Richard Thornburgh, attorney general under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, accused the Justice Department yesterday of prosecuting a prominent Pennsylvania Democrat for political reasons, reports the Washington Post. It was one of a series of cases cited by House Democrats as examples of alleged GOP meddling at the Justice Department. Thornburgh, whose law firm represents Cyril Wecht, a nationally known coroner from Pittsburgh, said Wecht had been indicted for mail fraud and a “hodgepodge” of other charges by overzealous prosecutors keen on pleasing political appointees in Washington.
Thornburgh said Wecht “was not the only apparent political prosecution in western Pennsylvania,” pointing to three high-profile cases of other local Democrats brought by U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan of Pittsburgh. Buchanan said the case against Wecht was “based solely on the facts and the law.” She called it “unfortunate” that Thornburgh aired his criticism in Congress rather than in the courts. Democrats also alleged that Alabama Republicans pushed for the prosecution of former Gov. Don Siegelman, who is serving an 88-month sentence on corruption charges.