Madison, WI—When observers outside Wisconsin hear of the Georgia Thompson prosecution thrown out of a federal appellate court, the reaction is indignant, often mixed in with a bit of “in Wisconsin?”
Today's editorial in the New York Times by Adam Cohen, “A Woman Wrongly Convicted and a U.S. Attorney Who Kept His Job,” is of that piece.
Cohen blasts US Atty Biskupic and appears incensed by the whole affair.
Some highlights from the piece advancing the Biskupic scandal:
- “Members of Congress should ask whether it was by coincidence or design that Steven Biskupic, the United States attorney in Milwaukee, turned a flimsy case into a campaign issue that nearly helped Republicans win a pivotal governor’s race….” (Note: Congress is.)
- “There was good reason for the appeals court to be shocked.”
- “To charge her, Mr. Biskupic had to look past a mountain of evidence of innocence. Ms. Thompson was not a Doyle partisan. She was a civil servant, hired by a Republican governor, with no identifiable interest in politics.”
- “While Ms. Thompson did her job conscientiously, that is less clear of Mr. Biskupic. The decision to award the contract — the supposed crime — occurred in Madison, in the jurisdiction of Wisconsin’s other United States attorney. But for reasons that are hard to understand, the Milwaukee-based Mr. Biskupic swept in and took the case.”
- “While he was investigating, in the fall of 2005, Mr. Biskupic informed the media. Justice Department guidelines say federal prosecutors can publicly discuss investigations before an indictment only under extraordinary circumstances. This case hardly met that test.”
- “…Mr. Biskupic may have known that his bosses in Washington expected him to use his position to help Republicans win elections, and then did what they wanted.”
- “That would be ironic indeed. 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.”
Cohen’s sense of irony is shared by Thompson’s attorney, Stephen Hurley.
In early April, a couple of days after Thompson was ordered freed, Hurley said: “The great irony of the case is that having been wrongfully prosecuted for doing her job for allegedly political reasons, now the question is being asked whether the government engaged in this same behavior.”
Cohen reminds readers that an innocent woman lies beneath the political, Republican machinations that he describes.
Fortunately, for the innocent Thompson, Cohen’s sense of justice is also shared by a talented attorney and many fellow citizens—a needed check on the enormous powers of the offices of the US Attorney.