Paul Minor did his best to comfort Sylvia, his wife of 41 years, during his brief February 20th visit. He tried to feed her, to talk with her, and to care for her the way he wished he could on every one of her final days in Hospice care. Sylvia is in the last stages of terminal brain cancer, which has now spread to both of her lungs, her bones and her spine. Sometimes her mind is sharp and her conversation lucid, but there are bad days; her mind shuts down when her pain becomes too excruciating to endure.
Unfortunately Minor's visit occurred on one of Sylvia's bad days. Sylvia couldn't eat or focus and she slipped in and out of consciousness. At the end of the visit, she couldn't utter the word l-o-v-e to her husband beyond the first letter, her voice stolen by the tumors. After three short hours with Sylvia, Minor's prison guards whisked him back to the Pensacola federal prison camp. When the Minors' daughter Kathryn spoke to her mom the next day during a lucid moment, Sylvia had no memory of Paul's visit.
Minor's abbreviated visit to his wife's bedside was only the latest bitter moment for an American hero. Karl Rove's crooked henchmen at the U.S. Justice Department have turned this dignified gentleman's life into a horrible ordeal that is a disgrace to American democracy.
One of the nation's top trial lawyers, Minor stands convicted on partisan political charges ginned up by Rove's right wing toadies at the Department of Justice. Paul Minor is serving the second year of a breathtaking 11-year sentence for non-violent, white collar crimes he did not commit.
Paul Minor's real crime was that he used nearly a half million dollars of his earnings from the 1997 Big Tobacco settlement and a string of other successful lawsuits to fund Democratic candidates for office at the local and national level. Minor was the largest donor to Democrats in Mississippi -- accounting for roughly one-third of all campaign contributions from trial lawyers in the state -- making him a prime target of Karl Rove's master plan to strategically take out key Democratic contributors nationwide using trumped up criminal prosecutions as his primary weapon.
Minor posed a particular threat to Rove's ambition for southern GOP hegemony. Paul's passion for a fair and impartial justice system led him to focus extra attention on the critical races for state judgeships. Minor also drew Rove's ire through his leadership role in the fight against the Bush administration and U.S. Chamber of Commerce tort reform agenda. That campaign would have terminated the average American's ability to stand up to and recover damages for corporate abuses. Similar to other Democratic victims indicted on bogus charges under Rove's southern campaign, Paul Minor had little chance to defend himself against the GOP-rigged system.
GOP officials wrongfully convicted Minor of the crime of public corruption bribery. In such cases, black letter case law holds that judges must instruct juries that they can only convict a campaign fundraiser of bribing public officials through campaign contributions if clear evidence exists of a quid pro quo agreement for a specific official act by the recipient in exchange for the campaign contributions. Bush's crooked Justice Department prosecutors wrongfully prevailed upon a Reagan-appointed judge to withhold that instruction and to allow Minor's conviction without the explicit proof of a quid pro quo.
Karl Rove knew that Minor's lower public profile wouldn't attract the same national media attention that former Alabama governor Don Siegelman's prosecution garnered. Nevertheless, an April 2008 House of Representatives' Judiciary Committee report detailing allegations of the selective prosecution of Democratic targets by the Bush Justice Department questioned the "vague" charges which were used to throw Paul Minor in jail "despite the fact that Mississippi law allows" the practice of loan guarantees to candidates for which Minor was targeted by the FBI and DOJ. The report concluded that the "irresponsible" behavior of the DOJ in Paul Minor's case raises critical "questions about the integrity and impartiality of the Department's work" during the Bush years.
According to a study by University of Missouri professors Donald Shields and John Cragan, eighty percent of the Bush DOJ's political investigations targeted Democrats -- 5.6 Democrats for every Republican investigated by U.S. attorneys for political misconduct. Shields noted in Congressional testimony that "such selective investigation and prosecution rates" represent a clear bias in the severely disproportionate "political profiling" of Democrats under Bush.
Bush administration holdovers at DOJ and powerful GOP operatives are scrambling to maximize their mischief even as President Obama carefully picks their replacements. These operatives continue to deny the rights of the GOP's political prisoners.
Paul Minor is an innocent man. The 5th Circuit hears oral arguments of his case on April 1.
The "substantial questions" raised in his appeal mandate his release under the federal bail statutes until his appeal is decided. Minor only remains in prison because Bush-appointed DOJ officials along with biased local U.S. attorneys and a Reagan-appointed judge all misinterpreted the laws that make his conviction illegal and that require his release pending appeal. Today Paul sits in his prison cell despairing that his beloved wife is dying and he isn't there to comfort her.
But there's still a chance for Paul to see his wife alive again if President Obama's Department of Justice acts quickly enough to rectify this terrible injustice. Minor's initial, polite request for a three-day furlough to see his wife late last month seemed to meet the approval of the prison warden and the Bureau of Prisons staff overseeing his sentence. Minor hoped that a three-day furlough would at least allow him to say goodbye to Sylvia in a dignified manner.
But as the furlough request circulated through the U.S. Attorney's office in Jackson, Mississippi, things changed.
While such requests would normally be handled by the U.S. attorney for the district in which Minor is incarcerated, in this instance the local U.S. attorney's office recused itself and deferred media inquiries to Washington DOJ officials who quickly and inexplicably declared Paul a flight risk and denied his furlough request. DOJ officials begrudgingly granted a second, more desperate plea from Minor for the brief three-day visit with his dying spouse but reduced the duration to three hours, and included the stipulation that Paul be escorted by prison guards who refused to give the bereaved couple even a moment alone.
After he received the heartbreaking news that his wife couldn't remember the guarded bedside visit, and that Sylvia's condition has worsened to the point where she can barely eat, and may have hours instead of weeks to live, Paul requested another emergency furlough on Monday. The Bureau of Prisons immediately denied the request, without explanation.
The Attorney General's office is currently reviewing legal briefs filed by Minor's attorneys, and will hopefully act in time to afford Paul a final goodbye to Sylvia.
Putting aside for a moment the reprehensible conduct of the DOJ and BOP deviants who blocked Paul's furlough requests, Minor's case highlights the wounded state of our justice system following eight years of assault by Bush, Cheney and Rove's neocon army.
At stake ultimately in Paul Minor's appeal is the preservation of the United States Constitution's guarantee of the right to a fair trial process.
Paul and Sylvia Minor pray the Obama Justice Department is listening.
Stay tuned for further posts about Minor's case in the coming days before his April 1st appeal hearing.