Robert Thornburg, the former Attorney General of President Ronald Reagan and the first Bush administration, now has a private practice and does not have any qualms about critiquing a series of bizarre corruption charges from last year against top Democrats. He believes that the Justice Department, under former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, is behind the accusations against prominent Democratic politicians.
In particular, he blames Mary Beth Buchanan, a U.S. attorney in Pittsburg, who has been investigating corruption charges against prominent Democrats since 2006, especially in Thornburg’s home state of Pennsylvania. He believes that Buchanan’s persecution of only Democrats reflects her partisan views.
Partisan politics dominate American politics too often, especially with people like Buchanan in office. Thornburg believes that these charges are Buchanan’s way of getting recognition from the Justice Department in order to advance her career. Politics is a home for people who are hungry for power, and in Buchanan’s case, politics is simply a matter of playing by the rules.
Thornburg’s client, Dr. Cyril Wecht, is a Pennsylvania Democrat, a former coroner of Allegheny County and a high-profile forensic psychologist. He is accused of stealing resources from the coroner’s office to benefit his private practice. Among the charges are improper use of government fax machines and postage meters.
Because the doctor is a prominent Democrat, he is an easy target for tarnishing the reputation of the Democratic Party as a whole. Apparently, Buchanan is attempting to kill two birds with one stone. Surely, Buchanan is after him to advance her career, since his case has no real significance. Her actions suggest that on her climb up the career ladder, Buchanan will try to beat any Democrat within reach with a stick.
On April 8, 2008, Wecht’s trial ended in a hung jury and is scheduled for a re-trial in May. This is no surprise, since Republicans like Buchanan are determined to rein in Democrats, even if it means spending thousands of dollars on an unnecessary re-trial. One juror, Rev. Stanley Albright, admitted to the media that he could not find any fault against the defendant. This might have been a sign to stop the trial, but Buchanan is pushing on for a second round.
Spending money and time investigating a case that lacks evidence and importance is plain stupid. A case as unsubstantiated as the one against Wecht only serves to promote grievances along partisan lines. Thornburg should continue to vocally oppose Buchanan’s crusade against Wecht.
Two jurors admitted that the FBI recently contacted them to schedule a home interview about the case. Imagine men in black suits showing up at their front doors! A U.S. attorney spokeswoman announced that this is ordinary. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, since 2002, federal officers have criminally investigated 40 percent of accused persons. However, experts believe that this is odd behavior. According to these experts, mistrials are not usually followed up with a phone call from the FBI.
Partisan politics is once again shaping American politics, and it continues to show its peculiar side in Wecht’s case.
Melissa Araneta is a fourth-year political science major. She can be reached at