Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Big Mouth U.S. Attorney

Breaking News from New Jersey... From the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON — The top federal prosecutor in New Jersey is facing an internal ethics investigation over public comments that may have helped his ex-boss' campaign for governor, law enforcement officials told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

The probe marks a particularly embarrassing turn for federal authorities charged with weeding out corruption in scandal-scarred New Jersey: An internal affairs investigation has been launched into their handling of a major corruption case just days after they filed charges in the case.The investigation by the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility is another potential embarrassment for the department, which already has acknowledged mishandling other high-profile public corruption cases, particularly the botched prosecution of former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens.

Such internal investigations are rarely acknowledged publicly, and the results are usually unknown. Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler declined to comment or even confirm the existence of the probe in New Jersey.

At issue are comments [U.S. Attorney Ralph] Marra made at a news conference last month announcing the arrests of 44 people as part of a sweeping federal corruption probe. Of those arrested, 29 were elected or public officials — a high count even in a state with a reputation for official misdeeds.

Asked about the issue of corruption in the state, Marra said: "There are easily reforms that could be made within this state that would make our job easier, or even take some of the load off our job. There are too many people that profit off the system the way it is and so they have no incentive to change it. The few people that want to change it seem to get shouted down. So how long that cycle's going to continue I just don't know."

Justice Department guidelines say a prosecutor "shall refrain from making extrajudicial comments that pose a serious and imminent threat of heightening public condemnation of the accused."