Saturday, April 18, 2009

Meet Brenda K. Morris and the $1.34 Million Misconduct Settlement

(Image: Copyright 2008, J. Scott Applewhite / AP)

Ms. Brenda K. Morris, Deputy Chief of the Public Integrity Section of the U.S. Department of Justice, has garnered fame as one of the six prosecutors responsible for the withholding of evidence in the case against U.S. Senator Ted Stevens which was recently tossed out.

The prosecutorial misconduct in the Stevens case shows deep patterns of inappropriate and unethical conduct throughout the DOJ. But Morris' misdeeds appear to have been a standard operating procedure. Mind you she's a shining star and the patron saint of "public integrity" for the Rove Republican Racket

Now comes an eye-opening column from Houston Chronicle columnist Rick Casey about Morris' behavior from 2002, when the Rove Republican Racket was at its infancy:

A San Antonio federal judge expressed similar feelings about Morris and her team seven years ago. The feds had obtained a search warrant to search the office and home of criminal defense attorney Alan Brown for evidence of tax cheating and money laundering, but U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia ruled the search to be unconstitutional and barred prosecutors from using what they had collected. In seeking the search warrant, Garcia ruled, investigators misled a U.S. magistrate by failing to disclose that their primary source, a former office manager for Brown named Kelly Houston, had fallen in love with one of Brown’s clients, a drug trafficker whose 18-year federal sentence she hoped to get reduced by turning on Brown. Finding that an agent told the magistrate Houston was truthful even when he knew she had lied about some key financial documents, Garcia called the government’s conduct “reprehensible.” Morris appealed the ruling and, meanwhile, used a technicality to move the case to Austin. The 5th Circuit reversed Garcia’s ruling but ordered Austin federal Judge Lee Yeakel to address the issue. Yeakel’s rhetoric wasn’t as rough, but in 2005 he also found the search to be unconstitutional. Brown was tried in Austin on accusations of hiding more than $500,000 of income over four years. Morris put on 86 witnesses over 29 days of testimony. Witnesses for the defense included two former federal prosecutors and the former first assistant district attorney for Bexar County. It took the jury less than an hour and a half to find Brown innocent. One of the jurors, the wife of an evangelical pastor, held a party at her home for Brown, his wife and the other jurors. Charges against Brown’s wife, Jean, a family lawyer, were dropped. Unlike most defendants, however, the Browns weren’t content to give praise and try to rebuild their lives. They sued the federal government. One of the fine things about filing a lawsuit is that you get to subpoena all sorts of documents. “And the thing is, because I had been acquitted they couldn’t claim that the documents were part of an ongoing investigation,” said Brown on Friday. Among the e-mails he says he recalls was one in which an agent discussed indicting his wife without sufficient evidence because it would get Brown to accept a plea bargain. What else was in the mounds of papers? We will likely never know. Rather than go to trial, the government in 2007 settled the case for $1.34 million. Brown says he was required to return all the papers he had obtained.