Fieger Update

I am really overdue to give you all an update on the Geoffrey Fieger case, where the government mobilized 80 FBI agents (presumably pulling them off terrorism investigations) to go sniff into Trial Lawyer Geoffrey Fieger’s donations to John Edwards. The government has been trying to convince the judge in the case that there was nothing improper about their investigation in a series of ex parte meetings. But when Fieger’s team pointed out how, um, unusual all these secret meetings were, the government decided to take it all back, and ask the judge to pretend he never saw any of the explanations the government had already offered.

I’ll come back and update you on that in the next few days (particularly if my trip to Philly continues to be postponed). In the meantime, let me confess that I was really remiss in that I didn’t go to the hearing in Detroit on Friday. Which looks like a damn shame, because every time the government shows up at a hearing, they dig the hole they’re in deeper and deeper. In particular, they keep changing their story about whether this case was started when an ex-Fieger employee waltzed into the FBI a year and a half after the fact and complained about being pressured to donate to John Edwards, or whether the case started from somewhere else. From this report on Friday’s hearing, it sounds like they changed their story again on Friday, to say they simultaneously started investigations in Detroit and in the Noel Hillman led Public Integrity section. (Btw, if Noel Hillman received a subpoena in the woods and nobody heard it, would he really have received a subponea?)

Assistant U.S. Attorney Lynn Helland said Friday he made a mistake by not consulting with U.S. Department of Justice headquarters before opening the investigation, as required by departmental rules.

Helland acknowledged he was unaware of the guideline. But he said the mistake was inconsequential because the Justice Department‘s public integrity section was independently opening its own investigation.

Borman also expressed concerns after Helland confirmed claims by Fieger’s lawyers that witnesses called before the grand jury for the case were asked for whom they voted in certain elections, the newspaper reported.

"That again seems to be a highly invasive probing by the government" Borman said.

Helland said such questions are relevant in campaign finance cases.

"Was it invasive?" Helland asked. "Yes. Was it improper? I don’t think so."

Borman said he might allow some pretrial exploration of Fieger’s claims that he was maliciously singled out for prosecution because of his politics. The Justice Department denies that claim.

Nice to see that the principle of secret vote is not yet dead in this country.

In other news, they’ve moved the trial to March so as not to start on the same day as Michigan’s ill-fated "primary" in which John Edwards is not on the ballot. Perhaps in the interim 2 months we’ll have some interesting discovery about the curious genesis of this investigation.

  1. bmaz says:

    Is reekier a word? Because, every time I hear about this case, which reeked to start with, it gets reekier. Like to get Borman hooked up with Larry Burns, so they could exchange notes about how duplicitous the DOJ has become in their prosecution tactics.

  2. klynn says:

    Hey EW and bmaz, hope you both tag on to Jane’s thread over on the FDL page right now about Dodd. Anything listed in the post as a message to the Senate will be read tomorrow. You have both stated so many wonderful perspectives on the rule of law (or lack there of). I personally would appreciated your words in the public record of the Senate.

    Along with Christy, LHP, selise, maddog, perris… You know the drill.

    Maybe we could go back and repost some of our “best” rule of lae and telecom immunity commentary. Just some thoughts…

    Sorry I didn’t link. Everytime I try, my screen freezes after I hit the link icon.

  3. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Okay, do I have this right…?

    Hellend didn’t make a mistake, b/c Hillman made another mistake that was bigger; therefore, Hellend’s mistake doesn’t matter.
    Besides, he didn’t know he was making a mistake, so it doesn’t count.
    The fact that he asked potential jurors — in a trial about political campaign finances — who they voted for also does not matter. But it wasn’t a mistake, because being invasive is not improper.


    Please tell me this guy was not involved in the events that were portrayed in the movie “Fargo,” because for the life of me it sure looks like the same cognitive dysfunction at work.

    As for this: Btw, if Noel Hillman received a subpoena in the woods and nobody heard it, would he really have received a subponea?

    outtamyarse guess:
    If he received the subpoena b/c someone hollered through the woods, but no one heard it, he didn’t really receive it. And no one will know.
    If he received it via email or text message, K-k-k-karl Rove made sure all signs of it were erased from the servers and server logs. Therefore, he did not receive it.
    Ditto phone.

    So no, Hillman didn’t receive it.
    Which is good, because that’s one less thing the guy has to cover up.

  4. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Sorry, this line should have been italicized:

    Btw, if Noel Hillman received a subpoena in the woods and nobody heard it, would he really have received a subponea?

  5. emptywheel says:


    Perhaps. Perhaps it was just lying under a log.

    Also, to clarify: It’s not clear whether Hillman made a mistake by opening the investigation into Fieger, if that’s the currently operative stry. But the govt has been claiming for months now that that didn’t happen, in their attempt to claim that the investigation started locally, and therefore couldn’t be political. See, they want to tell two stories–1) that this was opened locally bc of a walk-in and that explains why it is the only investigation of its sort ever to go to indictment like this instead of being mediated at FEC for a fine, or 2) that it was done at PIN, so all the irregularities in Detroit shouldn’t matter.

    Both can’t be true.

    One more clarification. They were asking witnesses who they donated money to, not jurors. They won’t go into jury selection for another two months now.

    • bmaz says:

      I think asking political affiliation and voting is dicey in the first place. I guess you can’t say it would never be a proper question, because there are situations where it could be part of the pattern of criminal activity. However, I have a real problem if that was anything but the last question asked of the “witnesses” being interviewed. There is too much room for mischief, or appearance thereof, by the inquisitors if it is a front end gateway question.

  6. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Oooohhh. This has potential.

    Forest; old log; slime mold; various fungi….
    Perhaps the slime mold ate Hillman’s subpeona?
    [NOTE: No dogs were harmed when the slime mold devoured Hillman’s subpeona.]

    Multiple stories again, eh?
    Does the name ‘Siegelman’ enter this one…? Or is that saved exclusively for Alabama?

    I think it’s time to call in those Hollywood writers who are on strike, b/c they should start a competition: “Can you top THIS story?!”
    ‘Twould be a tough task, and my hat doffs to any writer who can manage it. Personally, I’m rooting for the Coen brothers, as this seems to lend itself to their black humor.

    I swear, even Shakespeare could not make this sh*t up.
    (Deep sigh…)

  7. bmaz says:

    I almost can’t believe I am saying this, but Dan Abrahms on MSNBC had a great series last week, long segment each day on a different scandal angle, entitled “Bush League Justice”. Friday’s segment was devoted to the Siegelman prosecution and was actually pretty good. I saw one or two of the other days segments also, and they were shockingly hard hitting as well (relatively speaking anyway; it isn’t quite Bill Moyers understand you, but not bad). It was good to see that.

    • Neil says:

      It would appear GE is lining up left in weekday evening coverage taking Olberman’s lead and the ratings it has produced.

  8. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Yo, bmaz — I watched several of those Abrams episodes on Justice online ( > > abrams).

    It came over the Internet very well (in Firefox; still no love in Safari since MSNBC switched its online video delivery interface recently). For anyone who’s interested in the topic and has DSL or cable, it’s worth clicking on over there IMHO.

    Nice to see another reporter with a vocabulary in excess of 120 words, a grasp of who, what, when, where, and the balls to ask ‘WTF?!’ in a cogent fashion. I’d not seen Abrams before, but he’s certainly coming across as having more connections within his cranium than half the nimnits at Faux.

    It’s not that msnbc has the ‘best’ reporters or the ‘leftiest’ reporters. But they do seem to have keener noses for bullshit than their competitors. Well… maybe McCafferty is on their level.

  9. bmaz says:

    Abrahms can be pretty lame also. He tries to be a legal expert, but I think most of his legal experience is from covering it on TV. But he isn’t stupid and his father is famed First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrahms. I think Abrahms has just noticed that the only guy on cable growing his audience at a good clip is Olbermann, and decide that if he wanted to stay on the air he better get with the program.

    • Neil says:

      Well then Tweety noticed the same thing because he’s been sputtering apoplectically about Bush and the NIE, which I think is a shift for him too.

  10. bmaz says:

    Matthews has always pounded the Bushies on a lot of the big screwups; didn’t want the Iraq war, scolded them on Katrina and the USA Purfe stuff. You had to pay attention to really know it before though; now he is getting noisy about it. I think you are right about the trend over at MSNBC. As rOTL said, it would be great to see Jack Cafferty over there with his own show. Although Cafferty is no liberal, he just hates the Bushies and thinks they are bumbling criminal boobs; which, of course, is quite right. We will know MSNBC has seen the light as soon as they can pompous gasbag twit Tucker Carlson.

  11. Richmond says:

    I think I finally get it! The Bushies are doing all this stuff, on all these different fronts (spying, multiple wars, massive corruption, destruction of tapes, pixie dust shifts) largely to give us all massive headaches in trying to keep track of it all. Hence, we are now obliged to take more more aspirin and similar higher priced anti headache, anti-stress drugs. Big Pharma (and Joe Liers’ wife) are very happy with the new meta-drugged America.

    • Rayne says:

      You have no idea how close you are with that theory.

      Try reading up on the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health and the subsequent bill that emerged from its findings.


    • TheraP says:

      Information Overload. It’s wearing me out! And yes, it could be deliberate. Overwhelm us with info. Leave those neurons dazed. Late nights. Early mornings. How do people work?

  12. bmaz says:

    Not to amp that headache up to a migraine or anything, but Joe Liebertwit just endorsed a Republican, John McCain, for President. Hey Connecticut, you happy with your purchase? What a wretch.

  13. looseheadprop says:

    Assistant U.S. Attorney Lynn Helland said Friday he made a mistake by not consulting with U.S. Department of Justice headquarters before opening the investigation, as required by departmental rules

    He’s lying through his teeth. You have to get a sign off by AT A MINIMUM the Criminla Dicision Chief, and in most offices the USA himself> This is a blatant lie

    • bmaz says:

      If my recollection is correct, it is mandatory to get the signoff of Public Integrity at DOJ Main for this type of prosecution pursuant to the US Attys Manual.

      • looseheadprop says:

        Like I said, this statement from the AUSA does oy pass the bluxh test.

        If I were that judge, I’d be fuming

        • bmaz says:

          They never do anymore LHP, that is the problem. I was always on the other side of the fence, but I respected Federal prosecutors for their integrity with very few exceptions. They now resemble a money and interest subservient driven local county attorney’s office in the way they serve almost any bullshit interest other than pure justice. The damage Bush has done to the long term economic health of the country may end up being worse, but for someone who has lived, and to some extent still does, in the justice and legal system, this has been the most disturbing result of the Bush Reich.

  14. WilliamOckham says:

    That would be USA Manual 9-85.210Consultation with the Public Integrity Section of the Criminal Division is required in all federal criminal matters that focus on violations of federal or state campaign financing laws, federal patronage crimes, and corruption of the election process. These offenses include, but are not limited to, offenses described in: 18 U.S.C. §§ 241 to 242, 592 to 611; 42 U.S.C. §§ 1973i(c), 1973i(e), and 1973gg-10; 2 U.S.C. §§ 431 to 455; and prosecutive theories that focus on election fraud or campaign fund raising violations using 18 U.S.C. §§ 1341, 1343, and 1346; 18 U.S.C. § 1952; 18 U.S.C. §§ 1956 and 1957.

  15. bmaz says:

    JEEBUS – I just actually clicked through EW’s link to the Examiner story. Just about missed the most fascinating thing there. Fieger’s lawyer on this is Gerry Spence. Heh heh heh. I’ll make a pretty good wager Gerry didn’t sing on to this case in order to gather his first loss since the last of never. This case is going to be a barrel of fun. Heh heh. Between Fieger and Scruggs, I think the Bushie DOJ has bit into a hornet’s nest here; I wonder if they understand?

    • TheOtherWA says:

      Fieger’s lawyer on this is Gerry Spence.

      Suh-weet. Spence was also Brandon Mayfield’s lawyer in his case against the government for his false arrest in the Madrid train bombing case. This is gonna be good.

  16. Curiouser says:

    Geoffrey Fieger did an interview with one of the Detroit TV stations on the subject if anyone is interested.