Cross Posted at Legal Schnauzer
Federal prosecutors apparently intend to retry the Alabama bingo case, even though a juror in the first trial said the panel voted overwhelmingly to acquit across the board.
U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson yesterday set the second trial for October 3. Prosecutors are proposing three separate trials this time, even though they opposed defense requests for separate trials earlier. The first trial ended last week with full acquittals for two defendants and a mix of not guilty and no decision for the other seven defendants.
What to make of all this? A leading legal commentator says GOP felon Jack Abramoff maintains an ugly grip on Alabama politics. And in a twisted piece of irony, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) seems to be supporting Abramoff-style skulduggery.
A reasonable person might expect federal prosecutors to be dissuaded by the fact that jurors in the first trial voted 8 to 4 for across-the-board acquittals. But that reasonable person would be wrong. One can only wonder what Obama attorney general Eric Holder is thinking--or if he is thinking at all.
One round of humiliation apparently is not enough for the Obama Justice Department. They want more. An expensive second federal trial, on charges that clearly are driven by Republican politics, would come as the president is being attacked for excessive spending . . . by Republicans.
Raise your hand if the DOJ's actions make zero sense to you. Raise your hand if you hope that a genuine progressive runs a primary campaign against the incredible shrinking Democrat in the White House. (Both of my hands are up.)
Scott Horton, legal-affairs contributor at Harper's, says the Alabama bingo case is the DOJ's "highest-profile political litigation since its botched prosecution of former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens." How bad does the Obama DOJ look in all of this? Horton lays it out in a piece titled "Justice Department Rolls Snake Eyes in Alabama Gambling Trial." Writes Horton:
The prosecution showed Justice to be firmly aligned with Alabama's then-governor, Republican Bob Riley, who had leveled the initial vote-buying accusations during a heated election-time political debate over gambling issues. Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer touted the case against the Alabama politicians as "astonishing" when he announced the arrests. The jury, however, turned out to be quite unimpressed with the evidence offered.
How unimpressed were the jurors? Teresa Tolbert (photo, above), a rural mail carrier who spent 10 weeks serving on the bingo jury, said it would have been hard for jurors to be more unimpressed:
In a phone interview with The Associated Press, Teresa Tolbert said she was among those favoring acquittal on all charges. She said federal prosecutor Justin Shur told the jury in his opening statement that wiretapped phone calls and secretly recorded meetings would tell a story of greed and corruption at the Alabama Legislature, but the tapes never lived up to his billing.
"From the very beginning when we were listening to the tapes, I was like, 'Surely this can't be all they have.' I kept waiting and waiting," she said.
Prosecution witnesses were almost as ineffective as the tapes, Tolbert said, and she predicted it would be difficult to get a conviction in a retrial: