I assume you are aware of the Department of Justice scandals where prominent US Attorneys around the country were fired for failing to prosecute cases purely for political purposes, which lead to the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, Presidential Advisor Karl Rove, and many others. Now Congress is looking into the opposite scandal: where US Attorneys DID prosecute cases purely for political purposes.
Scott Horton is a contributor to Harper's Magazine and writes No Comment, a legal blog on Harper's website. He is a renowned New York attorney known for his work in emerging markets and international law.
His family has been in Alabama for generations, and one of his relatives there alerted him in June to the prosecution of Democratic Governor Siegelman, which "smelled fishy". He began a series of articles. The New York Times, Time Magazine, and many others have weighed in on this issue. In July, 44 attorneys general petitioned the US Congress demanding a formal inquiry into Governor Siegelman's prosecution. All this activity has culminated in hearings before the US House Judiciary which begin next week. The hearings are restricted to the cases in Alabama and Wisconsin. However, other cases of abuse have been reported in Michigan and Minnesota.
Now, Scott Horton has turned his attention to Mississippi, and it's not pretty - in fact, it is totally disgusting. Perhaps the worse part is that I have to read a New York magazine to find out what is happening in my own state.
He started off with an article on 18 September 2007, wherein he says:
"At this point I believe, based on documents and evidence which have come to me, that the Mississippi prosecutions [like those in Alabama] will also shortly be exposed as being politically motivated and directed."
Prior to the 2003 state elections, FBI agents were all over Mississippi looking into the dealings of prominent Mississippi trial attorneys, who supplied the financial support to Democratic candidates. During the same election, lots of questionable money was coming into Mississippi for Republican candidates, including money tied to Jack Abramoff and his casino interests and the money from the Law Enforcement Alliance from America, a front group for the US Chamber of Commerce - but there was no investigation by the FBI. What probably alerted Horton to this case was that Noel Hillman, from the US Department of Justice, played a leading role in both the Alabama and Mississippi prosecutions.
On 25 July 2003—ninety days before the gubernatorial election between Musgrove and Barbour—the U.S. Attorney in Jackson, Dunn Lampton, secured indictments of Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz, his ex-wife Jennifer, Chancery Judge Wes Teel, former Circuit Judge Whitfield, and attorney Paul Minor. In this first article, Horton discusses in detail the case against Diaz, and says:
"Diaz was acquitted twice, but the major objective of the
prosecution—the election of Haley Barbour—was achieved."
Horton's second (3 October 2007) and third (5 October 2007) articles addressed the case of wealthy trial lawyer Paul Minor. If you read these detailed articles about what happened, you will be totally shocked. It's unbelievable the lengths that Barbour, Bush, and their Republican buddies went to in order to destroy Minor, simply because he was a major donor to Mississippi Democrats and was a staunch opponent of tort reform. Obviously, small issues like the law and the Constitution mean nothing to these guys.
There is one especially interesting aspect of this whole sordid tale. The idea of rushing to the defense of the Judges attacked by the Chamber of Commerce started with Richard Scruggs, probably the best known and wealthiest of the Mississippi Trial Lawyers. He did all the things Minor did and was initially under investigation by the FBI. If these trumped up charges against Minor were real, then Scruggs should have been the first one indicted. However, Scruggs contributes to Republicans, whereas Minor contributes to Democrats. In addition, as we all know, Scruggs is Senator Trent Lott's brother in law. According to Horton, Lott was very aggressive in protecting Scruggs. In fact, FBI Agent Matthew Campbell, from the Gulfport office, expressed total disbelief that the case against Minor was pursued, but the case against Scruggs was dropped. Agent Campbell was quickly transferred to Guantanamo. A Republican lackey replaced him. Senator Lott's role in this, if true, is a clear violation of Senate ethics rules, and he may soon find himself under investigation by his colleagues.
Scott Horton is not through. He is promising more installments. This guy is good! He is a true investigative journalist, of which we have very few. He is influential, and people pay attention to him. Mark my words, Mississippi is about to have its dirty laundry exposed in the national spotlight. It's also possible that Trent Lott may be the former Senate Republican Leader again.
UPDATE: I told you this issue would go national. It's on today's editorial page of the New York Times: The United States Attorneys Scandal Comes to Mississippi