Fallout

Brian Zick

Richard Schmitt for the LA Times reports: For months, the Justice Department and Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales have taken political heat for the purge of eight U.S. attorneys last year.Now the fallout is starting to hit the department in courtrooms around the country.Defense lawyers in a growing number of cases are raising questions about the motives of government lawyers who have brought charges against their clients. In court papers, they are citing the furor over the U.S. attorney dismissals as evidence that their cases may have been infected by politics.Justice officials say those concerns are unfounded and constitute desperate measures by desperate defendants. But the affair has given defendants and their lawyers some new energy, which is complicating life for the prosecutors. (…) The controversy has drained morale from U.S. attorney offices around the country. And now, legal experts and former Justice Department officials say, it is casting a shadow over the integrity of the department and its corps of career prosecutors in court.There has long been a presumption that, because they represented the Justice Department, prosecutors had no political agenda and their word could be trusted. But some legal experts say the controversy threatens to undermine their credibility."It provides defendants an opportunity to make an argument that would not have been made two years ago," said Daniel French, a former U.S. attorney in Albany, N.Y. "It has a tremendously corrosive effect."

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