MC: How long will it take before the mounting investigation of corruption at city hall comes to an end?
BM: I can’t answer that but I tell you it’s going to be soon.
MC: You were very concerned about leaks to the press. Why?
BM: Leaks are very damaging whenever they come out of the office because we are sworn by grand jury secrecy rules to protect what goes on in grand juries. And there are some good reasons for that. One is to protect the integrity of the investigation. If people know what is happening they can be tipped off, destroy records, so it hurts our case. But I also think it does a disservice to the community because it suggests there’s been wrongdoing when there’s been no criminal charges yet.
There are variety of places a leak could come from. Sometimes it could come from a prosecutor’s office, it could come from investigative agencies or it could even come from witnesses who appear before the grand jury and report the questions they are asked. But I wanted to make sure that leaks weren’t coming out of my office. So we did do an internal investigation after some articles were written earlier this year to determine what the source of the information published was and we were satisfied that information did not come out of our office. But I have made it clear to everyone working in our office that we are bound by the rules of confidentiality in the grand jury and when we talk to the press it is only matters of public information. We want to have a transparent organization and let people know what we are doing. But with respect to the substance of our investigations that are pending and not yet charged, we would take very seriously anyone who discloses that and the consequences could lead to termination.
MC: Has the U.S. Attorney’s Office lost cases in the past as a result of leaks to the press?
BM: I don’t know that we’ve lost any cases as a result of leaks to the press. But I do think that it can compromise cases and I also think it unfairly smears people who may never be charged with a crime. Just because someone is a subject of investigation doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ve done something wrong. It just means they are being investigated. Those are two very different things.
MC: Explain what it means to be a target of an investigation.
BM: Under our grand jury rules and policy, the public should never know that somebody is simply a target of a grand jury investigation. Now I suppose that gets out from time to time from whether its witnesses or agencies or someone. But to be a target of an investigation means that we’ve got sufficient evidence to suggest that someone may have committed a crime. But before we actually charge them we must establish at least probable cause that they’ve committed a crime. We really have a standard beyond that which is a reasonable expectation of conviction at trial and so we’re going to build enough evidence until we think that we’ve got enough evidence that this person, if brought to trial, will be convicted.
It’s the policy of the Department of Justice to neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation. So by that policy we are not entitled to say this person was the target of an investigation but they’ve been cleared and are no longer the target. I can understand why that might be helpful but we are not supposed to say that they are target in the first place.
MC: Under the George Bush presidency there was the revelation of federal prosecutors on a hit list for refusing to be politically controlled which led to some firing of U.S. Attorneys across the country. Some defendants recently charged by your office fired back with accusations of political manipulation. What role, if any, does political expediency have in the U.S. Attorney’s Office?
BM: None whatsoever and it never should. I don’t believe that in this district politics ever played a part in any charging decision. But when you have a situation like you had in the last administration with some U.S. Attorneys being fired across the country, it calls into question everything we do right here at home. So it was very damaging because I think people speculate that decisions are politically motivated. Whenever you are going after someone who is a politician, public office holder they are going to be of one party or another. So I suppose you can be accused of attacking someone based on political grounds, but it has no place in what we do. We work very hard to base our cases on evidence and not on politics and we will seek to hold accountable any public official who misuses the public trust.
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