More on Wisconsin's USA Biskupic and Georgia Thompson

Last week I gave my analysis of the wrongfully convicted Georgia Thompson and what may have motivated Wisconsin U.S. Attorney Steven Biskupic.

Adam Cohen writes about the case in the New York Times today, raising new questions about Mr. Biskupic's handling of the case.

One of the biggest weaknesses in the case against Ms. Thompson was that to commit the crime she was charged with she had to have tried to gain personally from the contract, and there’s no credible evidence that she did. So Mr. Biskupic made the creative argument that she gained by obtaining “political advantage for her superiors” and that in pleasing them she “enhanced job security for herself.” Those motivations, of course, may well describe why Mr. Biskupic prosecuted Ms. Thompson.

Should Mr. Biskupic resign? Can the citizens of Wisconsin have confidence in his ability to impartially judge the facts and make appropriate decisions about who to prosecute after the Georgia Thompson debacle?

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    The NYT is too kind (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by scribe on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 07:38:50 AM EST
    Let's look at the case, and the prosecutor, through the lens of the Milwaukee alt-weekly and its editorial, which I linked to in a comment to my diary, "Rove is toast":

    Last June, just as the race for governor was heating up, Georgia Thompson was convicted of improperly steering a state contract to the Adelman Travel Group, which is run by a politically involved family that has a history of favoring Democrats.

    OK, the NYT did touch on this, though without the detail of who Adelman is but with the detail that they were the lowest bidder.

    Predictably, almost daily headlines blaring the latest developments in the "travelgate" saga were used in campaign advertisements against Doyle. Mark Green supporters--right-wing WTMJ radio talkers and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel included--plumped up the allegations against Thompson and buried her defense, if it reported her side of the story at all.

    The NYT did get the added information that the Rethugs spent nearly $4 mil on trashing the Dems in the governor's race.  The Milwaukee paper names names of the Rethug media supporters, and the way their editorial pages worked against the defendant.

    (In interviews after the verdict, juror Marvin Bizzelle claimed that Doyle had orchestrated the whole matter, even though Biskupic didn't make that allegation. Gee, wonder where Bizzelle could have gotten that information? And why did he bring that information into deliberations, when jurors are supposed to render a verdict on the evidence brought forth in the courtroom?)

    Now, this is serious, and not explored anywhere else.  Either the Times didn't do it's homework, it's planning a follow-up, or it spiked a critical part of the story.  Any time a juror avers they had knowledge of "facts" (loosely defined) from outside the courtroom, they should have been tossed from the jury ab initio.  We just went through that with Poor Scooter Libby and scads of potential jurors tossed from judging him - because they didn't (or maybe didn't) like Deadeye Dick Cheney.

    Moreover, one can only conclude that the juror had been receptive of, if not attuned to, the extensive propagandistic coverage in the Milwaukee media.  Either he concluded from that coverage that the allegedly-corrupt Governor was behind all the stuff at the trial, or he got that from his own prejudices, or the prosecutor implied that at trial.  Any of these suffice to void a verdict and require an indepth look at the prosecutor.

    The case was curious from the beginning. As Thompson's attorney, Stephen Hurley, noted, the state worker was a civil servant hired during Republican Gov. Scott McCallum's tenure, making Thompson's supposed bias toward Doyle seem improbable; she didn't profit from the contract; no one else was named in connection with her supposed fraud; she didn't name names or plead to a lesser charge to save herself; and the contract did, indeed, go to the lowest bidder, as is required. So where's the crime?

    Everyne agrees on this, but the Times seems to go a little further in noting Georgia Thompson's lack of motive.

    But other factors bothered us. Why was Thompson charged with federal crimes? As we noted in a news article last summer, Thompson's attorney argued that "at best, the evidence demonstrates a violation of the applicable sections of the Wisconsin Administrative Code."

    Even then (and not being familiar with the Wisconsin Admin Code I'm surmising), it's kind of hard to violate the Admin Code, let alone a criminal statute, when you give the contract to the lowest responsible bidder, which she did.  Especially when it's a committee decision.

    It also seemed curious that Thompson was tried in the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Wisconsin, in Milwaukee. She lived and worked in Madison and was a state employee, and the fact that Adelman Travel's headquarters is located in Milwaukee has nothing to do with the case. Even though then-Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager and Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard helped to investigate the case, they declined to bring charges. But Biskupic, a Bush appointee, did, even though it really didn't have anything to do with his jurisdiction.

    The NYT touches on this, but misses the detail, and the connective thread in that detail.  The requirement for venue is based in statute and, most importantly, the Constitution.  Likewise for jurisdiction.  It's an outgrowth (or codification) of that phrase in the Declaration about King George taking us for trials across the seas.  But, in a world of Gitmo show trials, the Padilla judge turning her eye away from torture (and speedy trial violations, FWIW) so long as the government doesn't use anything from those sessions, the Moussaoui case (another one with venue issues), and the amendment to the so-called Patriot Act which removed the residency requirement for US Attorneys, I can't be surprised that the creep in enforcing venue and jurisdiction rules of law has spread to a local US Attorney trying to keep his job by orchestrating a political hit even if it was beyond his jurisdiction or venue.

    At the time of the trial, we wondered whether Biskupic truly believed he had a strong case, which would cause one to question his competence, or whether he knew that there really wasn't a case but succumbed to Republican political pressure.

    The Times comes down on the latter.  I'm tending to agree.

    But now, after weeks of news about Alberto Gonzales' Justice Department, we may have an answer to our questions. Feeling the political pressure, Biskupic first tried to find the massive voter fraud that the Republican Party and the Journal Sentinel, along with their talk-radio friends, screamed was rampant in the city of Milwaukee. They even provided hundreds of names of "illegal voters" that Biskupic attempted to track down. After spending tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars, he found that there was no rampant voter fraud.

    So Biskupic, in an attempt to satisfy his bosses, then went after Georgia Thompson. To destroy an innocent woman's life was no problem for Biskupic if it could be used to help defeat Gov. Doyle. Once Georgia Thompson was charged, the Republican Party, the Journal Sentinel and the right-wing talk-show hosts used this indictment to try to make Doyle look corrupt.

    The Times agrees, even though they might not hit as hard in saying so.

    Now Biskupic is at it again. He has indicted Dennis Troha for illegally channeling donations to Doyle. Once again, the political target of Biskupic is being tried in the press, on the front pages of the Journal Sentinel, which has already decided that Doyle is corrupt and just needs the right case--or perhaps the right prosecutor--to prove it.

    Now, this is interesting and deserving of further investigation, people of the NYT (and, for that matter, those who are fans of the Rubik's Cube, here).  It fits the Rethug methodology - use the same players and the same game plan over and over again.  

    The real question is why Biskupic hasn't investigated Troha family contributions of tens of thousands of dollars to U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan and President Bush. Rep. Ryan received more than $50,000 in campaign contributions from the Troha family. The only difference is that Paul Ryan actually introduced special-interest legislation for Troha, signed by Bush, that substantially increased the value of Troha's business. Ryan provided a clear quid pro quo and he should be investigated and perhaps indicted. Ryan, of course, denied he knew this was happening; however, when a congressman introduces special-interest legislation for a major contributor, what is he thinking about? If Biskupic is really trying to ferret out corruption, why isn't he investigating Ryan, where there is actually a smoking gun of corruption? But, wait a second, isn't Paul Ryan a Republican?

    And this, too requires more investigation.  But we won't get it from Biskupic.

    Lawyers: Can she sue Biskupic? (none / 0) (#2)
    by lilybart on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 08:19:41 AM EST
    I certainly hope that this woman can sue someone, at least to get her home back.

    This is disgusting.

    Biskupic (none / 0) (#3)
    by Carolyn in Baltimore on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 09:00:56 AM EST
    Biskupic responded that the indictment was done at the request of a dem state atty. I would like to see that bit of malarky looked at too.

    yeah, good luck (none / 0) (#4)
    by cpinva on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 09:11:25 AM EST
    on that. the only way she's ever going to get anything resembling her life back is to write a book or something, get a nice chunk for that.

    otherwise, she's shafted. absent being disbarred, which isn't going to happen, biskupic will just go into private practice, probably making 5 times what he makes now.

    unless someone finds a "smoking gun" memo or e-mail, good faith is sufficient to avoid any responsibility for a wrongful prosecution. incompetence isn't an actionable offense.

    whose fault? (none / 0) (#5)
    by diogenes on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 09:49:36 AM EST
    If Bisupic falsely indicted someone to bankrupt her and the case were resoundingly thrown out by the grand jury or even by the trial jury, then all these complaints would have some weight.  If a DA tries someone and the jury convicts that person, then the DA is doing his job unless the DA materially supressed evidence a la Mike Nifong.  

    It's called projection (none / 0) (#6)
    by TexDem on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 10:32:17 AM EST

    Mr. Biskupic made the creative argument that she gained by obtaining "political advantage for her superiors" and that in pleasing them she "enhanced job security for herself." Those motivations, of course, may well describe why Mr. Biskupic prosecuted Ms. Thompson.

    It's a favorite Rove technique one he learned well from Lee Atwater. So it appears has Mr Biskupic.

    According to Sigmund Freud, projection is a psychological defense mechanism whereby one "projects" one's own undesirable actions, thoughts, motivations, desires, feelings.

    The concept was anticipated by Friedrich Nietzsche:

        "He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you."

    In politics it's the process of accusing the opposition of doing the actions that you are engaged in.

    so this is why the Repugs (none / 0) (#7)
    by scribe on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 10:46:39 AM EST
    and their "consensus"-based decision making (in which no one is ever held accountable because no one ever decides, resemble nothing so much as the Bolsheviks?

    Like they spent 50 years (or 75, for some of the old-school) staring down the Commies and turned into them, from having studied all their outrages against humanity.



    If you mean (none / 0) (#11)
    by TexDem on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 12:57:25 PM EST
    trying to stifle the press,
    calling all dissenters unpatriotic,
    trying to have the party line institutionalized,
    and taught in schools,
    no habeas corpus,
    no right to counsel,
    filling the bureaucracy with party hacks,
    militarizing the economy
    and much, much more. Then yes that's what I mean.

    But originally I was talking of their claims that the Dems were trying to steal elections. And their claims that the Dems were trying to use their positions of influence to profit their cronies.

    There is not much that they do or say that isn't some form of projection. Under Rove it has/is SOP. Afterall this is a guy that bugged his own office and asked the press snarkily (when asked who he thought may have bugged his office),"Well who do you think has the most to gain from bugging my office?" And knowing they would follow his inference didn't bother to follow-up with the details, such as the transmitter could travel no further than fifty yards and only had battery power for 10 minutes or so.
    These things are documented by James Moore and Wayne Slatter in their book "Bush's Brain" from 2003.  


    At the time the case "broke" (none / 0) (#8)
    by Ben Masel on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 11:36:43 AM EST
    in the media, the Western District was in transition, J. B. Van Hollen having resigned to run for AG, and a new USA not yet having been appointed.

    Where's Sensenbrenner? (none / 0) (#9)
    by Ben Masel on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 11:42:19 AM EST
    With both of the state's Senate seats in Dem hands, under normal protocols the serior of the republican house members would have a role in any decision to replace the US Attorney. More so when that Rep. is Chair of House Judiciary. The most benign explanation for Bisk's being removed from the firing list would be Sensenbrenner's intervention, in contrast to New mexico, where Dominici was leading the charge to replace Iglesias.

    Lautenschlager didn't exactly decline (none / 0) (#10)
    by Ben Masel on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 11:53:14 AM EST
    The AG's powers to prosecute are quite limited. A State prosecution would have had to been brought by a County DA.

    "Projection" (none / 0) (#12)
    by diogenes on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 07:58:45 PM EST
    And I supposed Biskupioc engaged in the old tactic of Mesmirism to convince the Grand Jury/preliminiary hearing (whichever there was) and the trial jury to go along.