The Holder Justice Department Misleads a Federal Grand Jury

by Hans A. von Spakovsky

There have been many stories about the politicization of the Holder Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the general unprofessionalism and incompetence of many of its lawyers who don’t believe in the race neutral enforcement of our voting rights laws.

Now AP is reporting that the division was forced to dismiss a federal prosecution in Hawaii with prejudice three days into the trial after the case fell apart and the lead prosecutor, Susan French, was forced to admit that she had misled a federal grand jury. The assistant U.S. attorney in Hawaii, Susan Cushman, said DOJ was asking for the dismissal “in the interests of justice.”

The division’s Criminal Section is headed by Mark Kappelhoff, a former ACLU attorney and $2,000 Obama campaign contributor who was accused in the past of trying to abuse federal law to attack Republicans. He apparently approved the criminal prosecution of two Hawaiian farmers, Alec and Mike Sou, who recruited workers from Thailand to harvest melons, lettuce, and pumpkins. The farmers were indicted for human trafficking due in part to Ms. French’s statement to a federal grand jury that it was a violation of federal law for such workers to pay a recruiting fee when they traveled to Hawaii in 2004.

The problem with that assertion is that such recruiting fees were perfectly legal in 2004 — they did not become a violation of federal law until 2009, five years later. The federal judge overseeing the case, Susan Oki Mollway, had to ask French three times in court whether French agreed she had misstated the law to the grand jury before French finally admitted her mistake.

French and her prosecution team claimed that the farmers mistreated their workers, supposedly housing them in dirty metal containers and making them work for little pay. The Sous claimed they treated their workers well. The government’s problem was that none of the witnesses called in the case supported the government’s allegations. One of the jurors was quoted by the AP as saying that “the government just did not do their homework, and point by point, evidence from the people giving statements supported the Sous.”

The prosecutors also claimed that when the workers arrived in Hawaii, they were paid less than they had been promised and their visas only lasted for a few months. But apparently, the only reason the pay was lower was because the farmers were making the tax deductions required under federal law from the wages that had been promised. And the visas only lasted a few months because the federal government (not the two farmers) failed to renew the guest worker visas after the first three months. So the Sous were being prosecuted for actions that were actually the fault of the federal government. The defense team pointed out that the allegations of mistreatment only arose after the government had terminated the work visas; as supposed victims of human trafficking, those workers who otherwise would have been deported back to Thailand can now remain in Hawaii.

The AP reports that French “stepped down from the prosecution team” because of “unspecified health issues” (acting unethically could certainly be unhealthy for one’s continued work as an attorney). So will the infamous Office of Professional Responsibility at Justice actually investigate this apparent incompetence and unethical behavior by French and all of the other lawyers who were involved in this prosecution, including Mark Kappelhoff, the chief of the Criminal Section who approved this prosecution?

Since OPR is full of left-wingers and headed by Holder ally and former Patrick Leahy staffer Robin Ashton, don’t hold your breath. And don’t expect the Civil Rights Division to admit its mistakes or to offer to do anything to compensate the Sous for destroying their reputations and trying to destroy their lives, falsely accusing them of some of the worst type of misconduct. 

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