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Qualsiasi Mezzo?

October 9, 2013

Hans A. von Spakovsky is former counsel to the assistant attorney general for civil rights at the Justice Department, writes frequently about the bent practices at DOJ under Attorney General Eric Holder. Item:

In a shocking case of “grotesque” misconduct by federal prosecutors, a federal judge in Louisiana has ordered a new trial for five New Orleans police officers convicted for a shooting on the Danziger Bridge on September 4, 2005 — in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina — and for a subsequent cover-up. This is another black eye for the Holder Justice Department that the media have barely covered.

Participating in the misconduct that the judge said had created an “online 21st-century carnival atmosphere” was Karla Dobinski, a lawyer in the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department and the former deputy chief of the section. The reversal of the convictions is what Judge Kurt Engelhardt calls a “bitter pill” for Hurricane Katrina survivors, but his investigation of the matter provides an intensive inside look at the unprofessionalism of some of the lawyers at the Holder Justice Department, and also at the department’s attempts to obscure its misdeeds.

Last December, I reported on what Judge Engelhardt called the “skulduggery” and “perfidy” of DOJ prosecutors in a scathing order issued on November 26, 2012. At the time, the lawyers for the defendants had filed a motion for a new trial. They claimed that the prosecutors had leaked secret grand-jury proceedings and engaged in a public-relations campaign to inflame public opinion and sway the jury through anonymous postings on nola.com, the website run by the Times-Picayune.

It turned out the defendants’ lawyers were correct. In his November order, the judge detailed his findings that two senior prosecutors in the office of the U.S. attorney in New Orleans were responsible for many of the anonymous postings. These writings “mocked the defense, attacked the defendants and their attorneys, were approbatory of the United States Department of Justice, declared the defendants obviously guilty, and discussed the jury’s deliberations.”

[SNIP]

. . . . In addition to inappropriate blogging, Judge Engelhardt accuses the DOJ prosecutors, who were led by Barbara “Bobbi” Bernstein of the Civil Rights Division, of “shockingly coercive tactics” against defense witnesses. Three of those witnesses refused to appear at the trial on behalf of the defendants “under threats from DOJ that they would be prosecuted for perjury as a result of their earlier grand jury testimony.” The judge found it highly suspicious that, 26 months later, not one of these potential defense witnesses “has been charged with any crime whatsoever.”

Judge Engelhardt’s indictment of the Justice Department is devastating. He remains troubled by the fact that “much is still not known about the nature and extent of” what the government did in this prosecution. The judge had “unfortunately seen the government omit pertinent facts, conceal material information, threaten but not charge at least three witnesses the defense identified, . . . and attempt to mitigate internet conduct that any reasonably responsible prosecutor would know is forbidden.”

In fact, the judge spends ten pages of his order just going through the rules violated by DOJ personnel — rules contained in federal regulations and in the U.S. Attorneys’ Manual, the local rules of the Louisiana federal district court, and the Rules of Professional Conduct for lawyers in Louisiana. He says that the DOJ’s actions, “and initial lack of candor and credibility thereafter,” are “scar tissue that will long evidence infidelity to the principles of ethics, professionalism, and basic fairness and common sense necessary to every criminal prosecution, wherever it should occur in this country.”

Finally, Engelhardt points a finger straight at Eric Holder:

The indictment in this case was announced with much fanfare, a major press conference presided over by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, and widespread media attention. . . . A DOJ representative said that the indictments “are a reminder that the Constitution and the rule of law do not take a holiday — even after a hurricane.” While quite true in every respect, the Court must remind the DOJ that the Code of Federal Regulations, and various Rules of Professional Responsibility, and ethics likewise do not take a holiday — even in a high-stakes criminal prosecution, and even in the anonymity of cyberspace. . . . The Court simply cannot allow the integrity of the justice system to become a casualty in a mere prosecutorial game of qualsiasi mezzo [by any means necessary].”

Read the rest of Spakovsky’s ‘Grotesque’ DOJ Misconduct.

Posted by TR Clancy

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