Former RNC director convicted in phone jamming case gets off without penalty
John Byrne
Published: Friday February 20, 2009

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Judge rules new charges are 'vindictive'

The Republican National Committee employee convicted of a plot to jam the phone banks of Democratic get-out-the-vote efforts in New Hampshire in 2002 has escaped penalty in his case, after a federal judge ruled that new charges against him could not be brought.

The latest charges against James Tobin, whose at least $722,000 dollars in legal fees were paid for by the Republican National Committee, were nixed by a federal judge on Thursday.

Tobin was convicted in December 2005 by a New Hampshire jury of being part of a conspiracy to jam Democratic phone banks led by Democrats and a nonpartisan firefighters union on Election Day 2002.

That night, Republican Senate candidate John Sununu narrowly defeated Democratic Gov. Jeann Sheehean in a closely contest Senate race.

But after his 2005 conviction, Tobin found himself legally absolved after the First Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the ruling in his case, finding that the telephone harassment statute under he was convicted "was not a good fit for what [he] had been convicted of doing."

Government prosecutors then sought fresh charges against the former RNC reigional field director on making false statements. Tobin was indicted by a Portland federal grand jury in October.

But district Judge George Singal agreed with attorneys for Tobin and ruled Wednesday that bringing new charges against the former GOP political organizer qualified as a vindictive prosecution.

The vindictive prosecution doctrine places constitutional limits on prosecutors' discretion. Singal said those limits were exceeded in Tobin's case.

The judge's decision came less than two weeks after a hearing on a motion by Tobin's attorneys to dismiss the indictment against Tobin.

Tobin was indicted in October by a federal grand jury in Portland on two counts of making false statements about the phone-jamming incident to an FBI agent.

It's unclear whether the RNC continues to have paid for Tobin's lawyers. Upon his sentencing, the national GOP organization paid $1.7 million to the lawfirm representing Tobin, which could have put the price tag for his defense at well over $2 million.

With AP.

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