Thursday, December 30, 2004

Pioneer Press says Lautenschalger is "Grandstanding"

Yesterday I said that it would be churlish of me to suggest that Wis. Atty General Peg Lautenschlager wanted to prosecute the Chai Vang case because she plans to run for re-election in 2006 (the trial is set for Sept., 2005).

The St. Paul Pioneer Press has no such qualms. Here's Churly!

We're inclined to agree with the cynics who think this is more about politics than prosecutorial discretion. After all, it's certainly no coincidence that Lautenschlager will be up for re-election in 2006.

It's also important to note that Lautenschlager is trying to live down a DWI conviction. Adding insult to injury, she was in a state-owned vehicle earlier this year when she was pulled over and refused to submit to a sobriety test.

Clearly, a victory in the high-profile Chai Vang case would do much to erase these blemishes.

The Pioneer Press notes that taking the case could backfire on her as well. If, for example, the case ends in acquittal for Vang due to some error in procedure, the Pioneer Press suggests this would end her career. I don't think that's likely, though. So far there's been nothing to suggest any procedural loophole exists. But it's a long time until September.

The editorial continues:

Our problem with all this goes beyond the crass political motives obviously at work here. By taking over the case, Lautenschlager increases the profile and tension in an already tense and highly scrutinized case. Moreover, injecting herself — and her politics — into the case will only fuel arguments from all quarters that this case was handled in anything but a routine manner.

While some would argue that the state is only being prudent in paying special attention to this case, we think just the opposite. It should be handled like any other case. Sticking to that simple premise will ensure a fair and speedy trial for all.

Speedy? I wish. A speedy trial would probably be appreciated by the families of the victims. But we've got to wait until September for the trial to even begin! I'm sure the delay works well for Lautenschalger, though. September is that much closer to election day.

(Or am I being churlish?)


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