Thursday, June 4, 2009

Politics and Prosecutors

Do prosecutors have a tin ear for politics or, instead, an exquisitely tuned ear immersed in politics? It is difficult to determine, in general and in particular cases.

For example, United States Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan (usually with her horse, Art) rode hard and long after Cyril Wecht, Tom Murphy, Joe Jaffe and Pete DeFazio, yet refrained from saddling up when a state legislator triggered terrorism alarms by sending envelopes of white powder through the federal mails in a bizarre response to public corruption charges, or a federal legislator was dodging newspaper and television reporters asking uncomfortable questions (spurred by whistle-blowing former staffers) about political abuse of public assets, or a United States Senator appeared to mislead public officials in an effort to induce middle-class Pennsylvania taxpayers to fund hundreds of thousands of cyberschooling dollars for children who lived in an upscale Virginia suburb.

When not prosecuting Democrats and ignoring Republicans, Ms. Buchanan's fetish was pursuing social conservative causes such as the War On Drugs and dirty movies.

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala's recent political ventures have been equally interesting. He attempted to spare local taxpayers the cost of an investigation (never mind a prosecution) when it was reported that a local man (who seems to have the same last name as the D.A.) owned the juvenile detention facility at the center of a disgusting kickback scheme that has put two federal judges in prison . . . and also owned a similar facility western Pennsylvania. District Attorney Zappala helpfully got out in front of this one -- which involved incarceration of hundreds of innocent children for profit -- early by declaring the facility owner (a somewhat prominent player in local political and finance circles) "a victim."

Against that background, perhaps it should not be surprising that the justice system in these parts spawns such remarkable spectacles as a former defendant tailgating with his former jurors.

No comments: