Tuesday, December 22, 2009

U.S. Attorneys Blasted in Georgia

On November 18th, Mark Shelnutt (pictured), a prominent criminal attorney in Columbus, Georgia, was acquitted, found not guilty on all 36 charges brought against him by the U.S.Attorney's Office of the Middle District of Georgia.

The Rove Republican Racket, upset that Shelnutt had successfully defended those accused of criminal conduct and embarrassed aggressive prosecutors, targeted Shelnutt. They accused him, among the 36 charges, of distributing cocaine and money laundering.

A smear campaign, a hit job.

Now, a month later, allegations of prosecutorial misconduct by federal prosecutors have received harsh words from the Judge who oversaw the case. The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer wrote Friday:

U.S. District Court Judge Clay Land is continuing his harsh criticism for the U.S. attorneys in the failed prosecution of Columbus attorney Mark Shelnutt.“The Court was particularly struck by the zeal with which the U.S. Attorney’s Office pursued Shelnutt and the Court became concerned when it learned of information suggesting that the U.S. Attorney’s Office had crossed the line from independent prosecutor to law enforcement,” Land wrote.

Land pointed to the actions of an assistant U.S. attorney who wore a hidden wire and recorded an interview with Shelnutt. When Shelnutt asked the prosecutor if he was recording it, the U.S. attorney lied. In a pretrial hearing and in the Shelnutt trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Ferguson of the Middle District of Georgia Office based in Albany testified he did not tell Shelnutt the truth when Shelnutt asked him if he was wearing a recording device.

Land also questioned the deals that some of the defendants received from the U.S. attorneys in exchange for testimony against Shelnutt. “The Court became concerned that the focus of the U.S. Attorney’s Office was on getting a high-profile lawyer and negotiating sweetheart plea deals with the actual drug dealers to accomplish that,” Land wrote. The “defendant’s deal was not the only sweetheart deal in the various cases arising from this massive conspiracy,” Land wrote.
The prosecutorial misconduct and jury's vindication has caused Shelnutt to file a  motion "asking a federal judge to award him attorney fees and expenses, arguing that prosecutors waged a 'baseless, vexatious, frivolous, bad faith, harassing and stubborn' case against him," according to a report in today's Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.