April 13, 2007

Federalizing Local Cases

Josh points to a new article about the strange case of Stephen Biskupic, U.S. Attorney of Wisconsin who somehow saved his job by prosecuting an innocent government employee which resulted in her spending 7 months in jail on a bogus charge. The case against Georgia Thompson was a trumped up charge designed simply to provide the RNC talking points because Karl Rove needed an object lesson to show voters Democrats are corrupt. One thing that this new piece reported was how unusual it was for Biskupic to take this case, because legally and traditionally, the case should have been handled locally. It was not a federal case.

It also seemed curious that Thompson was tried in the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Wisconsin, in Milwaukee. She lived and worked in Madison and was a state employee, and the fact that Adelman Travelís headquarters is located in Milwaukee has nothing to do with the case. Even though then-Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager and Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard helped to investigate the case, they declined to bring charges. But Biskupic, a Bush appointee, did, even though it really didnít have anything to do with his jurisdiction. At the time of the trial, we wondered whether Biskupic truly believed he had a strong case, which would cause one to question his competence, or whether he knew that there really wasnít a case but succumbed to Republican political pressure.

This is not the only time the DOJ has taken over a local or state case in order to make an example of someone. 24 year old Josh Wolf was imprisoned for 8 months in a California prison when he refused to turn over his video take from a protest in San Francisco. The US Attorney (who at that time was Kevin Ryan, one of the infamous fired US Attorneys) decided he that the Federal government could take over the case. Amy Goodman interviewed Josh Wolf last February about his case.

AMY GOODMAN: Josh Wolf, why aren't you protected by California Shield Law, that protects journalists?

JOSH WOLF: I am protected by the California Shield Law. This isn't in California state court, though. This is in federal court. And the federal government does not acknowledge any sort of federal protections for journalists.

AMY GOODMAN: How did this end up in federal court?

JOSH WOLF: The government contends that there is a statute that says that because the San Francisco Police Department gets money from the government for training against terrorism and other stuff like that, that any property belonging to the San Francisco Police Department is of federal interest, and therefore, this is a federal offense that they're investigating. But clearly this seems like an attempt to sort of circumvent the protections that California feels are due to journalists in order to prevent the situation that Iím currently dealing with at this moment.

How many times under Abu Gonzales have the US Attorneys done the same?

Posted by Mary at April 13, 2007 07:26 AM | Law/Justice | Technorati links |