Senate Must Grill Tainted Alabama DOJ Nominee: Part I

By Andrew Kreig / Project Director's Blog

 

President Obama ended more than two years of high-profile White House indecision March 31 by naming the prominent Alabama attorney George L. Beck as his nominee to become U.S. attorney for the state’s Montgomery-based middle district. Despite an impressive career overall, Beck is a horrible choice because he was a compliant defense attorney in the notorious prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman’s, the state’s leading Democrat. Beck’s role in that travesty further destroys public confidence in that long-troubled DOJ office. At the minimum if confirmed, Beck must recuse himself and all of the most prominent staff at DOJ's Montgomery offices from the Siegelman case and every spin-off public corruption probe. The more logical outcome, however, is for the Senate Judiciary Committee to grill Beck, right, and other relevant witnesses to bring out all relevant facts, and then block Beck’s nomination because of his conflict of interest.

Our Justice Integrity Project, among many others, has documented how the Bush Justice Department framed Siegelman via the current Bush-appointed U.S. Attorney Leura Canary and her subordinates. The prosecutors did this in part by pressuring Beck’s client Nick Bailey, whose torment and coerced testimony were enabled by a biased Republican trial judge, Mark E. Fuller. Fuller hated Siegelman, according to our research. We documented this in a 2009 investigatory story that the Huffington Post front-paged, entitled, "Siegelman Deserves New Trial Because of Judge’s ‘Grudge,’ Evidence Shows." Fuller himself had no response when we asked him for comment, which helps underscore why the Justice Department and Senate need to have inquiries above suspicion.

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Court Slams Kerik Appeal….But Seeing Is Believing

By Andrew Kreig / Project Director's Blog

A New York federal appeals court last week rejected former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik’s claims of unfairness when his judge sentenced him to four years in prison for tax and related charges. But I was an eye-witness to the unfairness to Kerik during his sentencing in New York on Feb. 18, 2010. Kerik, a career law enforcer much-honored for valor as a city police detective, has described himself as petrified during the proceedings for fear of what the judge was doing. Kerik is portrayed immediately afterward at right with his wife, Hala, in a photo by Maxine Susseles, with another of her photos below.

Even after I reviewed the appellate court opinion, the arrogance and unfairness of the sentencing judge, Stephen Robinson, remains shocking to me. Seeing this unfold encouraged me to found the Justice Integrity Project the next month ahead of my timetable, and I remain glad of it. There’s much to do when even esteemed judges and reporters fail to act on what some of us saw with our own eyes in court.

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Feds Fight To Uphold Christie-era Jersey Charges

By Andrew Kreig / Project Director's Blog

New Jersey federal prosecutors last week won court permission for a new 30-day delay to check with Washington headquarters on whether to give up their so-far unsuccessful effort to expand federal bribery law by courtroom maneuvers instead of congressional action. The U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals granted a second grace period for prosecutors who are trying to calculate their odds of success if they ask the full appeals court to overturn a unanimous three-judge ruling in February. The ruling vacated charges filed nearly two years ago against former Jersey City mayoral candidate Louis Manzo and his brother and campaign manager, Ronald Manzo.

“The time for the U.S. attorney’s office to check with Washington,” Louis Manzo, at right, told the Justice Integrity Project April 2, “was before they brought the case, not as an after-thought when the case was dismissed. Our evidence indicates that the government camouflaged the election activity and the fact that candidates – not public officials – were being targeted. Had they not screwed up their protocol, they and we might not be in this predicament now.”

The three judges ruled in February that Hobbs Act bribery law for many years has covered only officials, not candidates. As our Project reported in, Court Slaps Feds Again For Christie-Era NJ Prosecutions, Republican former New Jersey U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, left, initiated the sting against primarily Democratic local politicians in a 46-defendant Bid Rig III case before he left office at the end of 2008. Christie’s successors moved forward with the cases in July 2009, relying heavily on since discredited witness Solomon Dwek. The indictments helped Christies win New Jersey’s governorship as a corruption-fighter and in the process helped top prosecutors win jobs for themselves in his administration.

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Online Booksellers Dismissed from Obama Libel Case

By Andrew Kreig / Project Director's Blog

Online booksellers are not liable for potentially defamatory comments posted on websites and created by others, a Washington federal judge ruled March 31 in dismissing civil charges involving a controversial book about President Obama. U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon, right, dismissed civil charges pre-trial as a matter of law regarding the self-published book, Barack Obama & Larry Sinclair.

Sinclair, the book’s author, wrote the Justice Integrity Project with this comment:“I believe Judge Leon made the proper ruling in regards to the Motions for Summary Judgment by Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com and the Motion to Dismiss by Books-A-Millions. I am still awaiting a decision on my motion to dismiss, as well as the Rense motion to dismiss.”

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March 31 'DC Update' Goes Wilde With Comedian

Author and entertainer Larry Wilde shared insights he’s drawn from many of the world’s greatest comedians as the March 31 guest on the Washington Update public affairs radio show that I co-host weekly with Scott Draughon on the My Technology Lawyer network. Our guest, right, is an ambassador for the comedy profession. He founded "National Humor Month," celebrated in April, and founded the Carmel Institute of Humor to foster research on the role of humor in wellness, longevity and human relations.

With so many troubles in the world, this show was a change of pace from our usual public affairs topics as we indulge in Wilde ideas. He is a motivational speaker and the author of 53 books, including the iconic, Great Comedians Talk About Comedy. The book is a unique study of comic genius. An Amazon.com reader review says:

Great Comedians is a superb, singular achievement that collects within one lively, 402-page, info-packed volume detailed interviews done over several years with some of the 20th century's greatest comedians and comedy actors. The selection is absolutely mind-boggling: Woody Allen, Milton Berle, Shelly Berman, Jack Benny, Joey Bishop, George Burns, Johnny Carson, Maurice Chevalier, Phyllis Diller, Jimmy Durante, Bob Hope, Dick Gregory, George Jessel, Jerry Lewis, Jerry Seinfeld, Danny Thomas and Ed Wynn....This book an essential for ANYONE interested in comedy, or for students of comedy, public speakers, or anyone who simply wants to be funny in public. It's ALL HERE: the inspiration, the tips, the stories, the bios...the TOOLS.

I concur that it's a wonderful book, which I devoured from cover-to-cover. To further prepare for our radio interview, I sought out also YouTube videos of the stars in action. Let me share one

, which portrays Jack Benny hosting Marilyn Monroe during her first television appearance. It's an understatement to say this is the kind of performance that makes legends. It's all the more remarkable that they performed live. Monroe may be missing an earring because of bustle of live action, but neither star missed a nuance of what they did best.
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Political Cases Highlight Hidden DOJ Incentives

On March 24, we examined developments this week in two of the Justice Department’s major white-collar crime prosecutions of the past decade. In the cases, the DOJ years ago secured bribery convictions against the prominent Mississippi trial attorney Paul Minor and insider trading convictions against former Qwest Communications CEO Joseph Nacchio. Minor and Nacchio are imprisoned under long terms, but are now seeking redress in various ways.

Today, we’ll review the ripple effect of such prosecutions on regional politics and personal privacy. Additionally, we’ll explore how these high-profile cases hold lessons for the always-difficult key issue for a client: Will a defense lawyer use expertise and connections to fight all-out? Or will problems arise from a lawyer’s almost inevitable incentives to foster fees and good relationships with the Justice Department, judiciary and others who can help maintain good standing for future cases?

The politics of our justice system often leads high-profile defendants to woo politically connected defense attorneys even though our system ostensibly is non-partisan. One example is Minor, who became his state’s leading donor to Democrats after a controversial and highly successful career as a torts attorney suing powerful companies. For his appellate work, he was able to recruit former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson, one of the nation’s most prominent appellate experts and Republican insiders. Olson was a key figure in creating the Federalist Society to reshape the nation’s judiciary and bar in more conservative directions, and more recently was appointed by President Obama to join the Council of the Administrative Conference of the United States, a public-private partnership charged with providing nonpartisan, practical assessments and recommendations to improve agency procedures and operations. Olson’s team from Gibson Dunn & Crutcher includes David Debold, who argued Monday to U. S. District Judge Henry Wingate in Jackson, MS that Minor’s convictions must be vacated.

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