So Thornburgh, as part of a defense strategy to avoid indictment, sent a letter to then-Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty pointing out some of the apparent shortcomings in the government's case and arguing that the charges were better dealt with by the state ethics commission. He also sat down with Buchanan and her assistants to attempt to dissuade them from indicting their client. To Thornburgh's surprise, Buchanan called Wecht's case "one of the worst cases of public corruption... that we have seen in four years." And when Thornburgh sought an assurance that Wecht wouldn't be subjected to a "perp walk," but would be allowed to surrender himself (routine for someone of Wecht's stature), Buchanan said no, that Wecht, a Jew, was a "flight risk to Israel."
When Thornburgh mentioned during the meeting that he would take this up with McNulty, the number two at the Department, Buchanan's assistant prosecutor didn't react well. As Thornburgh described in the affidavit, the prosecutor, Stephen Stallings, "pointed his finger at me and asked me directly what I intended to say to the Deputy Attorney General. I ignored his inquiry." And when Thornburgh concluded the meeting by saying that it was his opinion that "she was going to regret pursuing this indictment," Stallings "inappropriately responded as if I had threatened them." Thornburgh adds: "I did not respond to this outburst."
As it happened, Thornburgh did speak with McNulty. And McNulty agreed that Wecht should be allowed to surrender himself. "I am glad that an agreement was reached," he wrote in a letter to Thornburgh. On January 20, 2006, Wecht was indicted. He was allowed to surrender, but Buchanan herself held a press conference to mark the occasion.
But that's not all. In June of this year, Wecht's lawyers went to the press to announce that prosecutors had recently approached them to try to strike a plea deal. The approach, they observed, was happening just as Buchanan was testifying to Congressional investigators about her role in the U.S. attorneys scandal. "She wants to make sure we keep our mouths shut while she's down there before Congress," one of Wecht's lawyers told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The lawyers also detailed Thornburgh's difficulties with Buchanan, as illustration of what they say is the political nature of the prosecution.
Buchanan's office quickly responded with a motion for sanctions against Wecht's lawyers (Thornburgh curiously excepted) -- which would result in either jail time or suspension. The lawyers, Mark Rush and Jerry McDevitt, Stallings alleged, had "repeatedly lied to the court, lied to the media, breached their ethical obligations as lawyers," and violated "some of the most basic and fundamental principles of professionalism." Wecht's lawyers responded by calling the motion "a hatchet job" and noted that Buchanan's office had not been shy so far about publicizing the details of the case. The motion was ultimately denied.
Wecht's case is due to go to trial at the end of January, but Thornburgh gets to tell his story tomorrow.