Mississippi Justice: Bush US Attorney targeted my wife, supporters and friends
by Andrew Buncombe in Washington           04/09/2008
Republican effort jails largest Democratic donor in Mississippi, helps put ex-RNC chairman in governor's chair

In an exclusive interview with RAW STORY, a former Mississippi Republican state legislator who was later backed by Democrats to win a seat on the Mississippi Supreme Court discussed political prosecutions and what he sees as the corruption and politicization of the Department of Justice.

Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz Jr. was indicted in 2003 on charges relating to his receipt of a loan guarantee from trial lawyer Paul Minor – a personal friend and the largest Democratic donor in Mississippi – to help defray campaign debts. A Bush-appointed US Attorney, Dunnica Lampton, brought charges of bribery against Diaz, Minor and two other Mississippi judges.

Diaz was acquitted of all those charges. A jury acquitted Minor of the charges related to Diaz, but was unable to reach a verdict on other charges. Within days of his acquittal, Diaz was indicted a second time. He was again acquitted.

“Normally, a criminal investigation begins after a crime is committed,” Diaz told me. “Investigators are sent out to gather evidence and a list of suspects is drawn up. Sometimes an investigation is begun after a complaint is made about suspicious activity. In our case neither of these things occurred.”

“In other words,” he continued. “An individual was singled out for examination from the federal government and prosecutors then attempted to make his conduct fit into some criminal statute. This is not how our system of justice is supposed to operate.”

Diaz first contacted me after having read Raw Story’s “Part One – The Political Prisoner” in this series, which reported on the prosecution of former Alabama governor Don Siegelman. Our interview was conducted over a period of several months in telephone conversations and email exchanges.

"The Permanent Republican Majority Part V: Interview with Diaz," is part of our ongoing investigation into the undermining of both the electoral process and the US legal system by corporate interests, their lobbyists and elected and appointed government officials aligned with them.

Prior to being appointed to the judiciary, Diaz served in the Mississippi House of Representatives as a Republican for seven years, representing Biloxi and D'Iberville. Diaz was elected to the Mississippi court of appeals in 1994, and in 2000 he was appointed to the state Supreme Court by Democratic governor Ronnie Musgrove.

What emerges during our interview are allegations of even more aggressive prosecutorial tactics and intimidation than has previously been reported. The allegations seem to fit the pattern of prosecution in Alabama, where another Bush-appointed US Attorney successfully prosecuted a popular democratic governor for bribery. As in Alabama, Diaz was indicted a second time after the first set of charges failed to hold up in court. Diaz was ultimately acquitted and still retains his state Supreme Court seat.
House broken into, wife 'threatened'

“After I was indicted and before my trial, my home was also broken into,” Diaz tells RAW STORY. “Our door was kicked in and our documents were rummaged. Televisions, computers and other valuables were not taken, despite the fact that we were out of town for several days and the home was left open by the burglars. We could not figure out a motive for the burglary and reported it to the Biloxi Police Department. The crime was never solved.”

As previously reported in “The Permanent Republican Majority Part II” in our investigative series, Governor Siegelman’s home was broken into twice during the trial, and his attorney’s office was broken into at least once during the tortuous process of his case.

In another eerie parallel, Mississippi judge John Whitfield, who was tried along with Diaz and Minor, had his office set on fire. The Alabama Republican whistleblower, Dana Jill Simpson – who alleges White House involvement in the Siegelman case – had her home set on fire and her car run off the road after she came forward.

An FBI agent was also reassigned to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba after he voiced his concerns about the way Lampton was running his investigations. Agent Michael Campbell’s specialty is forensic accounting; so it’s unclear what his role might be at the prison.

Diaz’s wife, Jennifer, was indicted along with her husband. According to Diaz, the US Attorney’s office offered a veiled threat when discussing a plea agreement, making her an offer she could not refuse.

“Just before our trial, federal prosecutors spoke to Jennifer’s attorney and told him that they were willing to make a deal,” Diaz told me. “They explained that she and I were each facing many years in federal prison and millions of dollars in fines. They told her that it would be a shame if both she and I were convicted because they knew that we had two small children.”

“They said that if she would agree to plead guilty to a single count of tax evasion they would guarantee her that she would serve no time and would pay no fine,” Diaz added. “All she would have to do is fully cooperate with investigators by telling them everything she knows and to truthfully testify if they called her to the stand. Not being able to risk the loss of our children, Jennifer accepted this deal.”

Ultimately, Diaz notes, prosecutors did not call Jennifer to testify, as she was not able to add anything to their case.
Timing of indictments helps elect GOP governor

Diaz’s prosecutions – and those of the largest state Democratic donor and other Democrat- supported judges also seem to be part of a larger pattern to use flimsy criminal indictments for political gain.

Diaz was indicted three months prior the Mississippi’s gubernatorial elections. Because he’d been appointment by the incumbent Democratic governor, Republicans used his name as part of a smear campaign to bolster their candidate, Haley Barbour.

Barbour was the Chairman of the Republican National Committee from 1993 to 1997.

“The indictment was used prominently in the Republican campaign,” Diaz said. “The Haley Barbour campaign used the indictments of Paul Minor and me to taint Governor Musgrove. Minor had been one of Musgrove's largest contributors, and I was his appointee to the Supreme Court.

“Minor was also a large contributor to Democratic candidates across the country,” Diaz. “In fact, at the time he was one of John Edwards’ top ten largest contributors. The indictments would also serve to embarrass Edwards, who was considered at that time to be one of the most serious challengers to George Bush in the 2004 Presidential election. A political operative could not have picked a better time to issue the indictments in order to influence the upcoming elections.”