The federal imprisonment of Mississippi attorney Paul Minor, right, continues to pass almost unnoticed under the Obama administration. Minor, however, is a victim of one of the worst of the Bush-era political frame-ups,
The president does not like to use up political capital by reexamining previous prosecutions and convictions — no matter how much misconduct by prosecutors and judges.
I have often reported on this pattern, particularly regarding the prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman and other victims of “loyal Bushie” U.S. Attorneys. These were partisan, career-driven prosecutors characterized by a Bush DOJ chief of staff as being so personally loyal to the president that they deserved retention. By contrast, the DOJ forced out other prosecutors regarded as not sufficiently politically motivated to file dubious charges against Democrats, low-level voting canvassers, and other political targets. The abuses became especially extreme when similarly partisan judges presided over the prosecutions, as in the Minor case.
Minor has a new appellate attorney, Albert Alschuler. The former University of Chicago law professor filed a powerful pleading to the U.S. Supreme Court seeking review because of court's 2010 ruling narrowing the scope of “honest services” charges in cases like that of former Enron executive Jeffrey Skilling.
Alschuler, living in Maine after many years teaching, is an expert on honest services law. He is an expert also on presidential clemency, as I reported last month in a column excerpted below. It described how more than 600,000 federal prisoners have little chance of being freed for reasons of clemency under traditional presidential clemency under the constitution. That is because, according to a distinguished panel that included former White House Counsel Gregory Craig, political leaders fear criticism for helping prisoners, even ones who can prove gross misconduct, unfairness, or other exceptional hardship.
Alabama blogger Roger Shuler reported the latest on the Minor case in a January 10 column. Shuler began by mocking the Mississippi press for providing only cursory coverage to the injustices in a case much like the better-known frame-up in Alabama of Siegelman. Shuler wrote:
Whenever Alabama winds up near the bottom in a national quality-of-life ranking–and it happens a lot–our citizens tend to exhale and exclaim, “Whew, thank God for Mississippi!” I recently discovered a new reason.
Shuler, the Deep South's most trenchant legal affairs commentator focused on the plight of consumers, then described why the Minor case remains important:
Paul Minor, one of the most successful plaintiffs' attorneys in Mississippi history, was convicted on Bush-era corruption charges, along with former state judges Wes Teel and John Whitfield. Minor and Whitfield remain in federal prison, while Teel was released last year after completing his sentence. The Minor case was one of the most high-profile federal prosecutions in Mississippi over the past decade. And it raises critical issues about the U.S. election process, including the First Amendment right to financially support the candidates of our choice.