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Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Prosecutorial Priorities at Justice

For obvious reasons, it's unlikely this story will get much media attention.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and former high-ranking members of his administration won't be criminally charged in a yearlong federal investigation into pay-to-play allegations involving one of the Democratic governor's large political donors, someone familiar with the case said.

The decision not to pursue indictments was made by top Justice Department officials, according to a person familiar with the investigation, who asked not to be identified because federal officials had not disclosed results of the probe. "It's over. There's nothing. It was killed in Washington," the person told The Associated Press.

Now, also for obvious reasons, we all know about this Justice Department decision this week.

Attorney General Eric Holder has named a federal prosecutor to examine alleged CIA interrogation abuses — a move that could lead to the criminal prosecution of CIA officers and contractors and is sure rekindle the debate over how far the United States should go to get information from terror suspects.

Finally, some are probably familiar with the decision earlier in the summer not to prosecute three Black Panthers that stood outside of a polling station with billy clubs.

Associate Attorney General Thomas J. Perrelli, the No. 3 official in the Obama Justice Department, was consulted and ultimately approved a decision in May to reverse course and drop a civil complaint accusing three members of the New Black Panther Party of intimidating voters in Philadelphia during November's election, according to interviews.

The department's career lawyers in the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division who pursued the complaint for five months had recommended that Justice seek sanctions against the party and three of its members after the government had already won a default judgment in federal court against the men.

Just so everyone is clear here's visual evidence of the crime.

Now AG Holder has stipulated that his investigation into potential CIA abuses was necessary because he is "following the law". This is of course not only disingenuous but totally misleading. Like all prosecutors, the AG has prosecutorial discretion. After all, if we prosecuted all violations of the law, the system would simply break. J walking is not technically legal but cops aren't going to ticket you for it.

So, in fact, we can tell the priorities of a prosecutor by the cases the choose to proceed with and the ones they choose to ignore. In this case, the AG has decided to re open several cases that had already been investigated and prior prosecutors had decided not to proceed with. He did this under the guise that he was "following the law". Yet, when presented with clear visual evidence of the violation of the law, he does nothing. When presented with a politician that is involved in corruption, he buries that investigation. We all now know where the priorities of our Justice Department are at.

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