SOURCE: A Just Cause

A Just Cause

August 07, 2015 09:32 ET

Justice Advocacy Group, A Just Cause, Urges President Obama and Congress to Revive Bipartisan Prosecutorial Misconduct Legislation

Citizens Protection Act in 1998 Established Punishable Conduct Standards and Joint Presidential and Congressional Misconduct Review Board

DENVER, CO--(Marketwired - August 07, 2015) - Advocacy Group, A Just Cause, is asking President Obama and congressional leaders to revive key amendments of the 1998 Citizens Protection Act that was designed to clean up misconduct by federal prosecutors and other government officials as well as requesting that the IRP6 case be at the center of congressional hearings on the matter. The bill, H.R. 3396, was originally introduced on March 5, 1998 by Representatives Joseph McDade (R-PA) and John Murtha (D-PA) and received strong bipartisan support from more than 170 representatives who were also co-sponsors of the legislation. Some of the other co-sponsors included Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Lindsay Graham (R-SC), Peter T. King (R-NY), Tom Coburn (R-OK), James Clyburn (D-SC), Joel Hefley (R-CO), Elijah Cummings (D-MD), and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC).

"The IRP6 case is the poster-child for prosecutorial, judicial and FBI misconduct," says Lamont Banks, Executive Director, A Just Cause. "And reviving the struck portions of the Citizens Protection Act would provide a legitimate, focused and effective means of dealing with wayward federal prosecutors." "Not surprisingly, the Citizens Protection Act was met with staunch opposition from the Department of Justice and National Association of U.S. Attorneys," muses Banks.

According to Section 201 of the Act, Punishable Conduct, states that it is punishable for a Department of Justice Employee to:

1. in the absence of probable cause seek the indictment of any person;
2. fail promptly to release information that would exonerate a person under indictment;
3. intentionally mislead a court as to the guilt of any person;
4. intentionally or knowingly misstate evidence;
5. intentionally or knowingly alter evidence;
6. attempt to influence or color a witness' testimony;
7. act to frustrate or impede a defendant's right to discovery;
8. offer to provide sexual activities to any government witness or potential witness;
9. leak or otherwise disseminate information to any person during an investigation; or
10. engage in conduct that discredits the Department.

Section 203 of the Act, establishes a Misconduct Review Board to conduct independent investigations. It states that "the board shall consist of --

1. three voting members appointed by the President, one of whom the President shall designate as Chairperson;
2. two non-voting members appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, one of whom shall be a Republican and one of who shall be a Democrat; and
3. two non-voting members appointed by the Majority Leader of the Senate, one of whom shall be a Republican and one whom shall be a Democrat.

During a June 8, 1998 weekly press conference, Attorney General Janet Reno, in vigorous opposition to the Act, said "I think the sponsors of the bill are trying to solve a problem that really doesn't exist...I don't know exactly what is driving [this bill], but my message to everyone is that we're committed to ensuring that our attorneys and our employees conform to the highest standards of conduct. We have a formal disciplinary proceeding for attorneys, which is administered by the Office of Professional Responsibility...I think there is a good procedure in place."

"If OPR's procedures were effective then a substantial number of Congressmen wouldn't have co-sponsored the bill," Lisa Stewart, A Just Cause. "Court records in the IRP6 case are replete with overt incidents of gross misconduct which were not only ignored by the courts, but complaints to the Office of Professional Responsibility fell on deaf ears", added Stewart. "AJC has reported extensively on the misconduct in press releases and on www.a-justcause.com and freetheirp6.org websites. Make no mistake, prosecutorial misconduct and a culture of impunity existed in 1998 and continues today," Stewart elaborated.

In November 1998, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published ten exhaustive investigative reports drawn from its two-year investigation into prosecutorial misconduct. The report revealed a law enforcement "culture in which he pursuit of convictions has replaced the pursuit of justice, sometimes at any price." The newspaper went on to say:

"Hundreds of times during the past 10 years, federal agents and prosecutors pursued justice by breaking the law. They lied, hid evidence, distorted facts, engaged in cover-ups, paid for perjury and set-up innocent people in a relentless effort to win indictments, guilty pleas and convictions. Rarely were these federal officials punished for their misconduct...Perjury has become the coin of the realm in federal law enforcement. People's homes were invaded because of lies. People are arrested because of lies. People go to prison because of lies. People stay in prison because of lies."

In 2008, U.S. Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) was wrongly-convicted by federal prosecutors who withheld a mountain of exculpatory evidence that proved his innocence. Federal judge Emmet G. Sullivan appointed Special Prosecutor Henry Schuelke to conduct an independent investigation into the federal prosecutor's conduct. In Schuelke's 500 page report, he concluded that "the investigation and prosecution of Senator Stevens were permeated by the systematic concealment of significant exculpatory evidence which would have independently corroborated [his] defense and his testimony, and seriously damaged the testimony and credibility of the government's key witness." Schuelke's report also found that there was a win at any cost approach in prosecuting cases. Attorney General Eric Holder personally petitioned the court to drop all charges against Senator Stevens due to the egregious misconduct. (USDC, District of Columbia, Case no. 08-231-EGS)

According to the Congressional Record, on August 5, 1998, Members of the House debated on an Amendment to strike the Citizens Protection Act from the appropriations package. Representative Murtha (D-PA) said that "insidious" and "unethical tactics" were used against Rep. McDade. Rep. Peter King (R-NY) said, "Prosecutors are out of control. They are ruining the civil liberties of people in this country." Murtha went on to say that "Under the current system that we heard described by my colleagues...there is a remedy for a citizen, once convicted. They can appeal to another court, a higher court. They can make a recommendation or an argument at OPM, the Office of Professional Responsibility in the Department of Justice, after they have been convicted; lives ruined, bankrupt. If they can prove something they might get a reversal of their case. Let me be specific. In the case of U.S. v. Taylor about a year ago, the Department of Justice twisted the testimony of an individual and convicted him on perjurious testimony. If we read the case, we will read that the judge that tried it found that the employees of the Department guilty of obstruction of justice. What a charge, corrupting the system that they are supposed to be defending. What did the Office of Professional Responsibility do after the judge made that finding? Mr. Chairman, they gave the people who corrupted that system a 5-day suspension from their jobs."

"The need for punishable conduct for prosecutors and an independent misconduct review board cannot be overstated given past cases and present ones like the IRP6 in which numerous abuses occurred, including: obstructing justice, scheming to relocate an FBI agent who had been subpoenaed by defendants, interference with a process server, conspiracy to conceal or destroy court transcripts that would prove judicial misconduct, forcing defendants to testify at trial, indicting without probable cause, leaking or disseminating information to the press, interfering with defense witnesses and prohibiting defense witnesses from testifying," says Banks.

"Cell phone videos have enlightened the American people and our country's leaders to the realities of police misconduct that has resulted in the loss of life. The systematic misconduct against Senator Stevens and the IRP6 shows that prosecutorial misconduct is a major problem in our justice system. The IRP6 have been falsely imprisoned for 3 years and our leaders would be remiss in their responsibility to protect Americans if they fail to address this problem with legislation that holds prosecutors accountable," concludes Banks.

For more information about the story of the IRP6 or for copies of legal filings, go to http://www.freetheirp6.org.

Related press releases: http://www.a-justcause.com/#!press-releases/c21pq.

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