by David Martin
At the Oscars, Bill Maher encouraged film fans to watch more documentaries. Project Save Justice, showing here Sunday, is not the best place to start, however.
Retired professor Donald C. Shields will be in town with a short documentary about the politically motivated prosecutions conducted by the Bush Justice Department. A professor emeritus at the University of Missouri in St. Louis, Shields and a co-author studied federal investigations of local officials and found that 85 percent of the targets were Democrats.
Shields is related to one of the Democrats. His sister, former Jackson County Executive Katheryn Shields, was the subject of a wide-ranging federal investigation. In 2007, a jury acquitted Shields and her husband, Phil Cardarella, of mortgage-fraud charges.
The politicization of the Justice Department is a serious topic. But for a couple of reasons, concerned citizens may want to pass on the March 1 event at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church.
One, the corruption of the Bush Justice Department has been documented in the press and in the halls of government. In short, this is not one of those "censored story" bonfires that lefties like to gather 'round.
Second, the documentary makes no effort to seperate the genuine victims from the professional ones.
In a clip of Project Save Justice posted on YouTube, Saundra McFadden-Weaver, the chronically dishonest former Kansas City councilwoman, appears less than two minutes into the film, lamenting her entirely justified prosecution for mortgage fraud.
McFadden-Weaver lied on a mortgage application when she borrowed $400,000 for a house in Lee's Summit that she never intended to occupy. A federal jury convicted her of conspiracy and wire fraud in 2007.
In the film, McFadden-Weaver suggests that she was convicted on something other than the evidence. Wearing the clerical collar she likes to break out for public appearances, McFadden-Weaver says her lawyer's son was threatened with "something heavy." She continues: "And the next thing I knew, my lawyer completely changed his demeanor about my case. He was telling me I needed to get ready to go to jail."
The lawyer who represented McFadden-Weaver, Ron Partee, disputes her account. "No one ever threatened to do anything to my son," he tells me.
McFadden-Weaver's comments leave the impression she was coerced into taking a guilty plea. Partee notes that her case went to trial, a trial he tried hard to win. And once convicted, the former councilwoman received a light sentence: two months in prison.
Cardarella concedes that McFadden-Weaver "is not the best example" of prosecutorial misconduct. He tells me in an e-mail: "For the purposes of the issue of political selective prosecution, it really does not matter whether the individual defendant is guilty, anymore than it matters whether individual Black drivers really were speeding when they were racially profiled for stops."
Cardarella's wife complains in the film that the Bushies wanted to limit her ability to raise money for Democrats. Cardarella that if Shields had not been prosecuted, she might today be the mayor of Kansas City. And with Shields as mayor, the Democrats "would simply have had a better chance to carry the state in 2008."
Cardarella concludes: "So, yes, this is a serious topic. And you do not have to think that all the prisoners at Gitmo are misunderstood boy scouts to know that torture is an abomination."