Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Virginians Dodge a Bullet

Virginia Republicans choose their candidates via the political convention (which I wish were the still the situation for presidential candidates on a national scale), and last weekend they voted for their candidates to run this coming fall. One of the announced candidates for attorney general was John L. Brownlee, the former U.S. attorney in the southwestern part of the state.

Brownlee lost to Ken Cuccinelli II by a lopsided margin, and while I have no idea what kind of AG Cuccinelli would be, I do know that Brownlee is a threat to liberty and decency anywhere. His record while being the U.S. Attorney in Roanoke was as shameful as that of Mike Nifong, the infamous prosecutor in the Duke Lacrosse Case. While Nifong had North Carolina law helping him along, Brownlee was aided by federal criminal laws which are so broad and have so much latitude that they pretty much allow prosecutors to target anyone they please and bring charges against them.

Furthermore, federal prosecutors get to be something akin to feudal lords, treating everyone else in their districts as serfs who can and should be prosected for something. I have little good to say about federal prosecutors, but even among a class of people who are likely as not to lie and stretch the truth, Brownlee stood out even among that crowd.

Here was a guy who prosecuted the people who run the D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia, for fraud, even though there was no evidence of it. Here was a guy who went after Dr. Cecil Knox, a pain management specialist, on charges that were ludicrous. As Dr. Knox's wife, Donna (an attorney herself) wrote in a scathing denunciation of Brownlee:

Having launched an offensive against Cecil where none was justified, Brownlee set about concocting a case. He accused Cecil of intentionally addicting patients to narcotics to make them return for more; of being responsible for the death of a patient he hadn't seen in 18 months; of trading narcotics for drugs many times with a convict who, at trial, couldn't even identify him.
But there is more:
Brownlee stooped to disingenuous press conferences and distortion of the Medicare billing process to set up fraud, conspiracy and racketeering charges. He indicted Cecil's staff, terrorizing them with inexcusable threats. He disregarded the Medical Board's earlier findings that Cecil's treatments were appropriate. It was a telling display of over-reaching by a prosecutor without a case.
After failing to win a conviction in Roanoke, Brownlee re-indicted Knox and then demanded -- and received from the judge (who is the godfather of Brownlee's children) -- a change of venue to a place where he believed he better could gain a conviction. Knox, who was suffering from cancer, agreed to plead to a misdemeanor that had nothing to do with the original charges. Brownlee's response was to tell the press that he had "stopped" a "major drug kingpin."

Prosecutors are supposed to be restrained in their public comments, but federal prosecutors are of a different breed and are above the law. (Nifong was disbarred in part because of his public comments that came against the Duke lacrosse players even before he secured indictments.)

For example, Brownlee used terms like "house of death," "drug kingpin," and "fraud central" in his war against Knox. None of these terms were appropriate and that Brownlee was able to use them in public and not face even a Virginia State Bar hearing is amazing. Like Nifong, Brownlee should be disbarred and driven out of the practice of law altogether.

So, while I have no idea what kind of AG Virginians are going to elect next year, at least they will not have to worry about John Brownlee occupying that office. My sense is that he will try to make a political comeback, but one hopes that the voters see through him.


Sherp said...

This is OT but would like to read your thought on Sonia. I actually think she is terrific and will be a grand addition to the Court. I am proud of her and her accomplishments.

William L. Anderson said...

As you know, I tend to like justices who still hold to the concept of "natural law." After all, the framers of the U.S. Constitution held to that view, even though I realize that men like John Marshall and James Madison would not meet approval before the current Senate Judiciary Committee.

Where does Sonia Sotomayer stand on that issue? I have no idea.

Now, the Republicans' "we want judges to be 'strict constructionists'" argument is pretty dishonest, IMO. Look at the drug laws as well as almost all federal criminal laws. Most of them are in violation of either the Commerce Clause or the Non-Delegation Clause of the Constitution, yet lawmakers continue to pile on the laws.

My sense is that she will be more of the same. No one justice is my favorite. Sometimes Clarence Thomas says something I like, but the next time out he is abominable. The same goes for all of the justices.

I'm a very strict civil libertarian, so if Sonia upholds the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, that will be good, although the entire Bill of Rights pretty much is dead.

I don't have high hopes for her, but neither do I approve of the incendiary rhetoric that is coming at her from some camps.

Marco2006 said...

The Bill of Rights is a pretty good document, too bad we don't follow it all the time.

I think Supreme Court Justices should be tested on it before nomination.

Dave Bear said...

A little broad sweeping in your condemnation of Federal Prosecutors, don't you think Bill! In my local districts, at least, they're pretty darn strict with what they prosecute. From my observation, they really error on the side of not bringing marginal cases.

- Dave

William L. Anderson said...

Dave makes a good point. Not all federal prosecutors are as loose as Brownlee or Matt Martens in Charlotte. However, when federal prosecutors go wrong, they really go wrong. There does not seem to be much middle ground.