I have listened to the oral argument in the Georgia Thompson case and it was brutal. Reminded of me of an incident that occurred in a federal court trial some years ago. It was a bench trial and through a week of our opponent putting on witnesses, Judge John Reynolds kept making comments that suggested he couldn't see their case with a microscope. Friday morning, I asked one of the other side's lawyers if they were going to finish today. He responded, "we were finished some time on Monday."
The court did not buy the government's theory that the mere consideration of political factors constituted a federal crime because it deprived the state of "honest services." The fact that Adelman and Omega were virtually tied in the scoring process seemed to suggest to them that Thompson was being prosecuted merely for thinking the wrong thing, i.e., that her bosses wanted Adelman for political reasons. Because, it seemed to believe, the government could not tie that thought into any improper action, there could be no crime.
The court seemed to worry about the implications of throwing people into federal prison for having some wrong thoughts in mind during the procurement process. "What if," Judge Wood asked, she believed that Adelman would be great to work with because the account executive looked like Brad Pitt. Would the government have been deprived of honest services.
There is a sense in which the decision seems like it may have turned on the notion of "no harm, no foul."
That's what it seemed like, although we won't know for sure until the opinion comes out. This resolves the case for Georgia Thompson, but it does not entirely dispose of the political questions that have so engaged everyone around here. Did higher-ups in the Doyle administration intervene on behalf of Adelman? Is that a regular occurrence? How did Thompson come to believe (as the jury apparently felt she did) that her "bosses" wanted Adelman( particularly because, as the panel noted, there was no evidence that she was aware of the contribution)? None of this may have been pertinent to the court's decision.
Some folks are pushing the evidence that the prosecution was politically motivated, maybe a case of Biskupic trying to impress the Bush administration. I don't see much evidence of that. It was an aggressive prosecution but we've had a lot of that around here.