After Tuesday's revelations from Karl Rove's testimony about the mid-term firing of U.S. attorneys for political reasons, forensic expert Dr. Cyril Wecht gave a powerful, first-person account Aug. 13 of what it's like when one of the "loyal Bushie" U.S. attorneys targets a Democrat for absolute destruction.
Speaking on the Washington Update segment of theMy Technology Lawyer Radio show that I co-host, Wecht focused especially on how political prosecutions affect targets. He is a former Democratic U.S. Senate candidate in Pennsylvania and former Democratic party chairman for Allegheny County, which encompasses Pittsburgh. Primarily, he is a leader in forensic medical teaching and consulting.
Now 78, he's also $6 million in debt from legal fees to win vindication from 84 federal felony charges. The former county coroner faced 27 counts of using an office fax machine for personal matters that he estimates at less than $15 total cost to the government, and faced 34 felonies accusing him of a total of $1,500 in disputed mileage reimbursements over five years.
Republican former U.S. Attorney Gen. Dick Thornburgh, a Wecht attorney, has called the allegations politically motivated. After a hung jury in Wecht's first trial, Republican U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan was forced to drop charges in June during a second prosecution because for lack of evidence. But she continued to denounce Wecht even after that.
To document similar cases around the U.S., Project Save Justice Vice President Gail Sistrunk, another guest on the radio show, this year co-produced a video documentary: "The Political Prosecutions of Karl Rove" about the former Bush White House political advisor.
On Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday released long-awaited testimony by Rove and former White House Counsel Harriet Miers about their suspected roles in helping the Justice Department fire nine of the nation's 93 U.S. attorneys during a mid-term purge in 2006 that was unprecedented in U.S. history. After fighting subpoenas nearly two years, Rove conceded a role in several firings. These included President Bush's first New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias, who had been secretly criticized by Republicans for failing to bring prosecutions against Democratic targets in time for Election Day in 2006.
But in his testimony released Tuesday, Rove seemed to deny any direct input on criminal cases before the Justice Department, although his comments were laced with qualifiers citing memory loss -- a classic non-denial denial. In the same way, he seemed to deny any contact with key officials, including those directly involved with the U.S. Attorney firings. He specifically denied a role or couldn't remember details regarding the now-controversial prosecution of Democratic former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman.
More generally, Alabama Middle District U.S. Attorney Leura Canary remains in office following what a Justice Department official described in 2005 as a need for "loyal Bushies," as does Wecht prosecutor Buchanan.
On Aug. 15, I'll moderate a panel discussion exploring these issues in Pittsburgh at the annual Netroots Nation convention for independent journalists. The panelists will be Siegelman, Sistrunk, Wecht and his lead counsel Jerry McDevitt of K&L Gates, Thornburgh's law firm.
The Aug. 13 radio show was co-hosted by the show's founder Richard Scott Draughon. A Listen Live! link (www.MyTechnologyLawyer.com/wireless) connects listeners to the radio-stream or to archives of previous shows. Radio listeners can call in questions at 866-685-7469 or by radio@MyTechnologyLawyer.com. As a listener advisory: MAC computer users need a tool called "Parallels" to listen to a Windows Media Player. Also, some companies block such programs from their office mainframes.
About Dr. Cyril H. Wecht
Cyril Wecht, who holds both MD and JD degrees, is the former coroner of Allegheny County in Pennsylvania. A forensic pathologist, he has served as president of medical societies, professor at medical schools, and author of leading publications and books. Among his current posts, he is founder of a consultancy in his name, staff president of Saint Francis Central Hospital in Pittsburgh, and a clinical professor at the University of Pittsburgh Schools of Medicine, Dental Medicine, and Graduate School of Public Health. Also he provides expert commentary to the public about disputes surrounding the deaths of such political leaders as President Kennedy and such celebrities as Elvis Presley.
About Project Save Justice
Project Save Justice educates the public about the U.S. Justice Department. Its current focus is on political prosecutions of elected officials, their families and fundraisers. Research on hundreds of such cases is summarized in a documentary video, "The Political Prosecutions of Karl Rove," produced by film maker John McTiernan ("Die Hard," etc.) and the organization's Vice President and Executive Director Gail Sistrunk. The video is available for free at: www.politicalprosecutions.org. Sistrunk is a former college president who reopened one of the first campuses devastated by Hurricane Katrina.