Michael Horne
Plenty of Horne

Georgia Thompson Sprung

By - Apr 5th, 2007 12:00 pm

The U. S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals this afternoon reversed the conviction of Georgia Thompson that had been sought and won by U. S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin Steven Biskupic. I have been able to download the oral arguments from the hearing held this morning. The case was argued and decided on April 5th, 2007 (today).

It is not easy to determine who is speaking in the 26 minute tape, but the judges in Chicago did not seem very pleased with the case against Thompson. The panel consisted of Hon. Frank H. Easterbrook, Chief Judge; Hon. William J. Bauer, and Hon. Diane P. Wood, Circuit Judges. They seemed swayed by arguments that Thompson, although she may have been aware that Adelman Travel Group was a Wisconsin company with ties to Governor Doyle, had nothing to gain by her participation in the decision on the state travel contract, was at the “highest level of civil service,” and therefore could not expect a promotion and had no pecuniary interest in the contract.

Judge Wood noted that the owners of Adelman travel met with Governor Doyle, who agreed to speak at the company’s 20th anniversary. “Governors are political people; they are not judges, they make speeches.” She added that the owners made political contributions to Doyle within the level permitted by law.

“At least in comparison with other cases we have seen, this is a pretty thin set of facts to show a relationship.”

Judge Wood went on, “Is there anything else? Am I missing something?”

“No, your honor,” the U.S. Attorney said, “That’s it.”

Thompson was ordered released from prison. She had been held at the Federal Correctional Institution in Pekin, Illinois, a minimum-security institution for women. Her original release date had been scheduled for March 16th, 2008.

The court issued a reversal of conviction, directing the case be remanded with instructions to enter a judgment of acquittal. “An opinion will be issued in due course,” the court said, adding, “but Thompson is entitled to immediate release from prison, on her own recognizance. The United States must make arrangements so that she may be released before the close of business today.”

The Thompson case was one of many that will probably be analyzed in the future as an example of the U.S. Attorney’s office being aggressively vigilant in pressing charges, however thin, against Democrats under the Bush administration’s rule of “law”. The speed of the panel’s decision is of particular note. It almost seems as if the Appeals Court wanted to flex its muscles a bit and to put the justice department on notice for its political prosecutions.

[As of 4 p.m., the Governor’s office had not yet issued a statement on the matter. He will have a press availability at 5 p.m.]

Update: Monday, April 9th 2007 — The New York Times has editorialized on this case today, and not favorably toward the U. S. Attorney’s office. The paper wants a full investigation. Harper’s magazine also piped up on the issue, linking generously to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, breathless with the news that Biskupic worked hard to find illegal voters here.

Meanwhile, I uncovered a posting from this site last year that has a modest element of premontion:

Interestingly, so far the Gonzales affair has directed our attention toward those U. S. Attorneys who were removed for nor zealously prosecuting the administration’s enemies.

Lost in the headlines’ glare, and possibly the real crime, will be the examples (if found) of overzealous U. S. Attorneys who did engage in prosecution of the administration’s enemies for political reasons. We can debate if Georgia Thompson reaches that level of proof, but if you’d rather, go to a posting I put on Milwaukeeworld last June entitled, “Burn the Flag, But Don’t Wear the Medals!

It covered Biskupic’s interest in prosecuting, in Milwaukee, a North Fond du Lac man for illegally wearing service medals to which he was not entitled some years previously.
It was a crime, a federal misdemeanor, but I found it odd that it was prosecuted in Milwaukee, and not in Green Bay, which is much closer to North Fond du Lac, and is where Biskupic has a branch office.

‘Twas much ado about nothing, I figured, and here are some words I wrote then that have an air of prophecy about them today:

“My concern is that Biskupic, who can always be relied upon for his keen political instincts and willingness to do the bidding of his superiors, is advancing this case since it will make excellent year fodder. … This is nothing more than election year pandering by the same crew that continues to probe the depths of that disreputable art.” {emphasis added}– Ed.]

This article was originally published by Milwaukee World.

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