What’s the long-term impact of the federal government’s decision to abandon the investigation into the River Birch landfill? That’s the subject of this week’s Commentary by Eyewitness News political analyst and Gambit columnist Clancy DuBos.
Clancy DuBos / Eyewitness News Political Analyst
The sudden end of the River Birch landfill investigation leaves us with a lot more questions than answers. The over-arching question is, why?
Officially, the government cited a lack of evidence and the interests of justice. Really? After four years, millions of dollars, and at least one bribery conviction, the feds don’t have any evidence?
What’s more likely is the feds don’t want to be embarrassed by a scandal in their own house. I’m not talking about online comments. That’s small potatoes compared to the prosecutorial misconduct alleged by defense attorney Buddy Lemann last week.
Lemann and others believe that a few — very few — federal prosecutors crossed the line in their zeal to squeeze potential witnesses against River Birch owners Fred Heebe and Jim Ward. If that’s true, the real losers are the citizens of Jefferson Parish. Because now they’ll never know the whole story behind River Birch and its relationship with parish politicians.
So what happens now?
Hopefully, two things:
First, the Justice Department should come clean about any rogue prosecutors. Anyone who broke the rules should pay.
Second, and more important, whoever becomes the next U.S. Attorney should double down on public corruption cases. We’ve come too far since Hurricane Katrina — thanks to federal agents and prosecutors — to back off now. It’s disappointing when a major investigation falls apart. It would be even more disappointing if crooks somehow get the message that they, too, are now in the clear.
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