Just in case you were wondering …

… the trick to NOT getting fired as a U.S. Attorney under King George the Forty-third is to indict innocent people for non-crimes in cases involving Democratic politicians up for re-election.

… what a U.S. Attorney needed to do to be a “loyal Bushie” and not get fired, here’s a clue: he could indict a state official working under a Democratic governor up for re-election, using evidence that a Federal appeals court judge called “beyond thin.” The case was so weak both legally and factually that the Court of Appeals ordered the defendant released immediately, not even waiting to write an opinion.

Of course, by then she had spent four months in prison. The trial judge, a Bush I appointee, had sent the defendant to prison without waiting for her appeal to be decided. (The reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal is wrong: that used to be extraordinary, but is now routine.) So she lost four months of her life and in her lawyer’s words, “her job, her life savings, her home and her liberty …and her good name.”

Under our marvellous system of justice, she has no legal recourse and the U.S. Attorney has no legal liability. That’s the bad news. The good news is that any member of Congress could file a bill for her relief, which would be the occasion for some lovely hearings.

I’d love to see the U.S. Attorney answer questions under oath about any communications he might have had on the case with Republican party officials or with the White House. And the relief-bill context, by providing a specific injured individual, would help focus press attention on the case. “Just politics” isn’t going to fly when it comes to putting an innocent woman behind bars.

Footnote The defendant wasn’t a lacrosse player, a White House staffer, or Tom DeLay, so don’t expect the wingnut pundits who have been whining about “prosecutorial overreach” in other cases to mention this one.

Second footnote Two out of the three appeals court judges were Republican appointees; one of them was Frank Easterbrook. I can’t wait to read the opinion.

Third footnote According to the defense lawyer, the government argued at sentencing that the defendant should receive a more severe sentence because she didn’t “accept responsibility.” Yes indeed, that’s one of the Orwellian rules of the federal sentencing system: you get to spend more time behind bars if you insist you were innocent. God forbid anyone should get to complain about injustice.

h/t: Howard Bashman

NY Times editorial here.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com