08 March, 2007

river of omission - Rove's bud, Griffen for US Att'y

Congress on a roll again! rollin’, that is, down the River of Omission

Greg Palast:

There was one big hoohah in Washington yesterday as House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers pulled down the pants on George Bush’s firing of US Attorneys to expose a scheme to punish prosecutors who wouldn’t bend to political pressure.

But the Committee missed a big one: Timothy Griffin, Karl Rove’s assistant, the President’s pick as US Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas. Griffin, according to BBC Television, was the hidden hand behind a scheme to wipe out the voting rights of 70,000 citizens prior to the 2004 election.

Key voters on Griffin’s hit list: Black soldiers and homeless men and women. . . . Targeting voters where race is a factor is a felony crime under the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

With the scandals of political pressure being exterted on US Attorneys conducting corruption investigations, and with a Congressional home call seeking info on a sealed indictment, it's easy to overlook reports that Arizona US Attorney Paul Charlton was dismissed for insisting on reviewing potential death penalty charges on a case-by-case. His apparent sin was to stand up to the Bush adminsitration and say 'No, that's wrong, I won't do it.' On 10 Feb., the Arizona Republic reported that:

. . . two sources said a main disagreement between Charlton and officials in Washington centered on when to seek the death penalty in federal murder cases.

As a U.S attorney, Charlton has pursed the death penalty in some cases. But his insistence on determining whether to push for capital punishment on a case-by-case basis clashed on at least two instances with a Justice Department effort to centralize decisions nationally and to seek the death penalty in a uniform way.

. . . he was among the prosecutors who received a telephone call on Dec. 7 from Michael Battle, director of the Justice Department's executive office for U.S. attorneys, asking him to resign.

"I certainly was given no indication there were performance concerns," Charlton said.
. . .

Wyn Hornbuckle, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Arizona, said there has been only one person sentenced under the Federal Death Penalty Act in Arizona. Lezmond Charles Mitchell, 25, is being held at the Special Confinement Unit in Terre Haute, Ind., one of 44 inmates there facing execution.

..... Mitchell is reportedly the first and only Native American facing federal execution. The Navajo Nation has criticized his sentence, which is scheduled for appeal Thursday in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Hornbuckle said federal prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Jose Rios Rico, who faces trial for murder during a drug-trafficking crime, as well as numerous other felony offenses related to meth deals.

In one case, four members of the New Mexican Mafia, or New Eme, faced execution for murder and other crimes. The defendants, including brothers Luis and Felipe Cisneros, accepted last-minute plea bargains. Three received life sentences; the fourth got 16 years.

Larry Hammond, a Phoenix attorney who represented Felipe Cisneros, said Charlton was an "honest broker" in the case, deciding to give up capital punishment because the government would have faced an expensive six-month trial with severe effect on victims and an unknown verdict.

"It was true that, for a long time, main Justice was not prepared to go along" with the plea deal, Hammond said, adding that authorities in Washington, D.C., finally relented.

Under Charlton's administration, several other death-penalty actions were initiated but later dropped.

. . . Charlton's office [also] handled preliminary investigations into Republican Reps. Jim Kolbe and Rick Renzi before the November election.

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