Tuesday, October 23, 2007

BonusGate: Will AG's Refusal to Appoint Special Prosecutor Result in Case Being Tossed?

It's no secret that Northampton County DA John Morganelli would like to be our next state attorney general. He's only mentioned this about a gazillion times. But Capitol Ideas' John Micek seems to think it's really, really important that Morganelli disclose this widely-known detail in every communication he sends about everything. In his entertaining and very informative poliblog, Micek has now seized on this omission, twice, as a reason to sneer at Morganelli's recommendation that a special prosecutor be appointed in Bonusgate.

I'm just not seeing an ethical lapse there. But for reasons that only his hairdresser knows for sure, blogger John seems to have a hot nut for DA John. He's even gone so low as to attack Morganelli's height in one of his rants, calling him a "pint-sized prosecutor."

That's not political satire. That's just mean.

Perhaps the very notion that a LV-based prosecutor would dare aspire to the top cop job in the land of midnight payraises has folks in that oxygen-deprived atmosphere reaching for their bugspray. And Morganelli has done little to help his cause, especially with that anonymous email gaffe.

So DA John would like to be our next AG. Does that mean his criticism of the AG's refusal to appoint a special prosecutor is to be dismissed? Does blogger John really think that DA John is trying to pull a fast one? Blogger John refuses to publish John's press release. "[W]e know many of you are just waking up, and we don't want to put you back to sleep." I'll take that chance, and will post the relevant portion of Morganelli's concerns. He has a point.

Last week I requested Attorney General Tom Corbett to appoint an independent counsel/special prosecutor to investigate whether taxpayers’ dollars were used improperly for political work. I cited the fact that some Republican House and Senate members, who may have improperly authorized bonus payments, were significant financial supporters of the attorney general in 2004 and likely would be again in 2008. I also pointed out that some Democrat House and Senate members, who may have also authorized improper bonus payments, supported Mr. Corbett’s opponent in 2004. They would likely support the democrat nominee for attorney general in 2008 in opposition to Mr. Corbett’s re-election and would be considered political opponents of the attorney general. As such, the attorney general has a clear “conflict of interest” as established under the above law in that the entire investigation involves political supporters and opponents. The Morning Call newspaper in an editorial dated October 22, 2007 stated that the call for an independent special prosecutor by me was not a “bad idea.” Unfortunately, the need for an independent counsel/special prosecutor is not just a “good idea,” but now vital to the future of the investigation and/or prosecution of any wrongdoing.

The United States Supreme Court has held that an impartial prosecutor is a constitutional necessity. When a prosecutor’s personal interests or biases threaten society’s interest in impartial proceedings, courts squarely hold that disqualification of the prosecutor is required. Moreover, a criminal conviction can be overturned if obtained by a prosecutor who had a conflict of interest.

This investigation is too important to be later challenged on the basis that the attorney general was conflicted. The conflicts of interest are so clear, that one has to wonder why the attorney general fails to acknowledge it or remedy it by the appointment of an independent counsel. As I have stated before, this is not in any way impugning the personal integrity of Mr. Corbett. He has always carried out his duties with integrity. But the integrity of the investigation must be protected, and the work of the grand jury and any indictments they might issue must be protected from any later challenges that can now be remedied and avoided. We need an independent counsel/special prosecutor now. We need the legislature to reauthorize the independent counsel statute that expired in 2003. An independent counsel is in the public interest and in the interest of the attorney general. It will quiet any further comment on the investigation until the grand jury ends its work, and assure that any prosecution will proceed without calls to disqualify the attorney general at a later date, or worse, overturn any successful prosecutions.


The Curmudgeon said...


Bernie O'Hare said...

Sleep tight!

Anonymous said...

Morganelli has earned the contempt of the media outside the Lehigh Valley due to his inability to be straight with reporters. The email snafu is a prime example of this.His latest press release makes some valid points, unfortunately, Morganelli lost all credibility with the people it is directed at (Democratic committee people and Democratic insiders) with the fraudulent email attack against Casey. You cannot blame the press for putting everything Morganelli says or does under a microscope given his lack of candor in handling the fraudulent email. I agree with Bernie that personal attacks are unneccessary.

Anonymous said...

Morganelli certainly did screw up. But that does not excuse Micek. That "pint-sized prosecutor" shot was nasty.

John L. Micek said...

Before anyone starts ascribing motives about what my intentions toward Mr. Morganelli may or may not have been, I'll clear the air right away.
I profoundly regret the "pint-sized" comment in an earlier 'blog post. But let me stress that it wasn't intended to be nasty at all. It was supposed to be a gentle tease, though I can certainly see how it might have been misconstrued. So, before this matter gets out of hand, I wanted to clear the air.
It's also been removed from the 'blog.
John Micek
The Morning Call

Bernie O'Hare said...

John, I appreciate your recognition that this was an unfortunate way to describe the four-term District Attorney of Northampton County, or anyone else, for that matter.

My sensitivity training classes begin next week.

Anonymous said...

Taking away the "pint sized" comment, Micek is otherwise right on point about Morganelli. The perenial A.G. candidate and obvious self promoter will have a hard time convincing voters he is a straight shooter.