.

It's also a bit hard to accuse a Republican prosecutor of pursuing a Republican defendant for political reasons.

4/17/2007 8:11 AM  

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