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Despite Rove's Spin Machine, Justice May Be Around The Corner For Paul Minor

What happened to Paul Minor is not only unethical, but also unconstitutional.
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Now that it is beyond doubt that Karl Rove was more involved in the U.S. Attorney scandal than previously confirmed, it is critical for the Department of Justice to determine Rove's role in the political prosecution of prominent Mississippi attorney Paul Minor. Minor's heavy funding of Democratic candidates likely drew Rove's attention and may have resulted in his conviction on bogus public corruption bribery charges, as detailed previously by this writer, Harper's Scott Horton, Raw Story, and others.

The U.S. attorney in Minor's hometown of Jackson, Mississippi was none other than Dunnica Lampton, one of the few federal prosecutors who managed to escape the axe after appearing on early versions of Karl Rove's target list of U.S. attorneys slated for removal. While he was deemed "weak" and "ineffective" by senior professional staff who were quick to name him when asked by then Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's office who should be removed, Lampton managed to save his job. It appears increasingly likely that Lampton got his free pass at the expense of Paul Minor.

As Scott Horton points out in his excellent Harper's piece, "Rove's Mississippi Mud":

Lampton was handling one case that was a matter of intense concern to Republican Party leaders in Mississippi as well as to Karl Rove in the White House: the Minor prosecution.

Although Lampton failed in the first trial -- Minor was acquitted on some charges and the jury hung on others -- he saved his job by going after Minor again, reindicting him in December 2005. Within a month, the Justice Department's White House liaison Monica Goodling -- a Karl Rove pawn -- requested that Lampton be removed from the firing list.

As Horton notes, Minor's bogus conviction on bribery charges stemming from his campaign contributions to several judicial candidates scared the wits out of most other major donors to Mississippi Democrats running for office, who stopped giving out of fear that they too would meet Minor's fate.

"It sent a message to campaign contributors in Mississippi that they donated to the Democrats at their great peril. The coffers of the state Democratic Party quickly went dry, helping to ensure a series of Republican election triumphs."

That is exactly the outcome Karl Rove was hoping for. By identifying unscrupulous prosecutors willing to target key Democrats throughout the country, regardless of their innocence, Rove could help secure a permanent Republican majority. His elaborate efforts to achieve that goal are detailed in the forthcoming film Project Save Justice.

Rove's comments to the media, published the day after he completed testimony in front of the closed-door House Judiciary Committee, indicate the increasing likelihood that Lampton was removed from the target list because of his success in winning a conviction against Minor, and thus crippling the funding base of the Mississippi Democrats.

Paul Minor continues to languish in prison, awaiting an overripe decision from the 5th Circuit, while Karl Rove remains free and working intensely to cloud his role in the partisan political prosecutions of Democrats across the country. Willing stenographers at The New York Times reprinted Rove's spin, he could not have bought a better version.

But new developments in Minor's case hold promise that the tables are turning.

Fifth Circuit appeals court judges reviewing Minor's case recently requested an "almost unprecedented second round of post-argument briefing-pressing the Justice Department to explain its decision to reindict following the initial acquittal and hung jury. They are focused on just the act that may have saved Lampton's career as a U.S. attorney, and they are suggesting that it looks improper," reports Scott Horton.

The second supplemental brief filed by Paul Minor's attorneys clearly lays out the argument that Lampton and Bush's DOJ recycled the exact same charges in Minor's second trial that failed the first time around, amounting to "double jeopardy" in lawyer speak.

"The Double Jeopardy Clause prevents the government from relitigating any issue necessarily decided by a jury's acquittal in a prior trial," Minor's attorneys wrote in their second supplemental brief. "Despite the acquittals of Mr. Minor and Mr. Whitfield in 2005, the government chose to prosecute both men a second time under the very same theory rejected by the jury in the first trail." [pg 3 of PDF]

That behavior is not only unethical, but also unconstitutional, as the Supreme Court recently upheld in Yeager v. United States. The Fifth Circuit may be close to ruling as much, given that the judges' multiple requests for additional information appear to favor Mr. Minor's defense. (Although stranger things have happened in the appeals court system.)

In the meantime, another positive development has emerged.

Attorney General Eric Holder's office has informed Paul Minor's counsel Hiram Eastland that the DOJ intends to review the issues raised in a June 24 letter from Minor's attorneys calling on the Department to investigate the circumstances of his conviction.

The new revelations of Karl Rove's enhanced involvement in the U.S. attorney scandal suggest that he likely played a role in Minor's prosecution. The Justice Department and Congressional authorities should investigate Rove's connection to the Minor case more deeply.

Regardless, it is clearly time for Attorney General Holder and the Obama administration to free Paul Minor and then take a hard look at the circumstances of his conviction.

Perhaps justice is finally around the corner for Paul Minor.

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