Wednesday, June 10, 2009

MoBo's Gotta Go

Another story that I've been wanting to write about is the dismissal of the criminal case against celebrity Pittsburgh coroner Cyril Wecht. As was reported by TPM, Wecht Charges To Be Dropped:

The charges against Dr. Cyril Wecht, the celebrity forensic pathologist and prominent Pittsburgh-area Democrat, will be dismissed.

U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan, a Bush appointee who had been accused of pursuing a politically motivated prosecution against Wecht, [last week] filed a motion to drop the charges, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Wecht, the former Allegheny County coroner, was charged in 2006 with misusing his office for private gain. Last year, his trial ended in a hung jury.

Buchanan said in a news conference that her decision to ask for the charges to be dropped was prompted by a judicial ruling last month -- finding that crucial evidence was inadmissible because prosecutors' search warrants were too general -- which she said made it difficult to move forward with the prosecution.

Not happy about having to admit defeat, Buchanan couldn't resist taking a last swipe against Wecht. Lacking the professionalism of her office, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette notes that Buchanan added, Wecht charges dropped:

'He wasn't acquitted of anything. It was a hung jury.

'However, in our society, everyone is innocent until proven guilty.'

Dr. Wecht, at a news conference yesterday afternoon following the judge's signing of the order to dismiss the case, called Ms. Buchanan a 'sore loser.'

'Her record, her actions speak for themselves,' he said. 'She has no shame at all. Absolutely none. Evidently, whether it's biological, or genetic or an environmental, infectious contaminant of some kind, she is incapable of simply telling the truth, not to mention being a gracious loser.'

Dr. Wecht criticized the government for filing an 84-count indictment and whittling it down to just 14 counts before dismissing the entire case.

'What does that say about professional decency and ethical responsibility?' he asked.

Her conduct at the end -- and throughout the course of this partisan witchunt -- have earned her the scorn she deserves. Showing the degree of vindictiveness she exemplified, even the conservative Scaife-owned Pittsburgh Tribune Review criticized her, Buchanan's big case slams shut for good:

The problem isn't that U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan lacks the courage of her convictions.

The problem is — after spending more than three years, and by conservative estimates more than $200,000 — she lacks a conviction against Dr. Cyril Wecht.

Given the resources her office devoted in the case against the nationally renowned forensic pathologist and former Allegheny County coroner, that's a significant problem.

Buchanan pursued Wecht with the same dogged determination the 17th-century residents of Salem, Mass., displayed in hunting alleged practitioners of the occult.

But Tuesday, she reluctantly announced she would drop public corruption charges against Wecht.

Buchanan had little choice, really.

Last year's seven-week Wecht trial ended with a hung jury. Before a retrial could occur, U.S. District Judge Sean McLaughlin recently ruled there was a bit of trouble regarding the evidence the government compiled against Wecht.

Owing to the use of improper search warrants, the evidence was inadmissible.


Red-faced and empty-handed, Buchanan yesterday was left to star in her own personal version of every prosecutor's most terrifying horror movie: 'Dude, Where's My Case?'

See also, the Post-Gazette editorial, End of the road: More than the Wecht case should be over and Bush US Attorney Buchanan, of GOP ProsecutorGate Infamy, Gets Accused of Over-Prosecuting Dems by Richard Mellon Scaife's Paper.

As I've mentioned before: Because of my ties to Pittsburgh, I have followed the Cyril Wecht case for some time, which has been prosecuted by Buchanan amid claims of political prosecution. The Party's Out of Step. As I noted in another essay on Buchanan's refusal to leave, Bush League Leftovers:

I've written about Mary Beth Buchanan before and her adherance to the GOP party line, The Devotee. In fact, the partisan prosecution of Cyril Wecht of Pittsburgh earned the ire of former Governor Dick Thornburgh, a Republican, who testified in Congress against conduct of Buchanan. The Party's Out of Step. And the fact that she's a crony of former Senator Santorum -- need I say more? She was, of course, in good company in a department stacked with the likes of [Alice Martin of Birmingham] and other disreputible US Attorneys. See The Face of a "Loyal Bushie".

See Time to Go.

An old friend from my Pittsburgh days was also the attorney for Wecht, so I was delighted to see that he prevailed in such a high profile case.

But the best news about the outcome of this matter is that it removes any question of partisanship if Buchanan is now booted from her position by Attorney General Eric Holder. It's long overdue. As Will Bunch of AttyTood put it, One American job that should be shed:

The new president typically exercises the ability to appoint new U.S. Attorneys shortly after taking office; there are some prosecutors, like Chicago's Patrick Fitzgerald, who manage to rise above partisan politics, but Mary Beth Buchanan is not one of them. Aggressively and overtly political prosecutions of people like Wecht and former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman -- not unlike torture -- were more the hallmarks of a banana republic than the United States of America. The sooner the Obama administration moves to clean up Justice, the better.

Along with Alice Martin of Alabama, who has persecuted former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman on flimsy charges, Buchanan should be on the top of the list of Gotta Goes. As the Tribune Review remarked:

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder recently announced the replacement of a number of U.S. attorney holdovers from the Bush administration is imminent. Don't be surprised if Buchanan is among the first to go.

In the wake of this costly, colossal, time-consuming failure, Buchanan will leave the job with a dubious legacy.

She exits not with a Wecht, but a whimper.

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