THE BLOG

Wheels of Justice Are Grinding Too Slowly For Paul Minor and Other Political Prisoners

11/30/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Attorney General Eric Holder did not hesitate to release Senator Ted Stevens and overturn his wrongful conviction when evidence emerged of the government's botched prosecution of the former Republican Senator from Alaska.

So why has Holder's Justice Department left Democrats Paul Minor and Judges Walter Teel and John Whitfield languishing in jail despite extensive knowledge that these men are entitled to release from prison pending the outcome of their appeals process? Each of these men has raised "substantial questions" on appeal, remarkably similar to the quid pro quo substantial questions presented to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals which required the Justice Department to release former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman pending his own appeal.

The federal bail statute is crystal clear on this point, requiring the release on bail of any appellant who raises substantial questions for the court's review. It is patently absurd for the DOJ to continue to oppose this no-brainer release requirement in the cases of Minor and the former Mississippi judges.

Despite more than ample substantial questions presented in each man's appeal -- highlighting the severe flaws in the government's prosecution and the undeniable fact that GOP politics trumped the law in their wrongful convictions -- the government continues to oppose their mandatory release pending appeal that was readily granted to Don Siegelman, let alone the immediate release and overturned conviction granted to Ted Stevens.

Attorney General Holder should make sure these men are reunited with their families while the 5th Circuit Court thoughtfully considers their appeals.

More importantly, the Justice Department must expedite the review of Paul Minor's case in light of explosive new revelations that Dunnica Lampton -- the partisan U.S. Attorney who indicted Minor - had refused to pursue an egregious case of fraud involving several prominent Mississippi Republicans that came to his attention during the same time period as Minor's July 2003 indictment.

Minor's attorney, Hiram Eastland, wrote a letter to Attorney General Holder last week outlining "new evidence... that unequivocally establishes that prosecutive decisions made by U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton were based upon political motivations."

According to the letter, Lampton went after Minor, a Democrat, while explicitly ignoring a massive fraud and money laundering scheme perpetrated by several major Republican supporters in Minor's home state of Mississippi. The letter indicates that "a previous undercover government witness" who worked on another large scale Justice Department investigation

"is prepared to testify and provide documents indicating that U.S. Attorney Lampton chose not to prosecute a compelling multi-million dollar fraud, money laundering and obstruction of justice case against several prominent Republican defendants in the exact timeframe as Mr. Minor's July 25, 2003 indictment."

Eastland explains that this undercover government witness

"is prepared to testify that he was informed by his assigned FBI investigator that the political 'fix' was in and that U.S. Attorney Lampton had indicated there would be no prosecutions because he did not want his legacy as U.S. Attorney to be the prosecution of some of the biggest Republican supporters in Mississippi."

Lampton did not hesitate to indict Minor on overreaching bribery allegations, lacking any evidence that Minor ever engaged in a quid pro quo "this for that" agreement with Teel and Whitfield. He also did not hesitate to re-indict Minor immediately after a jury failed to convict Minor on the trumped-up charges in his first trial. Yet Lampton steadfastly refused to prosecute several Republicans he knew were engaged in starkly obvious fraud, money laundering and obstruction of justice.

This new evidence of Lampton's partisan agenda undoubtedly calls into question the political targeting of Minor, Teel and Whitfield (who had already presented ample evidence that the government botched their prosecutions before this explosive development).

Eric Holder now knows, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that a GOP operative pursuing a strictly partisan agenda targeted Paul Minor and the Democratic judges. Holder must immediately release these political prisoners during the remainder of their appeals process. Paul Minor has already endured the loss of his wife Sylvia to brain cancer while he sat in prison, and he deserves immediate release while the 5th Circuit thoughtfully considers his appeal.

Attorney General Holder's very next move must be to launch an exhaustive investigation to reveal the depths to which Lampton and other partisan U.S. attorneys went to wrongfully target prominent Democrats across America during the Bush/Cheney administration. The Justice Department's reputation and credibility will be forever tarnished unless it fully exposes this repulsive partisan agenda and remedies the wrongful convictions of Minor, Teel, Whitfield and every other victim of political prosecution during the Bush years.