This Thanksgiving weekend is an apt time for those of us enjoying family and freedom to reflect about those being prosecuted in the United States primarily for political purposes.
Let's examine the Justice Department's crusades against former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, a Republican, and former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, his state's leading Democrat.
They are among those who are being punished for political reasons far out of proportion to any offense. Victims include Siegelman's Alabama co-defendant Richard Scrushy, a Republican businessman and father of nine imprisoned on a seven-year term solely because he donated in 1999 and 2000 to Siegelman's favorite non-profit, the Alabama Education Foundation.
Recent developments in the Kerik and Siegelman/Scrushy cases underscore the Obama administration's shameful efforts against defendants, their families and whistleblowers at vast taxpayer expense. The result is to extend and cover up previous abuses.
The Kerik Case
As context, the U.S. House this month censured former Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel for tax and other ethics violations. The shame prompted tears from the New York Democrat.
But there is no report of a criminal investigation of the charges, which are arguably more serious than those that imprisoned Kerik last spring on a four-year term.
This holiday season, Kerik is in a Maryland federal correction center under a term that exceeds both his plea bargain agreement and federal sentencing guidelines. Meanwhile, his savings and other ability to provide for his wife and two young daughters has been destroyed by more than $4.6 million in legal bills, creating massive debt.
Each case is different, of course. But it's obvious that Kerik's prosecutors and his Democratic judge bullied him into his plea with abusive tactics. The abuses still infuriate Kerik's largely voiceless and otherwise powerless 5,000 Facebook supporters around the nation, some of whom have contacted our Justice Integrity Project (JIP).
The pre-trial smears of Kerik by authorities have been so effective that JIP has found virtually no one in the mainstream media willing to cover the irregularities, aside from the cutting-edge reporting of Geraldo Rivera at Fox News and the writers at Newsmax. Even experienced journalists take the position that a defendant who pleads guilty forfeits any in-depth review by journalists aside from routine coverage of appeals.
We have documented in Nieman Watchdog reports here and here the outrageous tactics by authorities who jailed Kerik in pre-trial solitary confinement until he agreed to plead. Earlier, they smeared him pre-trial leaks to the press, stripped him of his attorneys, and secretly prevented him from obtaining exculpatory testimony.
The defendant is shown above with his wife just after his sentencing in February.
Further illustrating the vast discretion wielded by authorities and the potential for favoritism for those with the right connections, the Obama administration permitted U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, a former president of the New York Federal Reserve, to pay his $35,000 in back taxes and interest with no late fee.