The Non-Political Side of a Politicized DOJ

When we think of the Gonzo/Rove politicization of the DOJ, we tend to think of prosecutions against Democratic pols like Don Siegelman and the firing of the USA’s who refused to go along with snake-pit prosecutions like Tim Griffin’s against non-existent “voter fraud” cases. But there’s another side to the DOJ politicization story that isn’t about what the Gonzo/Rove minions did but about what they didn’t do. Prosecute civil rights cases, for example. Gonzo/Rove turned the whole of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division into a Religious Rights Division prosecuting cases that involved, say, schools that refused permission for overtly religious groups to meet on school grounds but ignoring cases involving racial profiling by the banking industry or racism in hiring practices. In Boston, the Globe reports today, the Bush-appointed USA, Michael Sullivan, has more or less given up prosecutions of corporate crime to go after small-time drug offenders.

US Attorney Michael J. Sullivan, who has long honed a reputation as a hard-nosed crimefighter, has brought fewer criminal cases almost every year since he was appointed to his post in 2001 as the ranking prosecutor in Massachusetts, according to federal statistics.

Sullivan, in a series of interviews, said the number of prosecutions has declined in part because he has focused on fighting white-collar crime, which often involves complex, time-consuming cases. But other statistics show that white-collar prosecutions have plunged even more precipitously under his stewardship, falling by nearly half from 2002 to 2006.

Sullivan – a law-and-order Republican who has been acting head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives for the past 13 months while remaining US attorney – also attributed the declining prosecutions to staff vacancies he had been unable to fill and a soaring number of appellate and civil cases.

Has a lot of excuses, don’t he? Boston judges ain’t buyin’ ’em, though.

US District Court Judge Nancy Gertner said she was not as troubled by the number of cases Sullivan has prosecuted as much as the type. Echoing criticism by another federal judge several years ago of Sullivan, Gertner said she sees more small-time, nonviolent drug offenders who used to be prosecuted in state courts and face far longer mandatory sentences in federal court.

“Federal sentencing is a bludgeon, and the question is when is it appropriately used,” she said. “Federal courts typically dealt with white-collar cases. I don’t see a large number of white-collar cases at all.”


Since he took office in September 2001, the number of criminal cases brought by Sullivan, the former Plymouth County district attorney, has fallen from 508 in 2002 to 336 in 2006, according to the Administrative Office of the US Courts in Washington.

Meanwhile the number of defendants prosecuted in new white-collar cases is roughly half of what it was during Sullivan’s first full year in office, plummeting from 134 in 2002 to 75 in 2006, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, an independent research organization based at Syracuse University that charts monthly Justice Department prosecution statistics.

Sullivan said some of the data from the administrative office conflicts with his own data, and he rejects the clearinghouse’s findings.

I just bet he does. What choice does he have? Unfortunately for him, the legal establishment agrees with Judge Gertner.

[T]he numbers from the judiciary and the clearinghouse bolster the assertion of defense lawyers and judges at federal courthouses in Boston, Worcester, and Springfield who say Sullivan has concentrated more on street crimes such as drug-dealing than on the white-collar fraud and financial crimes that have traditionally been the bailiwick of federal prosecutions.


In 2002, federal prosecutors filed cases against 9,628 white-collar defendants, compared with 7,267 in 2006, a 25 percent decrease, according to the clearinghouse.

But the decline in Massachusetts has been steeper: 44 percent, according to the clearinghouse. The research group uses the Justice Department’s definition of white-collar crime, including more than two-dozen categories ranging from healthcare fraud to securities fraud. Sullivan said he had no idea whether the categories were the same used by his office. The clearinghouse said it uses the same categories he does.

(emphasis added)

“No idea”? What kind of USA we got here, anyhoo? A bimbo who don’t even know how his boss categorizes cases or another BushCo liar? You be the judge.

The simple fact is that the Bush/Gonzo/Rove DOJ hasn’t got the slightest interest in prosecuting corporate crime at any level for any reason, what with the corporatocracy being willing to pay all that lovely $$$ into GOP coffers all those years. You don’t bite the hand that feeds you, right?

Which kind of explains how the mortgage industry got away with so much for so long that they’ve put the whole tepid, tentative, corporatized Bush economy in danger of collapse.

There’s all kinds of unpleasant fallout when you politicize Justice and only one of them is justice.

2 Responses to “The Non-Political Side of a Politicized DOJ”

  1. You probably ought to add that Gonzo/Ashcroft (but mostly Gonzo) made porn a big enforcement priority, taking resources away from counterterrorism, immigration enforcement, organized crime, etc.

    Of course, this is what happens when the legislative and judicial branches abdicate their powers to the Executive…

  2. mick says:

    Actually, I could have added those and quite a few others. It’s remarkable how much this Admin and its tame DOJ haven’t done.

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