Government opposes appeal by imprisoned attorney to visit dying wife
Larisa Alexandrovna
Published: Tuesday July 29, 2008

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The Department of Justice and prosecutors in Mississippi have filed a motion opposing the appeal of Mississippi trial lawyer Paul Minor to visit his dying wife. Minor, who became famous for taking on big tobacco in the 1990s, is now imprisoned on what many consider to be questionable charges.

The primary grounds for denial offered by Justice Department attorneys is that letting Minor visit his wife would present “a danger to the community.” They cite an “incident” when he was found drunk and escorted out of a hotel by security while free on pre-trial bond, after which he was ordered to attend treatment for alcoholism, as well as an occasion when he met with a hurricane expert at a restaurant near his home while he was supposed to be under house arrest.

“The district court previously found that Minor presented a danger to the community based on his alcohol abuse,” they wrote. “There is evidence that supports the district court’s finding that after a lengthy inpatient treatment, Minor defied and tested the court’s condition of pretrial release, which had been tailored to protect the public and prevent him from abusing alcohol.”

“Minor’s unauthorized Sept. 5, 2006 meeting with a hurricane expert at a restaurant serving alcohol not only raised issues concerning his substance abuse problems, it also showed his deception of the court.”

Minor says he met with the hurricane expert to assess damage to his home for insurance purposes after seeking approval from his probation officer and receiving no reply. Court records show that he was out of range of his electronic monitoring device for slightly over four hours.

Minor successfully completed treatment for alcoholism. He says that his drinking was aggravated by the trial and his wife's cancer.

In their brief, the Justice Department did not contend that Minor was drinking when he met with the hurricane expert, only that the restaurant served alcohol. They argue that his 11-year sentence for bribery gives more credence to their assertion that he is a danger to the community because he could relapse.

The government response in full is here.

In 2003, the US Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi, Dunnica Lampton, brought federal bribery charges against Minor, sitting Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver E. Diaz Jr., and Judges Wes Teel and John Whitfield.

Diaz was twice acquitted, and Minor and the other judges were acquitted on most of the government’s charges during the first trial. Lampton then brought additional charges which resulted in a second trial and the conviction of Minor, Teel and Whitfield.

Minor has been incarcerated for more than two years during his appeal. For some, he is yet another victim of political prosecution by a politicized Department of Justice. Others bemoan his lionization as "pro-convict, pro-bribery rotgut" and say, "Minor had a total disregard for the Court."

"Government prosecutors have chosen to continue the political prosecution of Paul Minor," Justice Diaz wrote RAW STORY by email Tuesday. "In a case where even the [Justice Department] has raised the question of improprieties, these prosecutors have refused to show compassion for a man whose wife is dying with cancer Instead, the politicization of the criminal justice system is continued by these protégée of Monica Goodling."

Lampton’s office did not return calls for comment.

As previously reported by Raw Story, Minor’s wife Sylvia developed breast cancer during the trial, which metastasized to her brain and lungs. Last month doctors stopped all medications other than those for pain management, indicating that Mrs. Minor is in the final stages of her illness. Minor has been attempting to get an appeal bond to be with his wife before she passes

According to Minor’s attorney, Abbe Lowell, it will be up to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to rule on Minor's appeal bond request. Lowell also indicates that Minor could apply for a furlough instead, writing in an email on Monday that Minor "can seek a compassionate furlough from the Bureau of Prisons based solely on his wife's condition."

Note: In an earlier version of this article, it was stated that the government had denied Mr. Minor’s appeal bond. The editorial error has been corrected. A government motion has simply been entered to oppose the appeal.


Larisa Alexandrovna is the Managing Editor of Investigative News for Raw Story and regularly reports on intelligence and national security matters. She has been covering the US Attorney Scandal for over six months. Her essay on the Siegelman case appears in a newly published anthology, Loser Taker All: Election Fraud and The Subversion of Democracy, 2000-2008, edited by New York University professor Mark Crispin Miller, which features a collection of essays from prominent journalists, activists, and scholars. Contact her at [email protected].

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