Friday, April 06, 2007

Biskupic Owes the Public He Represents in Court an Explanation

I don't have much to add on the overruling of the Georgia Thompson conviction that hasn't already been said here and here, among other places.

The case didn't start off aimed at Thompson. But when Steve Biskupic realized he wasn't going to get anywhere else, he decided to save face by throwing the hammer down as hard as he could on Thompson. He even asked the court for a longer sentence in federal prison. A year and a half wasn't long enough for him; he wanted a full two years.

And maybe not showing up at an appeals hearing on arguably your biggest case of the year is commonplace for US attorneys, but it sure sounds pretty pathetic to me.

There were already questions being raised about Biskupic's place in the US attorneys controversy, and I'm sure this incident will intensify those questions. Time will tell if there's anything to the answers.

I'm sure someone will come out with a defense of Biskupic, claiming that he was only doing his job and if there was nothing to the case the conviction wouldn't have happened in the first place.

But there's almost always a chance for conviction in political cases that are as publicly hyped as the Thompson one. Add to that the reputation federal trials have for being unpredictable -- which is why most defendants take a plea before trial, something Thompson, tellingly, didn't do before her trial or her sentencing -- and the initial conviction looks a lot less impressive.

As Marquette law professor Michael O'Hear put it: "The fact is, the sentences are so tough in the federal system, the best way to get any sort of a break on the sentence is to plead guilty and cooperate. Very few defendants are willing to roll the dice. Even some with very excellent defenses are just not willing to take a chance, because trials are kind of random."

Once a sober audience had a chance to look at the case, though, it took them only a few hours -- when deliberations on cases like this usually take a few weeks -- to toss the conviction and call the prosecution's case "beyond thin." Listening to the audio of the appeals court testimony, it's clear that, as much as anything, the judges were in utter disbelief about why charges were even filed in the first place.

And let's not forget this case, which was practically laughed out of the appeals court, was the state's case. Biskupic was representing the people with this "beyond thin" case.

I think Biskupic owes the public that he represents in court an explanation beyond this useless three sentence statement. What the public deserves to know, among other things, is why Biskupic chose to use public resources on a case that it took an appeals court a virtually unprecedented amount of quickness to dismiss.

If Biskupic wants to wait until the full appeals decision is out, that's fine. But an explanation is owed.

UPDATE: Jessica McBride speculates that Biskupic's flimsy case was just the result of "an aggressive prosecutor":
I am willing to bet that Biskupic looked at the case and thought something was rotten there. He thought, put the screws to the lower level player in the tough case with imperfect evidence to see if she will flip on those really responsible. That's how aggressive prosecutors work.
Considering it landed a woman in federal prison for four months, I hope Biskupic has a better explanation than that it was just a fishing expedition that happened to come up empty.

And trying to land a bigger fish doesn't even start to explain why Biskupic called for two years at sentencing. What was he hoping to get out of that? Did he honestly think she'd sit in her cell for awhile and then decide to finally roll over on someone?

I think he knew full well by sentencing that she wasn't rolling anywhere because there was no one for her to roll over on. That fact was obviously abundantly clear to the three appeals court judges. Which brings us back to the question, what exactly was Biskupic doing with this case?

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Anonymous m.z. forrest said...

I have never heard federal trials described as unpredictable. They tend to be somewhat efficient, and the prosecution almost always wins, but none of that is really exceptional.

April 06, 2007  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

How often do you hear anything about federal trials? I don't hear much, myself, so I'm just going off what the Marquette law professor said about them. I imagine he hears a lot more.

Even if you prefer to argue federal trials favor the prosecution, that doesn't change my fundamental point that the initial conviction wasn't all that impressive. In fact, it would make that fundamental point stronger.

April 06, 2007  
Blogger Russ said...

I never thought Georgia Thompson acted on her own. I thought she was told to give Adelman the contract by a superior. However, when she was convicted by a jury, I accepted it. I now believe, IF the facts show that Adelman Travel did not provide the best deal then the search for the person that directed Thompson should continue.
Let's face it, allowing high Dollar special interest group campaign contributions, as we do in Wisconsin is highly problematic. No individual or special interest group will give tens of thousands Dollars without getting something in return. The dictionary has a word for it, bribary. We need to cap the Dollar amount from both individuals and special interest groups.

April 06, 2007  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

You're changing the subject of the post, Russ.

And in the second round of bidding, Adelman did have the lowest bid. Going with Adelman did save the state money (until the contract was cancelled). The issue was over sending it to a second round. Thompson thought the numbers were close enough to warrant a second round, the rest of the committee didn't.

And company execs donate money all of the time to campaigns without getting something tangible in return for it. Most just want access and favored consideration on legislation. I don't think that's a good thing. You're right that there's a problem with money in campaigns. But that's just not the issue here.

April 06, 2007  
Blogger Dad29 said...

The issue was 'whether the contract was awarded based on considerations BEYOND price.'

A jury found her guilty--not Biskupic, not the district judge.

It's not "politics" to prosecute malfeasance, Seth. And there's still no written decision which thoroughly explains the Appeals decision.

May be worth waiting for...

Is there such a thing as 'prosecutorial misconduct'? Yeah. Look at the persecution of DeLay, or the Duke case, e.g.

April 07, 2007  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

The initial conviction doesn't impress me, Dad29. As I explain the post, the publicity surrounding the case and the randomness of federal trials demonstrate that fact. How quickly the appeals court rejected the conviction speaks volumes.

And I agree it's important to wait for the full appeals decision. As I write in the post: "If Biskupic wants to wait until the full appeals decision is out, that's fine."

But an explanation is owed for why Biskupic used public resources to prosecute a "beyond thin" case. I don't accuse him of doing this for political reasons. All I expect from him is to explain what his reasons were. And if it was just a fishing expedition, I'd like to know the purpose of pushing for two years in prison at sentencing.

And claiming Delay and Cunningham were "persecuted" is beyond ridiculous. Cunningham was in tears when publicly apologizing for what he did. I suppose that's because he really didn't do anything wrong, huh?

April 07, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Biskupic would be wise to explain his reasons, and fast, because others of his political party are doing it for him. Jessica McBride, whose husband was a DA who worked with Biskupic on cases, said Biskupic went after Georgia Thompson to make her "turn" on the governor. Going after a state employee with an excellent record, one who had been working 12-hour days and weekends because the state short-staffed her office -- going after her the same way that the feds go after the Mafia, to get one to "turn"?

That is despicable, but Biskupic is not denying it. If it is not true, he ought to say so -- because others close to him are saying it for him. But if he won't talk, how to find out? Obviously, go after one of his employees to get one to "turn" on him.

April 07, 2007  
Blogger Dad29 said...

Not "Duke" Cunningham--

The Duke Lacrosse team "rape" case...

I'm also curious about Biskupic's rationale--but it was (apparently) shared by Blanchard and Lautenschlaeger.

THAT's (perhaps) a bigger problem--the fact that "hardball" prosecutions are a bi-partisan sport.

April 09, 2007  
Anonymous somethingsrotten said...

Jessica McBride instinctually and historically would not, like a good conservative talk show host, explore the political backgrounds of appellate court judges. That would be disrespectful. She then explores the backgrounds of the judges. It must be the instinct of a “normal” woman, not a conservative talk show host that drives her to this lack of respect.
She says that “one” could question the appellate court judges going against the prosecution, jury and federal judge. “One” could argue that they were supplanting their verdict in stead of the juries. They were not sitting in the court room.
What a tool! She then says that Somethingsrotten in the state of Denmark. Of course I am. That’s where I live. Anybody that believes this drivel must qualify for Somebody’s stupid in the state of Wisconsin.
I can be just as blunt as Jessica McBride.
Did anybody believe that Rove wants to politicize the US Attorney institution to be used against the Democrats?
Did anybody believe that The Republicans in Wisconsin were complicit?
Does anyone believe that Steve Biskupic failed to get the amount of voter corruption convictions that the republicans that the Attorney General’s office wanted?

Does that have anything to do with why he proceeded with this witch hunt?
And honey, it’s not an “alleged bid ridding case“ when the case was dismissed. It is what normal people call a miscarriage of justice, but when politics are involved it’s a republican abortion of justice.

April 09, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And now Jessica Mc and her ilk are using Lautenschlager's alleged imprimatur (it's just a professional courtesy) to try to clear Biskupic.

This would be the same Lautenschlager that Jessica and her ilk did not think had the ability to do the job of AG -- the job that Jessica's husband wanted.

It makes the mind reel, if "one" has a mind.

April 09, 2007  
Anonymous Mobile's Take said...

I guess sacrificing one's liberty must be O.K. with Jessica McBride. It just infuriates me to know that one can lose their liberty on such flimsy evidence. All to influence a damn election.

April 09, 2007  
Anonymous m.z. forrest said...

Even if you prefer to argue federal trials favor the prosecution, that doesn't change my fundamental point that the initial conviction wasn't all that impressive.

Personally, I don't believe convictions are all that convincing. I cynically believe our justice system is a joke, both federal and state.

Of course, we live in a society largely devoid of a cultural ethic. Did any businesses cease doing business with Adelman after it was learned that they were bribing the governor? No.

The federal conviction rate exceeds 80%. State conviction rates are nearly as high. Add plea bargains into the equation, and it is simply nonsensical for the Marquette law prof to make the allegation he did.

April 09, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is Steve related to Vince Biskupic from Appleton - who made deals to let individuals avoid prosecution?

April 10, 2007  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

They're brothers.

April 11, 2007  

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