House asked to name special prosecutor in case of jailed Democratic donor
Larisa Alexandrovna
Published: Sunday January 25, 2009


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The lawyer for the Mississippi attorney named by the House Judiciary Committee in an investigation into political prosecutions has asked the chairman to appoint a special prosecutor.

Hiram C. Eastland, an attorney for jailed Mississippi trial lawyer Paul Minor, issued a letter to the Chairman of the US House Committee on the Judiciary, John Conyers (D-MI), asking for an independent special prosecutor to be appointed to investigate alleged political prosecutions conducted by the Bush administration’s Department of Justice.

According to a copy obtained by Raw Story, the letter was sent in mid-December. In it, Eastland referred to a letter (pdf) sent by the Judiciary Committee on May 9 of last year to then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey, outlining its previous requests for documents concerning “selective or politically motivated federal prosecutions” and expressing concern that it had not yet received them.

“Although it has been eight months since OPR [the Office of Professional Responsibility] and OIG [the Office of the Inspector General] received your Committee’s directive,” Eastland wrote prior to President Barack Obama’s inauguration, “no specific response regarding Paul Minor has been forthcoming, and it now appears doubtful a report will be made before officials from the Bush Administration and the Attorney General leave office.”

“Because the Department of Justice has apparently abdicated its responsibility to investigate whether Paul Minor was prosecuted out of political motivations,” he added, “I respectfully suggest serious action needs to be taken to protect the rights of Mr. Minor who remains wrongfully incarcerated in a federal prison while his wife of forty years is dying of cancer.”

The letter can be read here.

Background on Minor’s Case

Paul Minor, a once-prominent trial lawyer, had become Mississippi’s largest Democratic donor after making millions from a 1998 settlement with tobacco companies for costs incurred by Medicare from smoking-related illnesses. Many Southern Republicans had allied themselves with the tobacco industry and they feared and resented the ability of the Democratic Party to profit from the settlement.

For that reason, political motivations appeared to be in play when Dunnica Lampton, the Bush-appointed US Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi, charged Minor with bribery in 2003 on the basis of loan guarantees made to three judges, former state Supreme Court Justice, Oliver E. Diaz Jr. and former judges Wes Teel and John Whitfield.

Minor’s first trial resulted in an acquittal on some charges and a deadlocked jury on other charges. Justice Diaz was acquitted on all charges. The original 2003 trial, however, was immediately followed by the unsealing of fresh charges against all three men.

Even though prosecutors were unable to prove that Minor had bribed the judges in exchange for favors from the bench, his second trial resulted in a conviction.

Minor was sentenced to an 11-year prison term and over $4 million in fines and restitution. In an Oct. 22, 2007 letter (pdf) to Rep. Conyers, Minor cited former White House Deputy Chief of Staff, Karl Rove, as being involved in his alleged political prosecution, though he offered no formal evidence to support the claim.

In August of last year, US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Priscilla Owen upheld a lower court ruling denying Minor release from prison while he appeals his case.

Raw Story reported at that time that Judge Owen had been a client of Karl Rove prior to his appointment to a White House position and was nominated to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals with his support.

In the original lower court ruling of September 2006, a judge ruled that Minor had violated the terms of his appeal or original trial bond by drinking excessively and by violating the terms of his house arrest.

Minor subsequently acknowledged that the pressure of his trial, coupled with his wife’s illness, had caused him to drink, but insisted that he left his home to meet with a hurricane expert solely for insurance purposes and only after his probation officer had failed to respond to his request for approval. The Department of Justice contended that this incident proved Minor presented “a danger to the community.”

Department of Justice Help Requested a Number of Times

Eastland’s letter to the House Judiciary Committee cites several reasons why Minor’s attorneys are seeking an independent special prosecutor:
  • Paul Minor counsel Abbe Lowell’s August 8, 2008 letter (with attachments) to OPR director Marshall Jarrett set forth the numerous conflicts of interest of the Mississippi U. S. Attorney Dunnica Lampton Mr. Lampton’s selective prosecution of Mr. Minor under politically motivated spurious charges. (Exh. A).

  • Paul Minor counsel Hiram Eastland’s October 14, 2008 letter (the undersigned counsel) to OPR director Marshall Jarrett that, among other matters, set forth evidence that U. S. Attorney Dunnica Lampton failed to disclose he was investigated and fined by the Federal Election Commission for violations stemming from an unsuccessful congressional race. This matter is important to investigate because Mr. Lampton may have violated disclosure laws and Department of Justice regulations even before he also violated the law by being part of a scheme to politically prosecute Mr. Minor. (Exh. B).

  • Paul Minor counsel Hiram Eastland’s October 28, 2008 letter (the undersigned counsel) to Department of Justice Inspector General Glen Fine documenting the fact that Dunnica Lampton was slated to be removed from office because career justice officials questioned his judgment and performance and strongly recommended his termination as U.S. Attorney. Nevertheless, as documented the letter, Mr. Lampton’s job was saved by White House/DOJ political liaison, Monica Goodling, shortly after Mr. Lampton re-indicted Mr. Minor in December of 2005. The White House and Department of Justice’s conduct surrounding this brazen matter must be fully investigated.
Raw Story reported in December of last year that Dunnica Lampton was under investigation by the US Treasury Department for sharing the private income tax records of Justice Diaz and his wife with unauthorized persons.

On Jan. 13, the House Judiciary Committee issued a 487-page report (pdf) that included its findings relating to the political prosecutions of the Bush administration Department of Justice.

In discussing the investigated cases of alleged political prosecutions, including that of Paul Minor, the Committee concluded that “each of these matters presented at best a questionable exercise of prosecutorial discretion, and they often involved charges that appear to have elevated routine political fund-raising or similarly mundane conduct into aggressive federal criminal charges.”

The Committee, however, also noted that they were unable to reach a full conclusion on the issue because “the House Judiciary Committee has been refused access to information needed.”

The Department of Justice did not respond to a request for comment.

Despite having been found by the Federal Election Commission to be in violation of campaign finance laws during a previous unsuccessful run for Congress, Dunnica Lampton was appointed US Attorney through a recess appointment in 2001 by former President Bush.

And despite confirmation that the Department of Treasury, the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility and the Office of the Inspector General are investigating Lampton for various allegations, no actions have been taken against him.

A spokesperson for the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi had "no comment."

####

Larisa Alexandrovna is managing editor of investigative news for Raw Story and regularly reports on intelligence and national security stories. Contact: [email protected].


RELATED ARTICLES:

Part One – The Political Prisoner

Part Two – Exclusive interview with jailed governor’s daughter, Dana Siegelman

Part Three – Running Elections from the White House

Part Four – How Bush pick helped prosecute top Democrat-backed judge

Part Five – Mississippi Justice: Bush US Attorney targeted my wife, supporters and friends

Part Six - Break-ins plague targets of US Attorneys

Part Seven - Justice for Sale: How Big Tobacco and the GOP teamed up to crush Democrats in the South

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