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U.S. Attorneys Scandal–Milwaukee

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In the frenzied days of the 2006 midterm election, U.S. Attorney Steve Biskupic, in hot water with Karl Rove for “not doing enough” to bolster the Republic election effort, brought and hyped a prosecution of Georgia Thompson, a Wisconsin public official, for “corruption.” The prosecution was transparently pursued to assist the election prospects of the Republican challenger for the governorship. Alas, despite Biskupic’s best efforts, the GOP failed to retake the Madison statehouse. However, Biskupic got a reprieve. He was allowed to keep his job. Thompson was convicted and took an appeal to the Seventh Circuit, where a panel of Republican judges called the entire affair “preposterous” and ordered her immediate release.

Now the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that Thompson is seeking compensation for having spent four months in prison on bogus and corrupt charges.

A state worker who spent four months in a federal prison before having her conviction reversed on appeal filed a claim with the state Friday for nearly $360,000. Thompson, 57, was convicted in federal court a year ago of steering a travel contract to Adelman Travel, whose officers had donated $20,000 to Gov. Jim Doyle’s campaign. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago overturned her conviction in April, freeing her from a Pekin, Ill., prison.

“Payment will not undo the emotional trauma of such charges and wrongful incarceration, but it will help her put the pieces back together,” Thompson lawyer Stephen Hurley wrote in the claim…

The Claims Board may very well recommend that the Wisconsin pay Thompson’s claims, which are obviously meritorious.

Sen. Russ Decker (D-Schofield), a member of the Claims Board, said he was inclined to support the payment, but that it would make more sense for the U.S. Department of Justice to foot the bill. “I certainly will take a good look at it, but the person who ought to pay the bill is (U.S. Attorney Steven M.) Biskupic,” Decker said. “He’s the guy who screwed it up by going after a political agenda.”

Decker states the obvious. And isn’t it curious that after all of this, Mr. Biskupic continues to serve as the U.S. Attorney in Milwaukee? The problem is the pervasive immunity that has been granted U.S. attorneys in their conduct of criminal prosecutions. The Thompson case presents a good reason for visiting that issue and suspending prosecutorial immunity. We need a serious probe of what happened in the Thompson case and we need accountability from all those in the Justice Department who were involved in this gross misadventure. It’s not clear that the center of gravity for this lies in Milwaukee; it might well be with the Public Integrity Unit in Washington, and indeed likely even higher up.

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