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 categorized by a boss at the Justice Department as so loyal to the president that they deserved not to be fired, unlike those Republicans whose loyalty was to the Constitution, their oath, and to the law. They proved determined to justify their political appointment to one of the 93 regionally powerful prosecution posts by filing trumped-up charges to imprison Democrats, voting canvassers, and other political targets. The abuses became extreme when similarly partisan judges presided over the prosecutions, as in the Minor case.
Minor's has a new appellate atorney, Albert Alschuler. The former 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 as teaching law at the University of Chicago, 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, political leaders do not want to be criticized for helping a prisoner, even one 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, which began by mocking the Mississippi press for providing only cursory coverage to the injustices in a case much like thebetter-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.