Sunday, June 6, 2010
"A MINIMAL PART OF THE ISSUE"
Taken together, the message of the grand jury that issued a campaign document on legislative reform for Gubernatorial Candidate Tom Corbett, and of the jurors who acquitted Team Veon of most of the charges against them, is this:
Corbett could have indicted almost anyone in the legislature, and chose to indict someone who "was such a small part of the issue that he probably should not even have been in that courtroom."
As usual, the eternally unanswered question is: why?
Reporters who covered the grand jury report on reform - an improper use of the grand jury, by the way - delighted in relating Judge Barry Fuedale's observation that grand jurors were "mad as hell" to hear from numerous witnesses that "no one's guilty because everybody does it."
These same reporters fail to point out that even though "everybody does it," Corbett's original Bonusgate indictments included only a single sitting legislator, who wasn't even a member of leadership.
“It struck me that the grand jury was sending a message to the attorney general that ‘We’re not really happy because everyone does this and why are you picking these people?’” ACLU legal director Vic Walczak told the Patriot-News.
Because of the typically shallow media coverage of all things Bonusgate, the general public knows only that "two jurors agree" that the first sentence handed down to a Bonusgate defendant was "extremely harsh."
But the letters that accompanied the defendant's motion to have his sentence reduced tell a different tale. Both letters indicated that the jury asked Judge Richard A. Lewis "for leniency to those we convicted." Why?
"...we stressed how much we felt that the defendants were a minimal part of the issue and that those who accepted pleas and immunity were more to blame," the juror wrote.
So, not only did Corbett indict someone who "probably should not have been in the courtroom," he struck deals with those who "were more to blame" in order to secure their testimony against him.
These are the conclusions of jurors who were spoon-fed nothing but specially-formulated Corbett Chow for weeks on end.
Again, the question is why? Attorney Bryan Walk said during a sentencing hearing for his client Brett Cott that he tried to talk to the Attorney General's Office about a deal, but the prosecutors refused. They offered deals to those who were "more to blame" in order to convict "a minimal part of the issue."
As we have allowed before, perhaps we are witnessing a sophisticated legal strategy that is beyond our feeble comprehension. Or perhaps Tom Corbett has led the most spectacularly inept prosecution in legal history. During the trial, Harrisburg lawyers repeatedly dropped by the Bonusgate courtroom to see if the rumors they were hearing about the case were true.
Who knows what would have happened if Corbett had offered Cott a deal? Perhaps he would have scored better than a 16% conviction rate. Perhaps not. But we'll never know, and we'll probably never know why.