Corrupt federal prosecutors presenting false evidence in order to shake down a blameless corporation and bring in tens of millions of dollars seems like a pretty dramatic story. Especially when former prosecutors support the charge and a chief judge acts on the allegations and takes dramatic action. Yet the media silence is deafening.
Eric Holder’s Justice Department is implicated in a dramatic and shocking case of alleged corruption that is so bad that the Chief Judge of the Eastern District of California has taken what can rightly be called the “nuclear option” and recused all the judges in the district from the case because they may have been defrauded by the DoJ prosecutors.
So far, aside from the local paper, the Sacramento Bee, it is only Sidney Powell of the New York Observer, writing in the opinion pages of that publication that has paid attention to what should be a prominent national media scandal. In brief, the Sierra Pacific Industries, a lumber producer, was accused by the federal government of starting a large wildfire, and fined $55 million, and compelled to hand over title to 22,500 acres of land. The only problem is that the prosecution was allegedly corrupt, and knowingly submitted false evidence.
In an extraordinary development, Judge England, Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, ordered the recusal of all the Eastern District judges from the case because of serious allegations that the Court itself was defrauded by the government in the original prosecution. To avoid any appearance of partiality, he has referred the case to Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski to appoint a judge from outside the Eastern District to handle the case going forward. Judge Kozinski has excoriated prosecutors for failing to meet their legal and ethical obligations.
The order notes that the defendants filed an action this week to set aside the $55 million settlement because, as the defendants allege, “the United States presented false evidence to the Defendants and the Court; advanced arguments to the Court premised on that false evidence; or, for which material evidence had been withheld, and obtaining court rulings based thereon; prepared key Moonlight Fire investigators for depositions, and allowed them to repeatedly give false testimony about the most important aspects of their investigation; and failed to disclose the facts and circumstances associated with the Moonlight Fire lead investigator’s direct financial interest in the outcome of the investigation arising from an illegal bank account that has since been exposed and terminated.”
The Sacramento Bee reported on the Defendant’s filing. Indeed, the Defendants’ motion informs us that a former Assistant United States Attorney came forward and disclosed that he believes that he was removed from the original prosecution by “his boss, David Shelledy, chief of the civil division in the United States Attorney’s office,” because he “rebuffed” pressure to “engage in unethical conduct as a lawyer.” Of course, like other former prosecutors who were unethical, Mr. Shelledy is to receive Attorney General Holder’s highest award for excellence—this week.
The defendants also reveal that another former federal prosecutor, Eric Overby, left the Moonlight Fire prosecution team also, stating: “It’s called the Department of Justice. It’s not called the Department of Revenue.” According to the motion, Mr. Overby told defense counsel that in his entire career, “I’ve never seen anything like this. Never.”
Powell aptly sums up the banana republic nature of what seems to have been going on:
This is part of a disturbing and rapidly increasing pattern of abuses by this Department of Justice to line government coffers or redistribute the wealth to its political allies—using its overwhelming litigation might and federal agencies as a tool of extortion and wealth redistribution.
The entire original prosecution against Sierra Pacific appears to have been driven by the Department of Justice’s interest in hitting a “deep pocket” for millions of dollars of revenue. The Defendants’ motion to set aside the settlement reveals a series of fraudulent acts by federal and state authorities that defiles our system of justice.
If these allegations can be proven, federal prosecutors involved should receive lengthy prison sentences. And if Eric Holder can be shown to be involved, he should join John Mitchell in the ranks of former AGs with a prison record. This is intolerable.