Why Is Paul Minor Being Prosecuted?
Paul Minor, a Mississippi lawyer, has been indicted in federal court for an act that the government deems corrupt: guaranteeing and partially paying a $75,000 loan to a judge's former wife. The judge in question, Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver E. Diaz Jr., did not participate in any case involving Minor after the loan was guaranteed, but the government contends that Justice Diaz repaid the favor by joining a unanimous decision that benefitted Minor's father, who was a defendant in a libel case.
Whether or not the government can prove that Minor expected to receive such an attenuated benefit from Justice Diaz, the financial relationship between Minor and Justice Diaz doesn't pass any reasonable smell test. Nonetheless, Minor contends that the government's motive for prosecuting him carries a much ranker stench.
Mr. Minor, a former president of the Mississippi Trial Lawyers Association, contends that the United States attorney here, Dunn Lampton, a Republican, singled him out for prosecution for political reasons, because he is a big contributor to Democratic candidates and a vocal opponent of efforts to limit injury awards.
Minor asserts that Richard Scruggs, a Mississippi plaintiffs' lawyer who happens to be married to the sister of Trent Lott's wife, also guaranteed and paid off a loan to Justice Diaz. The difference between Scruggs and Minor is that Scruggs' law firm had two cases pending before the Mississippi Supreme Court at the time. So why isn't Scruggs being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney who is so eager to pursue Minor? This is the answer given by Minor's lawyer:
"When the Republican U.S. attorney looks at Republican supporter Mr. Scruggs's actions, he sees them in a way that avoids any criminal overtone. When the same U.S. attorney looks at Democrat Paul Minor's actions, he sees racketeering. This is just not right."
The U.S. Attorney's office argues that Minor is basing his selective prosecution defense on unreliable news reports and "innuendo," although there seems to be a good deal of "innuendo" involved in the charges against Minor given his lack of any direct benefit from Justice Diaz.
If it doesn't derail before then, the case is set for trial in August.
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