Thursday, January 27, 2005

Jurygate - The Trap is Sprung!

A co-worker alerted me to this news item today after hearing a reference to it on NPR. If you thought it was scandalous that George Bush avoided Vietnam by getting his daddy's rich and powerful friends to get him into the Texas Air National Guard, this will set the propellor on your tinfoil hat spinning like crazy.

It seems Alberto Gonzales helped George W. out of (gasp!) jury duty, which has prompted a group called the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) to file a complaint with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel of the State Bar of Texas and call for an investigation.

The complaint alleges that Gonzales inaccurately portrayed his role in appearing before a Texas court when President Bush, then Governor of Texas, was summoned for jury duty. Gonzales has claimed that although he appeared in court with the Governor, he merely observed the defense counsel make a motion to strike the Governor from the jury panel and then when asked by the Judge whether the Governor had any views on this, replied that he did not.

In marked contrast, Michael Isikoff, reporting for Newseek, has written that the defense lawyer, prosecutor and judge involved in the case all recall the incident differently. In their version, Gonzales asked to have an off-the-record conference in the judge’s chambers where Gonzales then asked the judge, David Crain, to strike Mr. Bush from the jury, arguing that the Governor might one day be asked to pardon the defendant. Isikoff writes that Judge Crain found Gonzales’s argument “extremely unlikely” but out of deference, agreed to allow the motion to strike, which the defense lawyer then made.

According to Isikoff, by avoiding jury duty for a drunken driving case, then-Governor Bush avoided having to reveal his own arrest for drunken driving -- the revelation being the "October Surprise" by Vice President Al Gore's campaign in 2000. Here's Isikoff's article:

Asked by Sen. Patrick Leahy to describe "in detail" the only court appearance he ever made on behalf of Bush, Gonzales—who was then chief counsel to the Texas governor—wrote that he had accompanied Bush the day he went to court "prepared to serve on a jury." While there, Gonzales wrote, he "observed" the defense lawyer make a motion to strike Bush from the jury panel "to which the prosecutor did not object." Asked by the judge whether he had "any views on this," Gonzales recalled, he said he did not.

Gonzales's answer tracks with the official court record, by the way.

Gonzales last week refused to waver. "Judge Gonzales has no recollection of requesting a meeting in chambers," a senior White House official said, adding that while Gonzales did recall that Bush's potential conflict was "discussed," he never "requested" that Bush be excused. "His answer to the Senate's question is accurate," the official said.

Hey, maybe it's "fake, but accurate" like those memos. One wonders if the Governor would have been dismissed through the normal vetting process anyway just by virtue of being Governor.

The main complaint about Gonzales by Democrats (aside from his personally ordering Lynndie England to use a dog leash) seems to be that he answered his inquisitors with "oblique, lawyerly reponses."

Imagine that.

But let's apply some logic here. Gonzales's inquisitors are not going to ask questions to which they don't already know the answers. It's the standard method. So why would Senatory Leahy ask Gonzales to describe "in detail" a piddly little drunk driving case in Texas? Or to put it another way, what did Leahy already know about this incident? Was the question a trap? What other purpose would such a question serve? Because if Gonzales did suggest that Governor Bush be dismissed from jury duty, this is not illegal.

What CREW is focusing on -- and what they are hoping to get Gonzales disbarred for -- is his reponse to the question asked by Leahy. The moment Leahy asked the question, the trap was sprung. No matter how Gonzales responded, he would lose.

2 Comments:

At 9:40 PM, Blogger Sue Bob said...

David Crain--like all of the judges in Travis County--is a Democrat. I bet the defense attorney is also a Democrat. Given that the prosecutor worked or works for Ronnie Earle--the prosecutor who indicted Tom Delay's cohorts--it is probable that he or she is a Democrat. I am very suspicious of these people's rendition of the "facts."

And if you think I should give deference to a judge's version, because he is, after all a JUDGE--as a trial lawyer all I can say is HAH!.

 
At 9:46 PM, Blogger Drew said...

I had also wondered about whether politics played a role in their version of events. But I thought I'd give 'em the benefit of the doubt. I would encourage you to follow up on this. ;^)

 

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