US Attorney Steven Biskupic repeatedly offered leniency to a Wisconsin state employee if she would provide evidence and testify against higher-ups in the administration of Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, a Madison weekly newspaper reported today.
In a copyright story in Isthmus, Bill Lueders reported: The federal prosecutors who put Georgia Thompson in prison, on charges later overturned by an appeals court as lacking in merit, repeatedly offered to go easy on her if she were to implicate others in the administration of Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle.
"They said she would have to testify before the grand jury against [former Department of Administration Secretary Marc] Marotta and Gov. Doyle," says Stephen Hurley, Thompson's attorney.
The charges against Thompson, tried during a hotly contested 2006 governor's race, were the basis for a number of negative television commercials run by Republican and conservative groups, painting Doyle's administration as corrupt.
After her conviction, Thompson was not allowed to remain free on bail while her case was appealed, and she went to federal prison to begin serving an 18-month sentence.
Four months later, the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the conviction and ordered her freed the same day the three-judge panel heard oral arguments.
One judge called the evidence against her "beyond thin,' and the judges seemed incredulous that she had been charged, convicted and imprisoned when, they said, she had not committed a crime.Biskupic's handling of the case has been questioned as part of the broader inquiry into the firings of a number of US attorneys by the Bush administration.
Biskupic's name once was on a list of eight who were candidates for dismissal, but his name came off the list and he kept his job.Biskupic offered no evidence at the trial that Thompson, accused of improperly steering a state travel contract to a Doyle friend and donor, had been asked or pressured to do so by any of her superiors.
A civil servant who was hired when a Republican held the governor's office, Ms. Thompson testified she was not a political person. Testimony said she was not even aware of any donations to Doyle's campaign.
But, as Isthmus reports: Biskupic, in his closing argument, sought to tie Thompson's conduct to the conduct of others.
"Mr. Hurley keeps saying there is not a shred of evidence," Biskupic told the jury, before listing a series of events involving other players, including Doyle and Marotta. "She's the link. She's the one who made this happen. What a terrible coincidence for her that she is in the middle of all this...."
This line of argument apparently worked. One juror later told a reporter that "nobody in the jury room had any doubt whatsoever" that Doyle and others were involved - a conclusion not supported by any evidence.
Biskupic even tried again after the conviction to get Thompson to implicate others, Hurley said.
According to Hurley and co-counsel Marcus Berghahn, U.S. Attorney Steven Biskupic and others in his office made offers of leniency prior to filing charges against Thompson and again before the start of her trial.
"I began to get the impression that the indictment was being used to squeeze her," says Hurley, noting that these overtures continued even after Thompson's sentencing.