I thought the Dems were going to come in and clean up the government? I guess they just meant the REPUBLICAN side of the government. I wounder if “My Pony” J. Edwards will step down?
Detroit lawyer charged for 2004 Edwards donations
From Reuters DETROIT (Reuters) – Detroit attorney Geoffrey Fieger, best known for his high-profile defense of assisted suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian, was charged on Friday with conspiring to channel $127,000 in illegal contributions to the 2004 presidential campaign of Democrat John Edwards.
According to a federal indictment unsealed on Friday, Fieger, 56, and legal partner Vernon Johnson, 45, worked to solicit over 60 “straw donors” from among employees, their families and vendors to their firm in 2003 and 2004.
The indictment, which was returned by a grand jury on Tuesday, claims that Fieger then arranged to reimburse those “straw donors” for their contributions to Edwards in payments disguised as bonuses or payments for services.
Prosecutors said that constituted a conspiracy to skirt regulations barring corporate contributions to federal elections and limiting individual donors to $2,000 each.
Fieger faces up to 55 years in prison if convicted on all 10 counts in the indictment and fines of up to $2.5 million.
Campaign officials for Edwards, a former U.S. senator and trial lawyer, were unaware of those actions by Fieger at the time, prosecutors said in a statement.
A spokeswoman for Edwards, who is running for president again in 2008, said the campaign would return the money if Fieger was found guilty.
“The 2004 Edwards for President campaign held itself to the highest standards and made every effort to comply with the legal requirements for campaign finance, as does the current campaign,” Edwards spokeswoman Colleen Murray said.
“We have and will continue to cooperate fully with the (Federal Election Commission) and the Department of Justice.”
Fieger released a statement saying that the charges against him were false and that the prosecution was politically motivated by the Republican Bush administration.
“The timing of these unprecedented charges, that have no support in fact or law, during the height of the presidential fund raising campaign, is solely intended to intimidate Democratic supporters around the country,” Fieger said.
An arraignment date has not been set in the case. Fieger will plead not guilty, his lawyer Gerry Spence said.
Known as a flamboyant and combative trial lawyer, Fieger shot to national fame in the 1990s after winning a string of acquittals for Kevorkian, a controversial assisted suicide advocate who became known as “Dr. Death.”
Kevorkian, who claimed he had assisted in some 130 deaths, was convicted in 1999 of second-degree murder at a trial in which he chose to represent himself. He was paroled in June.
Fieger ran unsuccessfully for governor of Michigan as a Democrat in 1998.
Embattled lawyer Geoffrey Fieger said today that the U.S. Justice Department hurried to unseal an indictment against him last week because Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was resigning.
“It was one of his last dirty tricks,” Fieger said this afternoon. “They knew he was resigning and they wanted to get it out before he left.”
A spokesman for the Justice Department called Fieger’s linking of the two events “ridiculous, ludicrous, absurd.”
“That is a joke,” said spokesman Bryan Sierra, who noted that the indictment was returned sealed days earlier, on Aug. 21, not on Friday.
“So much for his theory,” Sierra said “It’s insane to suggest there’s any connection.”
In another development, the judge in the case recused himself today without saying why. U.S. District Judge Sean Cox signed a two-sentence order taking himself off the highly publicized case. Through a random draw, the case was reassigned to U.S. District Judge Paul Borman. Cox’s brother, Michigan Attorney General Michael Cox, has publicly clashed with Fieger. In 2005, Michael Cox accused Fieger of threatening to disclose an affair Cox had, unless Cox backed off a criminal probe of Fieger.
Fieger was never charged with wrongdoing in that case. Fieger said his indictment is just the latest in a string of political prosecutions from a justice department Gonzales had turned ”into an arm of the Republican Party.” He said he didn’t know how Gonzales’s departure would affect his case.
“A new (attorney general) coming in would never let this go forward,” Fieger said. “They wouldn’t touch this with a 1,000-foot pole.” But Fieger said he didn’t know anyone could be confirmed to be the next attorney general because of Congressional concerns.
The Justice Department on Friday unsealed an indictment charging Fieger and his law partner, Vernon Johnson, with illegally reimbursing their employees and others for about $127,000 in political contributions to the 2004 presidential campaign of John Edwards. Fieger also is charged with conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and causing false statements.
Gonzales has been under fire for months for his handling of a variety of issues, including the dismissal of eight U.S. Attorneys.
Fieger plans a news conference at his office Tuesday morning. Famed defense lawyers Alan Dershowitz and Gerry Spence are scheduled to discuss the timing of the indictment and Gonzales’s resignation, according to a statement from Fieger’s office.