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It gets worse: Justice Department gives 'political prisoner' 3 hours to visit dying wife in hospice
John Byrne
Published: Friday February 20, 2009


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Despite the fact that his case has drawn national attention -- and a rebuke from the House Judiciary Committee as a possible example of political prosecution -- convicted Mississippi attorney Paul Minor will only get three hours to visit his dying wife.

The Justice Department has granted Minor just three hours today to visit his dying wife in hospice, accompanied by four armed guards. The Department says they consider Minor a "threat" to society, though he was not convicted of a violent crime.

While the Department is now under the Obama Administration, numerous posts remain in the hands of previous Administration hires.

Minor was convicted of mail services fraud in 2007 in connection with providing a loan guarantee to a state Supreme Court Justice his effort to secure loans to fund his campaign. He had requested three days furlough to visit his wife, Sylvia, who is dying of cancer.

In the months leading up to his trial, a series of leaks from anonymous sources -- which Harper's says could only have come from the prosecution team -- floated various innuendo and allegations of corruption, despite the fact that Minor never had a case before the judge in question.

Ultimately, the judge in Minor's case was Priscilla Owen, whose nomination to the bench had been encouraged by top ex-Bush advisor Karl Rove.

Minor's name was among several others mentioned in a House Judiciary Committee report regarding alleged political prisoners. The list also includes former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman.

The Department's treatment of Minor allegedly stems from an incident where he left his home to visit a nearby restaurant while confined to his home in advance of his trial. Minor was also cited for drinking too much at a bar from which he was expelled.

Paul Minor was a prominent Mississippi trial lawyer whose firm made more than $70 million in the late 1990's from the state's tobacco lawsuit settlement, in which tobacco companies were accused of defrauding Medicare. He was also a generous donor to Democratic candidates, contributing more than $500,000 between 1996 and 2003.

The tobacco suit -- the largest civil settlement in US history -- fueled GOP officials' ire -- particularly in the South -- against Democratic trial lawyers.

Minor was the largest Mississippi donor to Democratic candidates before his conviction in 2007. His conviction came at the hands of Bush-appointed US Attorney Dunnica Lampton.

Conflicts of interest

A previous Raw Story investigation found conflicts of interest between Lampton and Minor's case.

At the time when Lampton began investigating Minor, his own interests were directly under threat. Minor had successfully sued several companies associated with Lampton's family members and contributors to his unsuccessful bid for a Congressional seat.

In 2002, Minor was in the midst of a major plaintiffs' case against a company called Magnolia Trucking, a subsidiary of Ergon Inc., a private firm owned by the Lampton family. Members of the Lampton family with ties to Ergon include Leslie B. Lampton, Director and CEO; Bill Lampton, the President of the Asphalt Division ; and Lee Lampton, Director of Operations.

FEC documents for 2000 show that Ergon employees collectively donated $10,300 to Lampton's congressional campaign. Lampton family members donated $5,250.

Ergon Inc. also has a relationship with the Barbour family. Following Haley Barbour's election as governor of Mississippi, his nephews, Austin and Henry Barbour, became lobbyists with Capitol Resources, LLC, a firm whose clients included Ergon.

Lampton also received donations in 2000 from two of the major tobacco companies involved in the 1998 settlement, Lorillard and Brown & Williams. Haley Barbour, who was then Lorillard's lobbyist, donated to Lampton as well.

With reporting by Larisa Alexandrovna.


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