This should not surprise anyone:
A perjury charge against a state investigator, who was acquitted, stemmed from his refusal “to do political things” for Attorney General Troy King, a defense attorney claimed.
A King spokesman denied the accusation by defense lawyer Jim Pino, who represented Anthony Castaldo in the trial that resulted in his acquittal on the misdemeanor perjury charge by a Jefferson County jury Wednesday.
In a hearing outside the presence of the jury, Pino told Circuit Judge William Cole that Castaldo was persecuted for “refusing to do political things at the request of the attorney general and administrative staff.” . . .
The attorney general special agent worked for King’s 2006 general election opponent John Tyson for three years. Castaldo said King asked him around late 2005 for information that could be used against Tyson in the campaign.
Castaldo said he refused and was reassigned from his duties as a special investigator for King.
King’s office denies this, and tries to make it sound like the prosecution was the independent work of JeffCo DA David Barber:
King’s office had nothing to do with the prosecution of the misdemeanor charge, which was handled by the Jefferson County district attorney’s office, spokesman Chris Bence said.
That is a load of crap. Here’s what happened:
Castaldo is accused of intentionally giving false testimony during an October 2005 gambling case when he was asked under oath by a defense lawyer, “Did you represent yourself as being an investigator for the Judicial Inquiry Commission to anybody?” Castaldo testified then, “No, I did not,” according to the trial transcript.
Troy King’s office pointed out the 2005 testimony in material sent last year to Jefferson County District Attorney David Barber, according to testimony Tuesday. Barber’s office filed the perjury charge against Castaldo, claiming his denial amounted to perjury.
King’s office initiated the whole thing. And here’s another question. The alleged representation occurred in Bessemer, and the alleged false statement may have, too. But rather than send the “material” to Bessemer DA Arthur Greene, King sent it to Barber. Why? Because Barber would be more likely to do as King wanted?
Whatever the answer, the fact is none of this would have happened had not King’s office initiated the prosecution. So the questions is why he decided to prosecute his personal assistant, a guy whose job was doing “‘favors for friends’ of the attorney general.”
What’s more likely? That the same attorney general who has as the chief of his violent crimes division a man who blatantly lied to the court about the existance of potentially exculpatory evidence in a death penalty case is now sooo concerned about honest dealings that he would turn over for criminal prosecution a man who at worst committed misdemeanor perjury? Or that the prosecution was retribution for Castaldo’s failure to do King’s dirty work?
When the news first broke that an investigator with the AG’s office was being prosecuted for perjury, I posted about it with the title “He Must Have Testified In Favor Of The Defendant.” So you know what I think.
The whole thing smelled funky from the git-go. This just is not how the world works. Like it or not, what Danny says here is true:
Right or wrong, the stereotypical behavior when law enforcement is accused of mishandling an investigation is that the accused department stands together to defend its own.
If you want an example of typical behavior, check out David Barber’s actions in this case:
Back in August, four men entered the home of Ricky Gross – a father of seven and a former sailor in the US Navy – and shot him a total of fourteen times, twelve of them in the back. Two other people witnessed the event and both say that Gross was unarmed and had not threatened anyone. Gross died from the injuries.
Nevertheless, District Attorney David Barber announced yesterday that there would be no criminal charges against the four assailants. The coroner, who was not at the scene, said there was a knife on the floor near Gross’s dead body. An autopsy revealed that Gross was drunk when he was killed. The assailants say Gross threatened them. Clearly, then, this was a case of self defense and there is no need to arrest anyone or to submit the case to a grand jury.
Not so clear? Oh yeah, the assailants were cops.
The only times the waggons get “uncircled” are when there is absolutely no plausible defense for the accused, or the accused has done something to make someone mad. Given that the jury acquitted Castaldo in about forty-five minutes, the former wasn’t the case here. So that leaves the latter, which is exactly what Castaldo now says happened.
What’s the truth? Maybe we’ll never know. But if what Castaldo says is accurate, than Troy King is unfit to be the Attorney General, a District Attorney, or any other type of prosecutor.
Prosecutors are, in my opinion, probably the most powerful people in government. Their responsibilities are truly awesome. Legislatures write laws, and those laws are enforced in courts, but whether or not to prosecute people who break laws is a decision that belongs solely to the prosecutor. They can prosecute for any reason or no reason. No-one gets to review those decisions. Maybe Castaldo was prosecuted for political reasons. That in no way would have prevented a conviction, though.
This unreviewable discretion means the prosecutor holds not just people’s lives, but the law itself, in his hands. The law is not worth much if it isn’t used. And if it is used selectively to advance political goals, the law loses its inherent authority and becomes just another tool of the political trade. It no longer commands respect.
So these are folks we really need to trust. People we know will apply the law fairly and even handedly, rather than using it to advance a political agenda. In other words, we need to know that the decision to prosecute is made soberly and rationally, free from considerations of party affiliation, personal feelings, religion, race, or anything other than the need to do justice.
If, in fact, Troy King handed Castaldo to the wolves because Castaldo would not do personal political favors for Troy King, than Troy King has betrayed our trust. He has betrayed the law. He is unfit for his office.