DOJ a department of shakedowns under Holder

John Fund:


It is well known in legal circles that Eric Holder’s Justice Department has become so politicized, so unprincipled, and so ethically shoddy that Loretta Lynch, President Obama’s appointee to replace Holder, had to assure senators at her confirmation hearing that she was not Eric Holder.

Lynch was properly grilled on her views on immigration enforcement, executive orders, and terrorist prosecutions. But so far no senator has dug deep into some of the most abusive cases that Justice has filed, and asked why lower-case justice hasn’t been done.

One of the most notorious is Justice’s role in California’s “Moonlight Fire,” a conflagration on Labor Day 2007 that burned 20,000 acres of state forest in the Sierra Nevada along with 45,000 acres of federal forest. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection decided that Sierra Pacific Industries, a family-owned company that is the nation’s second-largest timber supplier, was responsible for the damage. Government investigators claim the blade of one of the company’s bulldozers hit a rock, creating a spark that started the blaze. Sierra Pacific pointed out clear holes in that theory, but Cal Fire nonetheless fined the timber company $8 million to pay for related costs. Because the fire burned more than 40,000 acres of national forest, the federal government also went after Sierra Pacific; in 2012, after five years of litigation, Sierra Pacific reluctantly agreed to a settlement that entailed paying the feds $4 million and giving Uncle Sam 22,500 acres of forest land.

But since then, there has been discovery in the related state lawsuit, which has uncovered a shocking claim of dereliction of duty: that Justice’s prosecutors “sat on their hands” and allowed fire investigators to frame Sierra Pacific. The possible motive? Sierra had deep pockets, and any settlement would create substantial revenue. In the state’s case, a substantial chunk of the money would go to an off-the-books slush fund run by Cal Fire, in which some of its official investigators had interests.

The misconduct was so egregious that California Superior Court judge Leslie Nichols threw out the state’s case. Last year, he further ruled that the government’s case was “corrupt and tainted. Cal Fire failed to comply with discovery obligations, and its repeated failure was willful.” The judge charged that the state hid key photographs and tried to “steamroll the truth” in order to pin the fire on the company. Investigators lied under oath about what they knew, and federal prosecutors allegedly knew about their perjury and did nothing.” When Sierra Pacific lawyers questioned the bulldozer driver, he denied making a statement about the blaze’s origins, and he couldn’t have properly signed a document given to him by prosecutors because he can’t read. The U.S. Forest Service had evidence that one of its fire spotters may have been high on pot and missed the fire’s start. His supervisor wanted to fire him, but the supervisor’s superiors covered it all up by insisting the spotter get a satisfactory performance rating and stay on the job.

“The misconduct in this case is so pervasive,” Judge Nichols wrote, “that it would serve no purpose to attempt to recite it all here.”

Nichols also didn’t spare the office of California Attorney General Kamala Harris, now a candidate for Barbara Boxer’s U.S. Senate seat and a national Democratic star. Nichols wrote that he can recall “no instance in experience over 47 years as an advocate and a judge, in which the conduct of the Attorney General so thoroughly departed from the high standard it represents, and, in every other instance has exemplified.” Judge Nichols then ordered the state to pay Sierra Pacific a whopping $32 million in damages and expenses. Cal Fire denies any wrongdoing, while the offices of Harris and Governor Jerry Brown aren’t talking.

The Nichols ruling prompted Sierra Pacific to enter federal court, charging fraud, and to demand that its settlement money be returned. Ben Wagner, the U.S. Attorney responsible for the federal case, insists there is no fire behind all the smoke of a legal coverup, but he hasn’t properly explained why Robert Wright, his top assistant in charge of fire litigation, was removed from the Moonlight Fire case after he stated that he believed it was his duty to disclose material seriously damaging to the government’s case. In fact, Wright was removed by his immediate boss, David Shelledy, because he was honest and would not have gone along with the program. Wagner defends his subordinate Shelledy in part by noting that he was recently given an award for distinguished service by Eric Holder. Color me less than impressed.
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There is more.

I think this is not the only miscarriage of justice under the Obama Holder regime.  Some have been in criminal cases brought against local police and some have involved shake downs of financial institutions who were blamed for the 2008 financial debacle caused by Democrat housing policies.

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