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Investigation: No Crime In Attorney Firings

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on July 26, 2010 6:58 AM

The special prosecutor assigned to investigate possible criminal charges in connection with the Bush Administration firings of nine U.S. attorneys said today there was not enough evidence to bring charges. Nora Dannehy, an assistant prosecutor from Connecticut, said Wednesday, July 21 that the firing of U.S. Attorney David Iglesias may have been a violation of DOJ principles, but it was not a crime.

Why in this case would firing an employee be a crime? Most laws governing illegal dismissal for grounds such as discrimination are civil laws. The investigation, according to the New York Times, looked into whether the firings of the U.S. attorneys where done for political reasons which is unethical, or whether there was an attempt to influence an investigation that could harm Democrats, which would be illegal. David Iglesias was fired from his position in New Mexico after the then-Senator from the state inquired into his failure to bring about charges involving voter fraud accusations against Democrats before the 2006 elections.

A fine line was drawn regarding whether Republicans sought to influence the investigation, or just to get rid of Iglesias. "The weight of the evidence established not an attempt to influence but rather an attempt to remove David Iglesias from office, in other words, to eliminate the possibility of any future action or inaction by him," the Justice Department summary said.

The Los Angeles Times reports the investigation also looked into statements made by then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to Congress, ,egarding the firings. While the report on the investigation did say they found the statements made by Gonzales to be "misleading" there was no evidence to indicate they rose to the level of knowingly making false statements, or an attempt to obstruct justice, both of which are criminal violations. 

Representative John M. Conyers Jr., (D-Mich) the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the decision not to pursue criminal charges should not be seen as an exoneration. "There is no dispute that these firings were totally improper and that misleading testimony was given to Congress in an effort to cover them up," he said in a statement.

But the New York Times reported Mr. Gonzales' lawyer in the case, George Terwilliger, said the decision amounted to a vindication and called it "long overdue."

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