Monday, December 28, 2009

Hope for Paul Minor

Paul Minor, the prominent Democratic fundraiser from Mississippi, targeted by the Rove Repubican Racket in part with the "dishonest" honest-services crime, now sees hope and possible liberation from federal prison. Earlier this month, several criminal charges against Minor were tossed out.

The Associated Press writes:

JACKSON (AP) — Disbarred lawyer Paul Minor and two judges he’s accused of bribing hope an unrelated case before the U.S. Supreme Court will get them out of prison. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has said the federal statute for honest-services fraud is too broad, joking it could make a crime of a worker calling in sick so he could go to a ball game.

A recent hearing before the Supreme Court has many legal experts believing the high court is poised to strike down the statute, which makes it illegal for public officials to fraudulently deprive constituents of honest services. Some observers say such a move would help Minor and former Coast judges Wes Teel and John Whitfield.

In March 2007 a federal jury convicted the three on corruption charges because Minor had helped to guarantee or pay off loans of the judges, who heard some of his cases. It was a scheme, prosecutors said, to influence the judges’ decisions and deprive the state of their honest service. They were convicted of bribery, conspiracy and fraud, and Minor also was found guilty of racketeering.

If justices throw out the statute, it would be the second victory for the three, which saw a panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently toss out all their bribery convictions after finding a lack of federal jurisdiction. Matt Steffey, professor at the Mississippi College School of Law, said the application of the federal bribery statute to a state court judge whose salary and office receives no federal funds is “shaky at best.” He said he believes they would go free if the high court finds the honest-services statute unconstitutional.

“There is some possibility that prosecutors will say the claim is procedurally barred,” he said. The 5th Circuit ruling on the bribery charges means they could be resentenced on the remaining charges. It’s not clear how much the reversal will reduce Minor’s sentence; he got the most time for a racketeering conviction, which was upheld.