"Political" Prosecutions

Possibly I’m looking at this from a partisan perspective, but ISTM that there have been an inordinate number of prosecutions of senior level Republicans on very flimsy grounds in recent years. When I say “very flimsy” I mean in most cases that the prosecution has relied on creative reinterpretations of existing laws, that would have broken new grounds if upheld, as opposed to relying on prosecuting violations under long-accepted interpretations of the law. Examples that come to mind are:

[li]Tom DeLay[/li][li]Rick Perry[/li][li]Bob McDonnell[/li][/ul]
But there’s also the Ted Stevens case, which was a straight-up dishonest prosecution, which covered up evidence and knowingly put forth perjured witnesses (and which changed the course of history, in providing the 60th vote for the ACA).

As above, I could be biased here. So I’m asking for comparable examples involving prosecutions of senior politicians (governor, senator, house leadership, or the like) on the Democratic side.

Are you kidding?

Chaka Fatttah (just in the last week!), Jesse Jackson Jr., William Jefferson, Jim Traficant, Mel Reynolds, Bob Filner, Ray Nagin, Shiela Dixon, Kwame Kilpatrick, Sheldon Silver, David Patterson, Gordon Fox, Harry Thomas, Jr., and very nearly Vincent Gray.

But yes, your point that more Republicans seem to get away with corruption is well taken. :smiley:

Did you even read the OP? Or even the thread title?

You can always start a different thread if there’s something else you want to discuss.

I’m not sure what you’re complaining about. Jim Traficant always claimed his prosecution was a setup.

Do you want to discuss the real crimes those Republicans committed, and Democrats that supposedly committed equally heinous crimes…or do you want to discuss what those Republicans claim they were “persecuted” for, and why Democrats don’t receive equal “persecution”?

All defendants think their prosecutions are set-ups. What I’m discussing is where independent legal commentators assess that the prosecution is creatively reinterpreting laws in order to make their case, and the courts have agreed to this. And in the case of Stevens, where the judge (and subsequent AG) agreed that the prosecution had engaged in egregious misconduct.

Or IOW, what I wrote in the OP.

This is in addition to the fact that none of these Democrats that you listed are at the level of the guys I cited. Not that guys at that level are not legitimate subjects for discussion too, but it’s much harder to keep track once you get to that level.

Neither of these things.

I gave objective reasons to believe that those prosecutions were politically motivated, and I’m interested in examples of Democrats at comparable levels being prosecuted where there are comparable objective reasons to believe that those prosecutions were politically motivated.

You seem to just want to vent about those Republicans being scum, but you’ll need someone else to engage with on that.

No, you didn’t. You gave very partisan, and unevidenced, interpretations of what when on in those court cases. There is nothing whatsoever objective about your OP.

What’s your explanation for the prosecutorial misconduct in the Stevens case?


As I understand it, there’s a slight nuance here between the names offered up in the OP and the names in post #2.

Tom DeLay - convicted but conviction overturned on appeal
Rick Perry - indicted but indictment quashed on appeal
Bob McDonnell - convicted but conviction overturned on appeal


Chaka Fatttah - convicted after trial (appeal pending?)
Jesse Jackson Jr. - convicted following guilty plea; served prison time
William Jefferson - convicted following trial; convictions upheld on final appeal
Jim Traficant - convicted following trial; convictions upheld on final appeal; served prison time
Mel Reynolds - convicted following trial; convictions upheld on final appeal; served prison time
Bob Filner - convicted following guilty plea; served house arrest
Ray Nagin - convicted following trial; convictions upheld on appeal; serving prison time
Shelia Dixon - convicted pursuant to guilty plea (acquitted of felony charges but guilty of misdemeanor); sentenced to probation before judgement; completing probation allows her to expunge conviction
Kwame Kilpatrick - convicted following trial; convictions upheld on appeal; served prison time
Sheldon Silver - convicted following trial; appeals pending
David Patterson - never criminally charged (?)
Gordon Fox - convicted pursuant to guilty plea
Harry Thomas, Jr. - convicted following guilty plea
Vincent Gray - never criminally charged (?)

In other words, the OP gave examples of what he believed were flimsy prosecutions, as evidenced by their disintegration on appeal. Each counter-example you gave is either a criminal case with a final result of guilt, or, in two instances, was not a criminal case to begin with.

So, OP, you want examples of Democrats who are at a more senior level than members of Congress, governors, leaders of state legislatures, etc., who have been convicted and then had the convictions overturned, so that we can assess whether Republicans are being hounded by liberals in positions of authority over the criminal justice system?

And to take the case of Bob McDonnell, it is not sufficient to point out that the U.S. Attorney prosecuting the case was a 31-year DoJ employee, and the judge in the case was appointed by Reagan?

That the Republicans had better defense attorneys?

The disintegration on appeal is a big part of it but not the entirety of it.

In all those cases, the prosecutions were based on novel interpretations of laws; no one had ever been prosecuted before based on those legal interpretations until they were used against these politicians. It’s not as if the “disintegration on appeal” was an overturning of some more-or-less established precedent. So the disintegration on appeal was a validation of the notion that these were interpretations concocted for the purpose of prosecuting these specific people.


The OP suggests that the issue relates to novel interpretations of the law – in other words, when Jim Traficant was charged, it was clear that the conduct alleged (requiring his government-paid staffers to bale hay at his ranch and kick back some of their salary to him) was illegal.

McDonnell’s conduct was not so clear. The law under which McDonnell was charged criminalized “official acts” and laid out a definition of official acts that did not really mesh with what prosecutors claimed McDonnell did.

There’s no doubt that a good legal team was necessary to frame and highlight that argument, but it’s not remotely correct to suppose that such legal talent was available only to Republicans, nor would it have availed Traficant even if present.

How was Tom DeLay’s prosecution based on a “novel interpretation of laws?”

The prosecution claimed that the corporate donations to TRMPAC and DeLay’s “agreement” with others to the money swap were unlawful (corporations contributed money to TRMPAC and TRMPAC transferred funds to RNSEC intending that the money be used in a Texas campaign for elective office, the proof being that they failed to explicitly designate that the funds should be used out of Texas). They then theorized that this made the corporate funds the proceeds of a criminal activity and therefore violative of the Election Code.

However, as the appeals court pointed out, nothing in the law required corporations to designate a specific use for their contributions, and no case had ever before suggested that the failure to do so transformed them into criminal proceeds. It was that assumption which was “novel.”

From the NY Times article describing DeLay’s conviction:

I recall any number of other commentaries along those lines at the time. It seemed to be pretty much accepted that the prosecution of DeLay was an (ultimately unsuccessful) attempt to break new legal ground.

Thank you both for clearing that up - I understood there to be an issue of evidence that resulted in the acquittal, but I did not understand how the case was stretching the law. Ignorance fought.

No need to stop there. There’s also the “John Doe” case in Wisconsin, in which Democratic legal goons launched an “investigation” that gave them an excuse to harass almost every large Republican advocacy group in the state, for supposed “crimes” that weren’t crimes at all. As the court later said: “the special prosecutor’s legal theory is unsupported in either reason or law.” Also: “Justice David Prosser wrote that the search warrants and subpoenas issued as part of the investigation were ‘so broad and so extensive that they make the fruits of the legendary Watergate break-in look insignificant by comparison’.” So definitely a case of Democrats’ politically-driven attacks using the legal system there.

Of course, before running to the Republican Party and their steadfast integrity in such matters, it would be worthy to remember the events that lead to the resignation of Alberto Gonzalez. Truthfully, neither major party is much in favor of an America where the Bill of Rights is respected and where political advocacy groups have unlimited right to free speech.

So, returning to the OP, we can now see the distinguishing markers between the Democratic politicians mentioned in post #2 and the prosecutions highlighted in the OP. With those in mind, does anyone have any further reaction?

My own view is that these four cases from the OP were, indeed, four poorly grounded prosecutions, but three of them were the result of what I’ll call an attempt to deliver the spirit of the law. In McDonnell’s case, there’s a general sense that a governor’s time and attention should not be so readily available to someone who gives expensive gifts to the governor’s family. The prosecution tried to find a law that fit, but ultimately the best one they had criminalized “official” acts and McDonnell’s acts may not have qualified. (I say “may,” because the real issue here was flawed jury instructions, and with the proper instruction to the fact-finder, it may be that McDonnell’s conduct was still criminal).

In DeLay’s case, the spirit of the law seemed to push for more strict separation of campaign funds, but the letter of the law did not criminalize the way corporate donations were specifically handled.

In Perry’s case, there was a general sense that the governor shouldn’t use his veto power so openly as a club to force the resignation of a state employee. This is the closest of the three cases to being screwed up, because Texas law had already explicitly considered this scenario and upheld the side of the facts that Perry now relied upon. But even so, there was still a sense of, “Somewhere the law must say this is prohibited!”

It’s only the Ted Stevens case, in my opinion, that is so weak as to forfeit any real sympathy for the prosecutors’ good faith.

And I’d say that one – or even two, if you toss Perry in the mix – cases does not establish any particular trend against a political party.

I think there is a need to stop there.

Because once you get to the point of citing more obscure cases, then there could be any number of other counterexamples that you’re not aware of and it’s harder to see a clear pattern.