Patterico's Pontifications

9/29/2005

L.A. Times Spin on Ronnie Earle

Filed under: Crime,Dog Trainer,Politics — Patterico @ 9:01 pm

Interesting how the L.A. Times portrays Ronnie Earle this morning. A cynic might even call it “spin.” (And, judging from the headline of this post, I’m a cynic.)

The profile of Earle is titled Prosecutor Takes Aim at Both Sides of Aisle. The deck headline reads: “Although DeLay calls Ronnie Earle an ‘unabashed partisan zealot,’ others say the Austin district attorney shows no favoritism.” And, although you can’t read it online, there is a picture in the print edition with this caption:

Travis County Dist. Atty. Ronnie Earle may be a Democrat, but so were 12 of the 15 politicians he has indicted.

The story starts out telling the story of how Earle prosecuted Jim Mattox, a prominent former Texas Democrat. It then says:

When he indicted U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on Wednesday, the Texas Republican lashed out at Earle, calling him an “unabashed partisan zealot.”

Just one hitch: Earle may be a Democrat, but, he said, so were 12 of the 15 politicians he has indicted over the years, including Mattox.

Do you get it yet? Have they beaten it into you? Earle is no partisan Democrat! I mean, he may be a Democrat, but — did we mention? — so were 12 of the 15 politicians he has indicted! He is an even-handed prosecutor! He prosecutes both sides of the aisle! He shows no favoritism!

You have to dig 12 paragraphs down to read this little nugget:

Earle has taken pains to project a squeaky-clean image, at one point even accusing himself of a misdemeanor when he discovered that his campaign finance reports had been filed late. Still, he has not always remained above the political fray.

Earle recently said that being called partisan by DeLay was akin to “being called ugly by a frog.” At a Democratic fundraiser in May, he called DeLay a “bully.”

Now, I’ll give the paper credit for printing this — but it deserves a little more prominent treatment. What do you think the L.A. Times would have done if Ken Starr had mocked Bill Clinton at a Republican fundraiser while he was investigating Clinton? I can see the caption now:

Special prosecutor Ken Starr called Bill Clinton a “bully” at a Republican fundraiser.

At a minimum, it’s a serious lapse in judgment for a prosecutor who is investigating a prominent political figure from the other political party to go to a fundraiser for his own party and criticize that political figure. If the L.A. Times weren’t predisposed to dislike DeLay, I strongly suspect that little tidbit would be more prominent — just like you know damn well it would be if the prosecutor were Ken Starr instead of Ronnie Earle.

There were a couple of other things about Earle that the paper left out entirely. For example, why did prosecutor Earle write an op-ed piece in the New York Times criticizing a proposed rule change that would allow DeLay to keep his leadership position even if he were indicted? What difference would that make to Earle’s criminal investigation of DeLay? The answer is: none. It was a purely political point. When you put that together with Earle’s public criticism of DeLay at a Democrat fund-raiser, you begin to see where Earle’s critics are coming from. But that piece is nowhere mentioned in today’s article.

I would have also liked to see some mention in the article of Earle’s suspect decision to condition plea bargains on the defendants’ making large donations to one of Earle’s pet causes. A bit odd, and something that casts a little dirt on that “squeaky-clean image.”

When you look at what was omitted — and the lack of prominence to the negative facts about Earle that were included — it’s hard not to view the article as anything but what I call it in the title: spin.

P.S. I’m not eager to jump on the Republican bandwagon and openly declare Earle’s indictment an obviously partisan act by an obviously partisan D.A. I don’t know what evidence he has, and I’m not a huge fan of Tom DeLay. Maybe he is dirty — and if he is, he should go. I’m just saying, there were a few facts left out today.

P.P.S. Many Republicans have leapt on the example of Earle’s dropped prosecution of Kay Bailey Hutchison (also mentioned in today’s Times article, at the very end) as evidence that Earle is a partisan. I’m not making that argument, because I don’t know all the facts of that case. Prosecutions get dropped for all sorts of reasons, and a dropped prosecution doesn’t necessarily indicate that the prosecution was bogus to begin with, or that the D.A. is a partisan.

Let’s keep a close eye on this — but for crying out loud, don’t trust the paper for all your facts.

26 Responses to “L.A. Times Spin on Ronnie Earle”

  1. Patterico:

    Heh, I think you missed a major point here… probably because you didn’t grow up in the South (neither did I).

    Back in 1985, when Jim “Mad Dog” Mattox was indicted by Ronnie Earle, there were hardly any successful Texas Republicans. Mattox was a Democrat, but he was never a liberal: he was a typical Southern conservative Democrat, a Dixiecrat.

    DeLay pointed this out on Brit Hume last night, and I did some Googling and verified it at least for Mattox: what Earle is, is a partisan liberal. He has prosecuted Democrats, yes… but conservative Democrats, back when there were virtually no Texas Republicans of note.

    So pointing to Mattox as an example of Earle prosecuting one of his own is a complete shuck, since the difference between Mattox and Earle is akin to the difference between Strom Thurmond and Lincoln Chafee.

    That’s where the partisanship comes into it: not Democrat vs. Republican but liberal vs. conservative. Additionally, Earle brings indictments — sometimes for ridiculous things (like three members of the State Board of Education who were indicted for eating lunch together; Earle claimed that constituted a private meeting of a state body) — against political enemies, and even against people with whom he has a personal grudge.

    Dafydd

    Dafydd (f8a7be)

  2. In the line of what Dafydd said, I heard discussion yesterday that Mr. Earle’s prosecution of Democrats was in line with “in house” political maneuvering. I do not know about it myself, but I agree with your statement of needing to be careful with believing what one reads.

    (I think it’s sad and revolting that those who exercise the opportunity of free speech use it to twist and distort. I think we should rename a few organizations, “The Los Angeles Pravda”, The New York Pravda”, but that is probably unfair to Pravda- at least everyone knew they were censored).

    MD in Philly (b3202e)

  3. Like the host, I am not yet convinced that this prosecution has no merit, although like the Washington Post I am skeptical given this particular prosecutor’s actions in the past.

    NRO is also reporting a strange thing – that Earle allowed a film crew access to this investigation. Taken together with his harangue at a fundraiser about his investigation of DeLay, one must wonder.

    DeLay is responsible for a great deal of his own troubles, and he is not a sympathetic figure. My feeling is that if he is that if the indictment survives to trial (somewhat unlikely, from what I have read) that he will be convicted by an Austin jury. Regardless of the results of an appeal, a conviction would spell the end of his political carreer if it isn’t effectively at an end already.

    Glenn (282511)

  4. Heh, I think you missed a major point here… probably because you didn’t grow up in the South (neither did I).

    I grew up in Fort Worth, Texas. Is it the “South”? I dunno, but it’s “Where the West begins.”

    Patterico (4e4b70)

  5. “Earle recently said that being called partisan by DeLay was akin to “being called ugly by a frog.” At a Democratic fundraiser in May, he called DeLay a “bully.””

    If you don’t think DeLay is a bully then you know nothing about the guy.

    actus (c9e62e)

  6. You have missed the point in grand style.

    Patterico (4e4b70)

  7. “You have missed the point in grand style. ”

    That he said it to Democrats in an Un-Starrish way? No one expects the guy to be a statutory independent counsel. We expect the guy to dispense some texas justice, because that’s what happens with texas prosecutors. eeh-haw!

    As to the hutchinson prosecution, I heard he lost an evidentiary hearing right before dropping the case. If so, the question is should he have expected to lose that — ie, he knew he didn’t have any good evidence — or not.

    actus (c9e62e)

  8. Patterico,

    You are a prosecutor (with your own cases), have you looked at Earle’s indictment? Have an opinion of it??

    MD in Philly (b3202e)

  9. This whole “Earle Prosecuted Demcrats” thing has struck me as a bit odd all along. Is the real story that Earle is so insanely biased that the mere fact he has prosecuted Democrats in the past qualifies as news? It’s remiscent of the old joke about the ship captain who got angry when the first mate wrote “captain was drunk today” in the ship log, and retaliated the next day by writing “first mate was sober today.”

    Xrlq (e2795d)

  10. OOPS! Delay’s own attorney contradicts Delay’s claim that the grand jury never asked him to testify! How embarrassing…
    Via the Houston Chronicle: http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/front/3376104

    Tillman (1cf529)

  11. Well, any lawyer worth his salt will advise his client not to testify before a grand jury, regardless of their perception of his guilt or innocence. There is no cross examination allowed in grand jury procedings, so the “when did you stop beating your wife” questions are not subject to challenge.

    What DeLay says may be true in a technical sense, but it is irrelevant. His purpose appears to be to cast aspersions on Earle’s fairness. Earrle has enough problems in that area, IMHO, without dredging up the lack of a grand jury subpoena.

    This is something one would expect a criminal defendant to say.

    Glenn (282511)

  12. What DeLay says may be true in a technical sense – Glenn

    I don’t see any wiggle room in the qualitative statement that he was never invited to speak before the grand jury. Either he was invited or not. It isn’t just a lie, but a bold, incompetent lie at that. Surely the grand jury documents its activities.

    Tillman (1cf529)

  13. Did you read your own link? The speculation was he was talking about a subpoena, which he didn’t receive. Looks like there is plenty of “wiggle room” to me. By the way, your use of the term “lie” in this case is a little over the top, eh? It could have been a simple misstatement in his zeal to paint Earle as a partisan and the grand jury as under Earle’s control.

    Frankly, I can’t see what so fascinates you about this non-story. Even if it was a deliberate lie, it is exactly the kind of comment you would expect from a crimnial defendant in DeLay’s situation. Hard to imagine how he could be any more embarassed than he is from simlpy being indicted in the first place.

    Glenn (282511)

  14. Oh, I see – it wasn’t a lie after all, but just a “simple misstatement.” Excuse my being politically incorrect. But to borrow Lurking Observer’s word: Check.

    Tillman (1cf529)

  15. Earle seems like a anti-corporate-campaign-financing zealotbut only (as far as I can tell) to the extent that it violates the law. Anti-crime zealotry does not necessarily discredit a prosecutor.

    Sure, you get more depth from reading the LAT article together with the NRO article. But still, I don’t think this is one of those LAT “gotcha” issues (though there have been plenty of those). Earle’s prosecution of democrats is THE salient fact in response to the accusations of partisan bias. There are certainly other nuances that illustrate who Earle is, but the “12 of 15″ figure properly belongs front and center.

    I understand Patterico is criticizing the LAT rather than taking a strong position on the indictment itself, but IMO, anyone would have to be a little bit of a zealot to go after DeLay. The prima facie case of Earle’s relative evenhandedness is enough to preserve his breathing room and discretion to go ahead with the case.

    biwah (f5ca22)

  16. Given that the other high-profile case of this nature was Hutchinson, it would have been good to hear some details of that case. On past form, though, I would not trust the LAT to give the subj. an honest treatment.

    Bostonian (a37519)

  17. A colleague of mine today observed, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” meaning that he was inclined to believe Delay was up to no good.

    I’ve always DETESTED that line of reasoning, but we can use it here like this: In the case of Ronnie Earle, there is a lot of smoke…

    Bostonian (a37519)

  18. Where there is smoke, there is smoke. You have to go see if there is a fire. Some fires don’t have smoke, and some smokes don’t have fires. This is basic statistical inference, called type I and type II errors; or false positives and false negatives.

    Charles D. Quarles (5d11c1)

  19. Tillman said:

    Oh, I see – it wasn’t a lie after all, but just a “simple misstatement.” Excuse my being politically incorrect. But to borrow Lurking Observer’s word: Check.

    Tell you what – you see it your way, and I’ll see it mine. And if “gotcha” snarks make you feel powerful, I’ll tip my king and give you the last word.

    Glenn (278ab1)

  20. Biwah said:

    Earle’s prosecution of democrats is THE salient fact in response to the accusations of partisan bias. There are certainly other nuances that illustrate who Earle is, but the “12 of 15″ figure properly belongs front and center.

    Perhaps that would be true taken solely prima-facia without any deeper examination. But apparently, many of his prosecutions of Democrats were of Democrats who were his political enemies within the Democrat party.

    I think that could be salient. Don’t you?

    Glenn (278ab1)

  21. Sorry Glenn, I realize that I stepped on your toes. I’ll try to be more respectful. But generally, from what I’ve seen, your comments are well thought out and fair minded. So I may not agree with you, but I respect your opinion (for whatever that’s worth).

    Take heart though, Bostonian’s trying to give me a hard time. So I take my fair share of abuse too. :-)

    Tillman (1cf529)

  22. Outside of the legalities of the case, I will make a prediction: later in the month of November, 2006 (after the elections), this case will be dropped by Earle due to lack of evidence, as will the Frist flap. You have to be incredibly naive not to see the Dems strategy in this. Joseph Goebels would recognize it immediately. It was he that said that if you repeat a lie often enough it becomes the truth. (see also; “Bush lied”, Bush stole the election”, etc., etc.)

    Lange (d69831)

  23. “Outside of the legalities of the case, I will make a prediction: later in the month of November, 2006 (after the elections), this case will be dropped by Earle due to lack of evidence, as will the Frist flap”

    Right around the time the Plame investigation indictments are coming.

    actus (c9e62e)

  24. Lange:

    It would be nice just to write this all off as a VLWC, but I just don’t buy it. I am not suggesting that they necessarily wouldn’t have participated in such a scheme had it been possible, but I am not totally convinced that they would have, either.

    Earle may or may not try to drag this case out (I concede you are probably correct in suggesting he will), but the Frist appears entirely unrelated. I also doubt any real coordination between Earle and the national Democrat party, although I certainly am not willing to rule it out entirely. It just seems unlikely to me.

    The Dems (and for that matter, Republicans) have often been guilty of repeating such nonsense as “culture of corruption” about the other party. It is tried and true politics, and the message discipline should not necessarily lead one to conclude that there is a conspiracy at work.

    Glenn (278ab1)

  25. At a Democratic fundraiser in May, he called DeLay a “bully.”

    From the Texas Disciplinary Rules:

    (a) In the course of representing a client, a lawyer shall not make an extrajudicial statement that a reasonable person would expect to be disseminated by means of public communication if the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that it will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicatory proceeding. A lawyer shall not counsel or assist another person to make such a statement.
    ….
    (b) A lawyer ordinarily will violate paragraph (a), and the likelihood of a violation increases if the adjudication is ongoing or imminent, by making an extrajudicial statement of the type referred to in that paragraph when the statement refers to:

    (1) the character, credibility, reputation or criminal record of a party, suspect in a criminal investigation or witness; or the expected testimony of a party or witness;

    Sue Bob (b1f2b3)

  26. […] supporters like to point out that he has prosecuted more Democrats than Republicans; but others have countered that, while this may be true, at a Democrat fundraising event, Earle took shots a DeLay, which was […]

    Culture of corruption, revisited: "Court refuses to reinstate charges against DeLay" (e95a11)


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