Folks, you really need to read this. While it is a very long piece, it is absolutely imperative that it be read and reacted to.
Republican effort jails largest Democratic donor in Mississippi, helps put ex-RNC chairman in governor's chair
... a former Mississippi Republican state legislator who was later backed by Democrats to win a seat on the Mississippi Supreme Court discusses political prosecutions with Raw Story and the corruption and politicization of the Department of Justice.
Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz Jr. was indicted in 2003 on charges relating to his receipt of a loan guarantee from trial lawyer Paul Minor - a personal friend and the largest Democratic donor in Mississippi - to help defray campaign debts. A Bush-appointed US Attorney, Dunnica Lampton, brought charges of bribery against Diaz, Minor and two other Mississippi judges. Diaz was acquitted of all those charges... Within days of his acquittal, Diaz was indicted for a second time. He was again acquitted.
Normally, a criminal investigation begins after a crime is committed," Diaz told me. "Investigators are sent out to gather evidence and a list of suspects is drawn up. Sometimes an investigation is begun after a complaint is made about suspicious activity. In our case neither of these things occurred."
"In other words," he continued. "An individual was singled out for examination from the federal government and prosecutors then attempted to make his conduct fit into some criminal statute. This is not how our system of justice is supposed to operate."
"After I was indicted and before my trial, my home was also broken into," Diaz tells RAW STORY. "Our door was kicked in and our documents were rummaged. Televisions, computers and other valuables were not taken, despite the fact that we were out of town for several days and the home was left open by the burglars. We could not figure out a motive for the burglary and reported it to the Biloxi Police Department. The crime was never solved."
The Interview: Corporate interests target Diaz
Raw Story's Larisa Alexandrovna: Let's start with 2002 and the FBI's investigation into trial lawyers. What was going on at this time in the political atmosphere and what, if any, cases were on the docket?
Justice Oliver Diaz, Jr.: In 2002 I was in the second year of an eight-year term on the Mississippi Supreme Court. A struggle was brewing over control of the court. In the 2000 election, large amounts of money were put into Mississippi judicial elections by big business,tobacco and insurance, with mixed results. I was targeted for defeat by these groups, who were not able to beat me in the election.
RS: When you say "targeted" by these groups, through what mechanism?
OD: The mechanism used by these groups to target me for defeat was the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The U.S. Chamber spent more than a million dollars in the final two weeks before my election, running television and radio ads, direct mail, telephone solicitations and leaflets and flyers. Most of the ads were what you would call negative attack ads directed at me. They also ran a few ads that praised my opponent.
RS: Before we get into the question of removing you from office, would you mind briefly explaining what happened with the U.S. Supreme Court and how the Chamber prevailed?
OD: The Fifth Circuit ruled that the U.S. Chamber did not have to disclose their donors in Mississippi. In its opinion, the Court actually stated, "We recognize that the result we reach in this case may be counterintuitive to a commonsense understanding..." It seems that the Court anticipated criticism of the decision they issued in this case, as it was not necessarily a rational or logical decision. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review this decision, and so it stood.
RS: I thought Justice Scalia supported states' rights?
OD: Apparently, he can be selective in that interpretation.
RS: Now there was an FBI agent at the time of this case working with Lampton's office who had taken issue with the investigation. What happened to him when he voices his concerns?
OD: I understand that FBI agent Matthew Campbell, who was originally assigned to my case, was reassigned to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba after he raised questions about the investigation.
OD: [After the first trial,] in August of 2005 I was fully acquitted. However, three days after my acquittal, Lampton unsealed another indictment against me. This time the charges were tax evasion.
The new prosecution theory was that if I had not been bribed then I did not properly disclose the campaign loan proceeds guaranteed by Mr. Minor on my tax returns. This charge too was a stretch. The problem the prosecutors had was that all of the loan proceeds were indeed spent on my election campaign. It was difficult for prosecutors to argue that campaign loans should have been listed as personal income. If they were to prevail on this theory then every politician in this country could be indicted for tax evasion. Anyway, I went to trial a second time in March 2006. After a week-long trial, I was again fully acquitted after the jury deliberated for about fifteen minutes.
RS: The irony here is that in our reporting on Lampton, we had found that he did not properly disclose his campaign loan proceeds and that he was in fact under FEC investigation at the time he was appointed to the US Attorney's office. Had you heard about this? (See "Part IV - How Bush pick helped prosecute top Democrat-backed judge.")
Was Rove involved?
RS: You touched on Karl Rove before. Is Karl Rove related to your case?
OD: It is widely known that Karl Rove is greatly responsible for engineering the takeover of the Alabama Supreme Court by the Republican Party. Rove's influence stretched into Mississippi through, among others, the Choctaw Indians and their casinos in Mississippi, who were clients of Jack Abramoff
RS: I understand that Minor's wife is unwell, that she is terribly ill with cancer, is that correct? So her husband had not been given the ability to even see her?
OD: This has been particularly cruel in Minor's case, given the fact that his wife was battling cancer during his trial. Because he is being held in a facility that is a four or five hour drive away from his home, and due to her deteriorating physical condition, Ms. Minor is not able to visit her husband. He has not been able to assist in her care and treatment or been allowed to comfort her during her ordeal. Unfortunately, her prognosis is not good at this time.
RS: What of the other judges targeted along with you? How have they fared?
OD: The two other judges who were convicted along with Minor have not fared well either. Judge Wes Teel, who also had a campaign loan guaranteed by Minor, was sentenced to five years in prison. Judge Teel's wife is also ill and requires constant medical attention. He was required to report to prison in December 2007 on his thirtieth wedding anniversary. On his first day in custody, he suffered a major heart attack. His family was not notified of this event for more than a week.
He is being treated in a federal prison facility.
Violent criminal acts of intimidation?
OD: Judge John Whitfield was sentenced to eight years in custody. He was allowed to report to a medical facility because of chronic health problems. Judge Whitfield was forced to leave behind his minor son, who is now without a parent, as his mother died prior to his conviction.
RS: Judge Whitfield's office was set on fire and ruled an arson case by local authorities. The US Attorney's office inserted themselves into the arson investigation. Is that normal, or legal?
OD: Before our trial began, Judge Whitfield's office was burned. The computers and files that survived were seized and examined by authorities. Whitfield protested the fact that prosecutors now had access to his trial strategy. To this day, the arson case has not been solved.
RS: In Alabama, we saw something similar while investigating Siegelman's case. His house was broken into twice during his trial, and his attorney had his office broken into at least once. The Republican whistleblower Simpson's house burned down and she was driven off the road. As far as I know, none of these crimes have been solved. Do you think it a possibility that these crimes are not random and unrelated?
Read the whole interview here
See the rest of the series below:
The Permanent Republican Majority Series and Related Raw Story Articles: