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August 28, 2009

Federal Prosecutor Doesn't Sound So Happy About Dropping Richardson Investigation

The phrase "Killed in Washington" is still ringing in my mind for some reason.

U.S. Attorney Greg Fouratt made the comments in a letter sent to defense lawyers, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press.

Fouratt said a federal investigation "revealed pressure from the governor's office resulted in the corruption of the procurement process" in awarding state bond deal work to a Richardson political contributor.

Hans von Spakovsky, a Bush era official from the DoJ says if the AP story is correct and the case was "Killed in Washington", then all sorts of rules have been broken.

For anyone familiar with internal Justice Department procedures, this is particularly suspicious. The DOJ has a manual called “Federal Prosecution of Election Offenses” (I helped edit the latest edition when I was at Justice) that sets out the rules and procedures for U.S. attorneys when they are investigating these types of public-corruption cases. It is the U.S. attorney in New Mexico who would normally make the final call on a local public-corruption case, not “top Justice Department officials” in Washington. The DOJ manual sets out the consultation rules for U.S. attorneys, who are required to “consult” with the Public Integrity Section of the Criminal Division in Washington. But only consultation is required; the Public Integrity Section does not make the final decision on whether an investigation should go forward. (Attorney General Eric Holder should not have forgotten this, since Public Integrity was the first place he worked at Justice.) So if the AP is correct in reporting that “top” officials in Washington killed the investigation, then political appointees within the department did not follow normal DOJ procedures.

Now prosecutors often think they've got a person who is guilty of a crime but they might not have the evidence to prove it. Still, given the record of this DoJ so far, I'm not exactly filled with confidence.

Thanks to Mætenloch for the story from the headlines.


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posted by DrewM. at 05:39 PM

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