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Alabama Arrests Mark a Dismal Episode for the Obama DOJ

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Cross Posted at Legal Schnauzer

A charitable grader might have given the Obama Department of Justice a "D" roughly 20 months into the administration. But that grade surely would fall to an "F" after yesterday's arrests of 11 individuals connected to an investigation of gambling-related activities in the Alabama Legislature.

How bad does the Obama DOJ look in all of this? Let us count the ways. The investigation was initiated by two of the most corrupt U.S. attorneys from the George W. Bush era. The prosecution team includes at lead four prosecutors who have been involved in dubious cases. The indictments clearly were timed to have an impact on the November elections. To top it off, U.S. Rep. Artur Davis (D-AL), an Obama buddy, piped up and revealed himself to be even more of a weasel than we already thought he was.

Most importantly, however, the investigation covered only one side of a two-pronged controversy, and DOJ officials flatly lied to the public about the scope of their handiwork.

In short, yesterday's charade in Alabama almost makes you yearn for the good old days of the Bush administration. At least you expected them to act like crooks--and were rarely disappointed. But what is Team Obama thinking? The federal anti-gambling probe in Alabama has been positively Rovian in its execution. And that's about as shameful as it can get.

Yesterday's arrests were the culmination of a two-year campaign, led by Governor Bob Riley, to make sure that Alabama does not have taxed and regulated gambling. The evidence is overwhelming that Riley is trying to protect the market share of Mississippi Choctaw gaming interests who funneled some $13 million into Alabama to help Riley beat Don Siegelman in 2002.

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That money reportedly was funneled through GOP felons Jack Abramoff and Michael Scanlon. But did the Obama DOJ look into that side of the equation? Evidently not. And one can only conclude that side of the story was ignored for political reasons. In fact, it appears political considerations are the whole reason the Obama DOJ has inexplicably left Bush holdover Leura Canary as U.S. attorney in the Middle District of Alabama. (Canary's Bush-appointed buddy, Alice Martin, initiated this probe before leaving office in the Northern District of Alabama.)

To be sure, the 65-page indictment that was unsealed yesterday includes plenty of information that appears to be damaging to the state senators, lobbyists, and casino figures who were arrested. As TPM Muckraker reports, the indictment includes snippets of phone conversations that include salty language and talk of highly questionable actions by some parties. It's certainly possible that pro-gambling forces committed criminal acts.

But what about the anti-gambling forces? Did anyone wear a wire around Riley or his associates? Did anyone listen in on their phone conversations, track their phone records, or check their e-mail accounts? To a great extent, this controversy started when Riley took it upon himself to initiate raids on gambling facilities, actions that he did not have authority to take under Alabama law at the time. On whose behalf was Riley acting? Who was pulling his strings?

Did anyone in the Obama DOJ even consider these questions, much less ask them? Apparently not.

While the indictment looks bad for some of the defendants, consider the "all star" prosecution team that has been gathered for this enterprise. It includes Brenda Morris, who is being investigated for her role in the botched Ted Stevens case in Alaska. It includes Louis Franklin and Stephen Feaga, who are infamous for their many questionable actions in the Don Siegelman case in Alabama. And it includes Peter Ainsworth, who was involved in the Paul Minor fiasco in Mississippi.

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The U.S. Public Integrity Section (PIN), which has become a cesspool of corruption itself, is at the heart of the Alabama bingo case. Multiple PIN lawyers are under investigation for misconduct in the Stevens case, and one of its members recently committed suicide as the findings were nearing a release. In other words, a corrupt organization has been assigned to investigation corruption in Alabama. That, folks, is how our justice system actually "works."

USA Today already is generating a multi-part series on prosecutorial misconduct in the DOJ. The reporters on that series might want to send a special unit to check out the dubious crowd on the Alabama bingo case.

Want hard evidence that this investigation was a sham? In early May, we reported that former Riley insider Bill Johnson had written a letter to Canary, asking to testify before the grand jury about the governor's anti-gambling activities. Here is part of Johnson's letter, which focused on the early days of the Riley regime:

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I live in Birmingham, Alabama, and work in higher education. I became interested in justice-related issues after experiencing gross judicial corruption in Alabama state courts. This corruption has a strong political component. The corrupt judges are (more...)
 

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