Paul Quinn’s Weblog

News from Ole Miss and Oxford

New Paul Minor ruling leaves unanswered questions

Posted by paulquinn on December 11, 2009

Today, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals tossed out several charges against former attorney Paul Minor and two judges accused with him – but the three-judge panel left in tact their honest service fraud charges, along with Minor’s RICO charges.

Now, Minor and former judges Wes Teel and John Whitfield will get awarded a new sentencing. But what will happen to the rest of their charges remains to be seen.

According to The AP, “It’s not clear how much the reversal will reduce Minor’s sentence because he got the most time for a racketeering conviction, which was upheld.”

The story goes on to quote Minor’s attorney Hiram Eastland saying they plan to continue pursuing their appeal on the other charges.

The partially vacated charges has led to different media outlets claiming victory for Minor, while the ruling for others adds to their belief Minor is guilty.

As the AmLaw Litigation Daily put it,”Those on the left see Minor as the victim of a political prosecution, while conservatives tend to regard him as an emblem of trial lawyer corruption who was rightly convicted of scheming to bribe judges.”

The AP and AmLaw report that whether Minor and the judges’ honest services fraud charges are upheld largely depends on what the Supreme Court decides in an unrelated case they are hearing. The New York Times has a story from Dec. 8 that leads, “A federal law that is a favorite tool of prosecutors in corruption cases met with almost universal hostility from the justices in Supreme Court arguments on Tuesday.”

Though blogs and papers are touting the vacated charges and pending Supreme Court ruling on honest services charges as a possibility of a completely dismissed case, legal blogger Alan Lange at Y’allPolitics notes, “The RICO penalties alone likely mean that this will result in only a slight reduction in jail time for Minor, Whitfield and Teel.”

However, according to Anita Lee at The Sun Herald, “With the bribery counts thrown out, the racketeering conviction will hinge on the validity of the honest services fraud statute because racketeering must involve underlying criminal acts.”

But Tom Freeland at NMissCommentor.com quotes the Fifth Circuits ruling today, saying:

In regard to the predicate acts underlying the Count Three RICO charges against Minor, the jury found that the Government had proved bribery as to the $100,000 loan to Whitfield and wire fraud as to the wire transfer made by Radlauer, but that the Government had failed to prove bribery as to the $40,000 and $24,500 campaign loans that Minor made to Whitfield and Teel respectively.

It seems to an outside observer, such as myself, today’s opinion only adds to the current debate. The Fifth Circuit clearly lays out the story as a lawyer giving money to judges he had cases in front of. What happens next seems to be a guessing game at this point, but one thing is clear, another Mississippi judicial bribery scandal has moved its way back into big news.

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