The United States has been rocked for the past couple of weeks over the firing of seven U.S. Attorneys (USAs) from their districts around the country, but according to the New York Times, at least two of those firings were apparently due to the USAs' failure to get on board the administration's anti-pornography train.
"In rating the prosecutors, Mr. Sampson [Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' chief of staff] factored in whether they 'exhibited loyalty to the president and attorney general,' according to documents released by the Justice Department," Times reporters David Johnson and Eric Lipton wrote. "In one e-mail message, Mr. Sampson questioned a colleague about the record of the federal prosecutor in San Diego, Carol C. Lam. Referring to the office of the deputy attorney general, Mr. Sampson wrote: 'Has ODAG ever called Carol Lam and woodshedded her re immigration enforcement? Has anyone?' Ms. Lam was one of the seven fired prosecutors."
Most tellingly, however, the story continued, "Two others, Paul K. Charlton in Arizona and Daniel K. Bogden in Nevada, were faulted as being 'unwilling to take good cases we have presented to them,' according to another e-mail message to Mr. Sampson, referring to pornography prosecutions." [Emphasis added]
It is almost beyond dispute that most if not all of the fired attorneys were targeted either because they were perceived as disloyal to the Bush administration, or that they failed to pursue indictments against Democratic politicians and other prominent Democrats in their districts. David Iglesias of New Mexico, for instance, has testified that he believes he was let go after refusing to indict – or at least refusing to disclose existing indictments against – local Democrats in a high-profile corruption scandal just before the November election, where incumbent Rep. Heather Wilson was in a close race against a Democratic opponent.
It is therefore not far-fetched to think that the federal indictments obtained in Arizona last May against 5-Star Distribution and JM Productions, for materials sent by 5-Star to federal agents in Virginia, were yet another attempt to pander to the administration theocon supporters.
"I think it certainly plays to their religious base," opined prominent First Amendment attorney Luke Lirot, "because unfortunately, people of that ilk, as long as the government's fighting pornography, everything else in the world is rosy, which is just an indication of how truly misguided those people actually are. 'As long as we're cleaning up pornography, everything else will fall into place', and that's just insane. It's a waste of resources and it has absolutely no beneficial impact on any aspect of our society."
It is almost always the case that the U.S. Attorney in a particular area is better able to assess the situation "on the ground" regarding a particular type of crime or prosecution than are his/her superiors in Washington. Hence, the fact that San Diego-based USA Carol Lam felt that her time was better spent investigating and prosecuting corrupt politicians like Reps. Randy "Duke" Cunningham and Jerry Lewis rather than chasing illegal immigrants, despite the administration's intense interest in the immigration issue, gave Sampson the excuse he needed to fire her – and of course, the fact that Lam was pursuing Republican crooks simply made her that much more of a juicy target.
"Absolutely, there's no question about it," Lirot agreed. "I think this is indicative of the desperation and political pressure that's coming to bear as part of that so-called political capital that the Bush administration acquired and apparently still thinks is intact in spite of the dramatic trouncing of that same idea in the last election."
"These U.S. Attorneys that have been replaced obviously know their communities' standards," he continued, "but more importantly they probably have a much better idea of the priorities of their individual jurisdictions, and I think this attempt is really nothing more than the Bush administration, through the Attorney General's office, trying to distract people from the dismal state of affairs brought on by the absolute travesty in Iraq and the fact that the bottom is starting to show evidence of falling out of the economy."
The administration may well have thought that porn indictments in Arizona would be a slam-dunk, considering the attempts by Phoenix politicians to stamp out swing clubs in that city, and Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio's hard-line "law and order" stance, which had banned porn possession and smoking by prison inmates, who were also forced to live in tents in 100 degree heat. They may also have recalled the successful prosecutions in Las Vegas in the early '90s of the Peraino family, which had owned Arrow Film & Video.
But swinging is not porn, and the community standards in the metropolitan areas of Nevada and Arizona have changed significantly in the last decade, such that it now would undoubtedly be much more difficult to obtain federal obscenity convictions there – and the U.S. Attorneys in those districts would have been in the best positions to know that.
Some have voiced doubt about the Bush administration's dedication to prosecuting adult business owners; the firing of two U.S. Attorneys because they would not go along with the government's anti-porn agenda should put an end to such doubts.