Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Wecht Defense Team Strikes Back

As covered in this earlier post, U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan is urging the judge presiding over former Coroner Cyril Wecht's public corruption trial to throw Wecht's lawyers into jail and suspend them from practicing law in federal court.

She's accusing Mark Rush and Jerry McDevitt of having "repeatedly lied to the court, lied to the media, breached their ethical obligations as lawyers and flaunted the orders of this court.

Wecht's lawyers argue that if their talking to the media deserves punishment by the court, that the U.S. Attorney's office could be subject to the same thing. In their response to Buchanan, McDevitt and Rush tell the judge:

• "The Motion is baseless. It is a hatchet job that is not worthy of the United States Attorneys office. We respectfully request that it be denied in its entirety. "

• "The prosecution's initial media blitz put Dr. Wecht in a devastatingly negative light..."
"The Motion seems to be utterly blind to the fact that if defense counsel's statements are regarded as sanctionable, the Government and its representatives are surely subject to the same or greater sanctions in light of their own conduct" ... "and their eagerness to put this case in the media spotlight at the earliest possible moment." "...Dr. Wecht reserves the right to file a cross motion for sanctions as appropriate..."

They also write that the prosecutors:

• "...are not attempting to jail counsel for telling lies. They are attempting to do so because it is the truth they fear."

Former U.S. Attorney general Dick Thornburgh is a member of Wecht's defense team. He's filed an affidavit under oath backing up statements made by McDevitt and Rush to the PG that triggered Buchanan's motion. Thornburgh says Buchanan had wanted to have Wecht arrested because she claimed he was "a flight risk to Israel". He also swears he had to go over Buchanan's head to a Justice Department official in Washington in order to keep Wecht from facing a 'perp walk' before news cameras. Click the image below to read that page from his sworn statement.

The Post-Gazette has already posted Thornburgh's complete affidavit online.

Wecht's attorneys say their public comments are protected free speech. The U.S. Attorney's office had no comment Friday on the latest filing by Wecht's lawyers.


Jonathan Potts said...

Does Wecht have some connection to Israel? Because I'd hate to think that Mary Beth Buchanan was making that suggestion solely based on the fact that Wecht is Jewish.

dubvee 95 said...

It's worth noting that Thornburgh has been consistent about this all along - he's been somewhat more reticent and reserved in his public comments on the case, but if you compare what he's saying now, with what he said on Larry King a year or so ago you can see he's not changed a bit.

I still think Wecht's attorney have some bombs to drop. They haven't even begun to address some of the nonsense in the investigation running up to indictment. Remember, this ran a long, long time before people started appearing in front of the grand jury.

Judge Rufus Peckham said...

In the Thornburgh affidavit, I found certain of Buchanan's comments particularly offensive: the one about Dr. Wecht being a flight risk to Israel, and the one where she said she would personally cross-examine Archbishop Wuerl regarding views he expressed supporting Dr. Wecht. Just try it, lady.

Bob Mayo said...


I checked today about the significance of the alleged flight risk to Israel. The U.S. Attorney's office tells me it is "concerned about the risk of flight for any defendant who has a right to citizenship in a country other than the United States".

This appears to be a reference to "The Law of Return". Open the following link in a new window for best display.


Bram Reichbaum said...

Wow. So by this logic, any and all defendants who are Jewish are to be considered flight risks, and must be treated as such. I am officially offended.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I'm offended too, and I'm not even Jewish. Wonder if Mary Beth knows that some of her Fox Chapel neighbors are (gasp!) Jewish.

[Comment edited. Open this link in a new window for more information.]

Infinonymous said...

This Department of Justice has become a surprisingly strong source of extremely novel legal theories.

If Israel makes every Jew a flight risk . . .

I suppose every Catholic is to be similarly treated as a flight risk . . . surely the Vatican would not refuse a confirmed believer in need at Rome's door.

Those pesky sovereignty questions associated with reservations surely make every Native American a flight risk.

Perhaps every Steelers fan is to treated as a flight risk . . . Heinz Field is surely their haven, a hallowed ground, and the Rooneys have been treated as religious figures in this town since their football club resigned its position as league laughingstock 30 years ago.

Anyone who thinks these legal extrapolations are too far-fetched hasn't paid enough attention to the Department of Justice's jurisprudential excursions in the fields of extraordinary rendition, separation of powers, surveillance, government secrecy, and the like.

Last question: If Israel makes every Jew a candidate to flee, does Crawford TX make every hopeless dullard a flight risk?

Jonathan Potts said...

I'm guessing the U.S. has an extradition agreement with Israel, or else I'm sure the U.S. attorney's office would have cited that. In any case, Israel has denied the right of return to wanted U.S. fugitives in the past. It's not as though Wecht has ties to a country like France, which has a history of harboring U.S. fugitives.

I'm also a bit perplexed by the lying to the media part. Perhaps that is a basis for an ethics complaint to the bar association, but if lying to the media were a criminal offense, we couldn't build enough jails to hold the offenders.