No Comment — May 14, 2007, 11:44 am

U.S. Attorneys Scandal—Kansas City

The Kansas City Star reports that federal prosecutors handling a case against a former local Democratic official have filed a motion seeking a court order which would preclude the defense from talking to the jury about the massive scandal over politicization of the prosecutorial function which has one of its most sordid centers in the Kansas City U.S. attorney’s office. Indeed, former U.S. Attorney Tom Graves has already provided a catalogue of abuses perpetrated by Justice Department officials into which the Shields case appears to fit perfectly.

“There is no proper reason to place such matters before the jury and the only reason the defendants would seek to do so is to impugn the integrity and motives of the career prosecutors who will present this case to the jury,” the government’s motion maintains.Defense attorneys have asserted in a prior court filing that the Department of Justice is in the “midst of the worst corruption scandal in its history.”

This raises a very difficult point which is likely to recur all around the country right now. Normally the discretion of a prosecutor is shielded from inquiry. That indeed is a fairly fundamental rule of our criminal justice process. But what does one do when a prosecutor’s judgment can quite fairly be suspected of being politically corrupted? That is certainly the case with Bradley Schlozman, the former U.S. Attorney in Kansas City who brought this case, and who is now busily evading demands for his testimony before a Senate committee. The paper trail around Schlozman and the accounts derived from investigators make clear that he is, to mince no words, a political hatchet man. So when he seeks to indict a local Democratic party official, is it fair for the defense to point to the smoke of political corruption about the prosecutor?

The traditional rule would support the prosecutor’s request for a gag. But fundamental considerations of justice would not. To be clear: the defense’s claims are true. The U.S. Attorney’s office in Kansas City is embroiled in one of the most spectacular scandals in the history of the Republic, and it focuses on accusations—which at this point appear almost sure to be sustained – that the U.S. attorney abused his office for political purposes. Shouldn’t a jury consider these facts in arriving at a judgment? Would a conviction smell right if the defense were gagged so that the jury failed to learn of these facts? No.
But the simpler solution would be for an independent prosecutor to come in and reassess all of the questionable cases before they are allowed to proceed. In sum: this case has no business going to trial in the first place – not as things now stand in the case of Bradley Schlozman.

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Conversation August 5, 2016, 12:08 pm

Lincoln’s Party

Sidney Blumenthal on the origins of the Republican Party, the fallout from Clinton’s emails, and his new biography of Abraham Lincoln

Conversation March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm

Burn Pits

Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.

Context, No Comment August 28, 2015, 12:16 pm

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

December 2016

Prose by Any Other Name

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The New Red Scare

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Separated at Birth

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Priest in the Trees

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Lightness

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

With Child

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
With Child·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. 'Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.'"
Photograph (detail) by Lara Shipley
Article
Swat Team·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"As we shall see, for the sort of people who write and edit the opinion pages of the Post, there was something deeply threatening about Sanders and his political views."
Illustration (detail) by John Ritter
Article
Escape from The Caliphate·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"When Matti invited me on a tour of the neighborhood, I asked about security. 'The message has already been passed to ISIS that you’re here,' he said. 'But don’t worry. I guarantee I could bring even you in and out of the Islamic State.'"
Photograph (detail) by Alice Martins
Article
In This One·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. 'Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.'"
Illustration (detail) by Shonagh Rae
Article
“Don’t Touch My Medicare!”·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Medicare’s popularity, however, comes with almost no understanding of what the program is and how it works."
Illustration (detail) by Nate Kitch

Number of tombstones in Tombstone, Arizona:

792

Electrofishing on the Irrawaddy River deters dolphins from their habit of assisting fishermen.

Trump tweeted that “millions of people” had illegally cast ballots in last month’s presidential election, and the Washington Post identified four cases of voter fraud across the country.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Who Goes Nazi?

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

By

"It is an interesting and somewhat macabre parlor game to play at a large gathering of one’s acquaintances: to speculate who in a showdown would go Nazi. By now, I think I know. I have gone through the experience many times—in Germany, in Austria, and in France. I have come to know the types: the born Nazis, the Nazis whom democracy itself has created, the certain-to-be fellow-travelers. And I also know those who never, under any conceivable circumstances, would become Nazis."

Subscribe Today