U.S. Attorney’s Office in Pittsburgh is the pits!

From Think Progress:

Mary Beth Buchanan was appointed by President Bush to serve as U.S. attorney in Pittsburgh in Sept. 2001. Buchanan has held several significant posts within the Bush/Ashcroft/Gonzales Justice Department, most notably serving as director [of] the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys.

Just last month, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Buchanan’s reign was expected to end. Indeed, when a new president is elected, U.S. attorneys of both parties generally submit their resignations to make way for the new appointees. But Buchanan has other plans:

    1. Despite a new administration coming into power, U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan said she plans to stick around.

“It doesn’t serve justice for all the U.S. attorneys to submit their resignations all at one time,” she said yesterday. […]

Original DVD cover.

She’s been described by colleagues as the quintessential loyal Bushie. “She is very focused to the department first of all,” said one assistant U.S. attorney, who asked not to be named. “She’s not independent, and I don’t think she wants to be.”

Buchanan hired Monica Goodling, and she hand-picked a Pittsburgh attorney to serve as the U.S. prosecutor in Alaska, going over the heads of Sens. Ted Stevens and Lisa Murkowski.

From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (November 9, 2008):

As part of a long-standing tradition, the country’s 93 U.S. attorneys offer to resign following the election of a president from another party, though most stay in their posts temporarily to help ensure a smooth transition, said Dick Thornburgh, a former Pennsylvania governor, U.S. attorney general and U.S. attorney for Western Pennsylvania. U.S. attorneys serve at the discretion of the president.


President Bill Clinton replaced 89 U.S. attorneys and President George W. Bush replaced 88 during their respective first two years in office.

Obama is expected to accept the vast majority of resignations from U.S. attorneys and other top-level Republican appointees, especially those with close political ties to the Bush administration, said Bert Rockman, chairman of the political science department at Purdue University.


[…] Buchanan has been criticized for bringing politically motivated investigations and charges against politicians in Western Pennsylvania, none more so than the public corruption case against Dr. Cyril H. Wecht, a forensic pathologist and former Allegheny County coroner. Buchanan has steadfastly denied those allegations, but she was questioned by Congressional investigators looking into whether the Justice Department encouraged selective prosecutions of certain political figures.

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

As top federal law enforcement officer in the Western District, Ms. Buchanan has pursued charges in several high-profile cases. They include the prosecution of four members of the Allegheny County sheriff’s office; a drug paraphernalia case against comic Tommy Chong for selling bongs online; and an unusual case against Extreme Associates, a California company that makes graphic pornography.

Perhaps the most controversial is the ongoing case against former Allegheny County Coroner Dr. Cyril H. Wecht on charges of misusing his public office to gain privately in his pathology business.

She has said that she will continue that work.

What horrible crimes did Dr. Wecht allegedly commit? From Salon (April 11, 2008):

Mary Beth Buchanan, the U.S. Attorney in Pittsburgh, has long been the subject of questions about partisan prosecutions. But in 2006, Buchanan raised more than a few eyebrows when she went after former Allegheny County Coroner Dr. Cyril Wecht, indicting him on multiple counts of various federal crimes, including theft from an organization that receives federal funds.

What, exactly, did Wecht do? Apparently, his transgressions included the improper use of the coroner’s fax machine for private work. There was no evidence “of a bribe or kickback” and no evidence that Wecht traded on a conflict of interest.

But Wecht’s a Democrat, and for a U.S. Attorney anxious to impress her superiors in the Bush administration, apparently that was enough.

This week, a jury mulled over Buchanan’s case against Wecht. The case ended, at least in the short term, with a hung jury [after 50 hours of deliberation].


The jury foreman, who requested anonymity in light of the judge’s request that jurors not yet speak publicly, told the Pittsburg Post-Gazette that he went into the trial with an open mind, but “as the case went on my thoughts were this was being politically driven.”

By the way, there were originally 84 counts (maybe she indicted him for each sheet of paper that came through the fax machine?), but prosecutors dismissed 43 of them. They wanted the charges dismissed with prejudice so that they could bring them again, but the judge said Nuh-uhhh!!!

Okay, kids, just one more snippet. This one is from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (March 18, 2007):

[…] Ms. Buchanan has put a special emphasis on public corruption during her tenure.

In the last two years, her office has successfully prosecuted four ranking members of the Allegheny County sheriff’s office, including the former sheriff.


And last summer, after a lengthy investigation into the handling of a firefighters’ union contract by former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy, Ms. Buchanan announced that he would not face charges.

All of the public officials she has targeted have been Democrats, in part, of course, because most officeholders in Allegheny County are Democrats.

But allegations of wrongdoing have also come up against some Republicans here over the years. Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum was heavily criticized for saying that his family lived in Penn Hills — requiring the school district there to pay the cost for his children to attend a cyber school — while they were really in Virginia.

An employee of U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, was fired after alleging that congressional staff and resources were being used for campaign work.

And local charges were filed against then-state Rep. Jeff Habay, R-Shaler, for ordering his staff to do campaign work on public time.

None of those cases resulted in criminal charges in federal court, and Ms. Buchanan would not comment on whether there were any investigations.

A recently released study by two retired communication professors found that under the Bush administration, the Department of Justice has investigated elected Democratic officeholders and office seekers locally seven times more than their Republican counterparts.

The authors looked at 375 federal criminal cases across the country that targeted public officials from 2001 to 2006.

They found that of those, 298 defendants were Democrats; 67 were Republicans and 10 were independents.

That number comes despite a statistic that shows that Democratic officeholders outnumber Republicans nationally by only 50 percent to 41 percent, said one of the authors, Donald C. Shields, a professor emeritus of communication at the University of Missouri at St. Louis.

“Pittsburgh’s a big town, but you have a hundred little towns,” Mr. Shields said. “It shouldn’t be hard [to find a Republican] if they’re investigating fairly. They didn’t just swear to uphold the law where Democrats hold office.”


Filed under 2008 election, Alaska, Alberto Gonzales, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Chimpy, Corruption, Democrats, George W. Bush, Gonzogate, humor, John Ashcroft, Justice Department, Lisa Murkowski, Monica Goodling, movies, parody, politics, Republicans, Rick Santorum, snark, Ted Stevens, Wordpress Political Blogs

31 responses to “U.S. Attorney’s Office in Pittsburgh is the pits!

  1. jeb

    With the war in Iraq it’s hard to fathom but I still maintain that one of the greatest crimes committed by the Bu$h administration is the perversion of justice. I’m not so starry eyed to believe that justice has always been fair and impartial in the US but the principle has always been there. However, this mis-administration has ensured the dimutation of tha concept by appointing hacks and criminals to imporant positions in Justice. Good-bye Mary Beth. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out!

  2. i completely agree, jeb. i repeatedly invoke judgment at nuremburg, and i am sure people are sick of hearing me saying it, but the hijacking of the justice department always makes me think of that film. once the judicial branch becomes a weapon of the executive, then we might as well throw away the flags. take ‘liberty and justice for all’ out of the pledge. it’s pretty telling that alberto gonazles can’t find a job. i suspect mukasey will retire when he is done with his stint.

  3. jeb

    Hey Nonnie, speaking of Justice, did you see this? Obama chose Shinseki as the new head of veteran’s affairs. Rummy and his lackeys could not stand the honesty of Shinseki and now Obama has asked this honorable man to take care of vets. The link is here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28086691

  4. Jeb, that’s great news–thanks for sharing! If this site had recommend buttons for comments, I’d click it for yours.

  5. nightowl724

    It’s a ‘Burgh thing…

    Buchanan makes me so, ummm, proud of my hometown.


    OTOH, Dr. Wecht is one of the most respected forensic pathologists in the world. But, he’s Jewish and a Democrat and he had the courage to go against the Warren Commission report on JFK’s assassination. He has also been an important, often controversial, figure in many other high-profile cases. Therefore, the Rethugs just had to take him down eventually. It is so sad how his reputation has been so viciously maligned.


    To those of you who don’t know about Dr. Wecht’s work, here is a Wiki link:


    nonnie, thanks for bringing this to everyone’s attention with your great poster!

  6. jeb,
    i just read that over at the big orange. thanks for the link. 🙂

  7. nightowl,
    i have seen dr. wecht often on tv. i think he goes a bit far sometimes. the jon-benet ramsey case, for example. i thought his theory was loony. i think these guys get too much tv time, and they become legends in their own minds. that said, there was no reason to charge him. it was political, pure and simple. the shame is that most or all of gonzo’s gang will never be punished.

  8. why do i think rove and bush are paying MBB to stay on and be a thorn in the side of obama

    can i be a conspiracy theorist

  9. James


    Interesting post, although a little outdated. The prosecution dropped all charges except 14 after the hung jury in the wecht trial. The remaining counts only involve misbillings for travel reimbursements by a fax machine from what the papers are reporting. The misbillings are to private firms that have not lodged any complaints and relate to amounts less than 100 bucks.

    As for public corruption, until the news paper articles ran about the politically motivated prosecutions, Buchanan’s office only targeted Democrats. Once the stories ran, she went after a Republican judge in Erie relatively quick after.

    Here are some great links on Buchanan’s tenure. I recommend you read up on the Rottschaefer case:


  10. Friend of the court

    I’ll get my tin hat and join you, dc. The bush crime wave has been more conspiracy than administration, from the start and before.

  11. James


    Yes, Dr. Wecht is an opinionated a-hole at times; however he was also a great civil servant. The guy worked for 60,000 for the county as coroner/medical examiner, when he should have received 120,000+. His replacement is receiving such.

    Additionally, Wecht drew the best talent to work at the county office for discount prices in order to provide them the opportunity to put on their resume that they worked for him.

    Wecht also built a coroner school at the local college in the area.

    In return, he was pushed out of office for small misbillings which when shown to him, he said he would pay, yet for some reason the misbillings rose to the level of criminal action opposed to civil. The misbillings in total were roughly 1,000 dollars.

    As for the college, investigators put in their reports that Wecht was trading dead bodies for lab space with the university. The dean of he school, a catholic nun, was not only appalled by the accusations, but enraged. You see the investigators never interviewed her or her staff about the allegations. The nun later testified no such deal existed at Wecht’s first trial.

    The case is just ugly. But the most alarming allegation was what the Wecht camp released. They stated their client was being targeted for his cooperation in a wrongful death lawsuit against police. Wecht had ruled the death of a man while in police custody was a homicide. The local DA refused to enforce the law and arrest the officers. When wecht agreed to be an expert for the dead man’s family in a suit against the officers and city, the DA allegedly said he would see wecht burn….then a few months later this case happens.

  12. James

    taken from a comment on huffington

    “If a prosecutor wants to use you for career-climbing, he or she can do it with impunity. There are no effective checks on prosecutors” power to destroy you, even if they use unlawful means.”

    Above quote is from Dr. Rottschaefer, a victim of U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan

    Read the full article:

    Click to access CriminalCriminalJustice08.pdf

    and related articles:

  13. Darren7160

    I really pray (yes, some of us Liberals do pray) that she does refuse to resign! It is so much better to FIRE her butt! Arrogant little twit. Go out being the victim! I love it. Aren’t all repubs just poor little victims of the mean old nasty Liberals. hehehehehehe. I want to see how she rationalizes her being FIRED on her resume!

    Oh, don’t worry you nattering whining Repubs. I am sure there are plenty of “think” tanks that will give her a sympathy and she will land on her back. Errr… I mean her feet.

    Hahaha. I know, I know. I am not being true to the “Liberal” belief that all people are victims and deserving of sympathy! Oh well!

  14. writechicpress

    US Attorney Offices around the nation are the pits…just a nasty extension of the White House. In my state, Talibama, 2 of 3 US Attys. were named as the top 10 worst prosecutors in America by the Bennett Law Firm. We’re #1 in rotten top attorneys…a poor consolation prize. I’d rather be #1 in schools; I’d even take the SEC.

  15. jeb

    Talibama, that’s funny. Not only are your US Attorneys among the worst, but those criminal attack dogs of Rove’s need to be in prison for what they did to Gov. Siegleman. I really hope that goes somewhere and I’d love to see Rove have to answer for that.

  16. dcAp,
    mbb is trying to embarrass obama. this is her way of defending gonzo and chimpy. she’ll say see? it’s no big deal that the u.s. attorneys were fired! it doesn’t matter that the argument makes no sense since those who were fired were chimpy appointments, and it was not the traditional replacement of u.s. attorneys at the beginning of a new administration.

  17. fotc,
    i think we should start our own line of designer tinfoil hats. we’ll make a fortune, but we really have to hurry.

  18. hello james,
    welcome to the raisin! 😀

    i didn’t mean to disparage dr. wecht. i may have my disagreements with some of what he says, but in the overall scheme of things, i think he has done a lot of good. thank you for pointing out some of those very good things and for explaining why this prosecution started. truly disgusting.

  19. hello darren!
    welcome to the raisin! 😀

    i am not so sure that mbb is high up enough on the food chain to land herself a cushy job in some rethug think tank. after all, gonzo has not been able to land a job. when a rethug can’t even find a publisher to pay him lots of moolah for a crappy book, then you know that you are finished. poor gonzo is relying on speaking fees to get him through, and he has to walk through protesters to get to his speaking engagements. 😆 so much for loyalty to chimpy!! 😆

    oops, i guess i am not being a good little liberal for taking so much pleasure in gonzo’s misfortune. 😮 okay, i’m over it now! 🙂

  20. oh i come from talibama with a bango on my…… 😳 sorry, i don’t know why that song is stuck in my head. wcp, i was reading the bad prosecutor list last night. very interesting stuff. if any of the raisinettes are interested (and you should be), you can find the list here.

  21. jeb,
    it is my hope that the new justice department as well as both judiciary committees put the siegelman case under the microscope. i know there are probably other cases that are just as tainted as that one, but a powerful governor being taken down by a corrupt justice system should prove to people that, if a politically motivated judiciary can do that to a governor, it can do far worse to those who are not powerful.

  22. james,
    3 of your comments got stuck in the spam filter because of all the links. i didn’t see them until after i answered you the first time. i know the cyril wecht case is old news by now, but i wanted to highlight the type of prosecutions that mbb has pursued. i will check out the links about dr. rottschaefer. i have never heard of him.

  23. jeb

    Nonnie, if no other case is investigated and prosecuted this one should be. It is an example of the arrogance and hubris of Rove and the rethugs. How dare the people of Alabama elect a Dem? We disagree so we’ll just overrule their decision and send innocent people to prison.

  24. Dusty

    Mary Beth is a massive bag of bat$hit. She climbed to the top on the back of Tommy Chong for starters, which I blogged extensively about recently.

    I rank her right above Ashcroft and below Karl Rove on the slime scale.

  25. jeb,
    and they should have the entire trial on tv. it would be the best civics lesson evah!

  26. dusty,
    i bet she was a real bitch in high school. she the type who would kiss the asses of the teachers and throw every other kid to the wolves. of course, the cool teachers didn’t fall for her bull$hit, and they hated her as much as everyone else.

    i hope the new u.s. attorney finds out she used the fax machine for something other than business and prosecutes her for it!

  27. Jesus. Some of these Bushie ambulance chasers are still drunk off the Jesus juice Alberto Gonzalez served them on a daily basis.
    This silly twit Buchanan must realize her career is just about over, so she pulls a stunt like refusing to resign to get herself 15 minutes of fame.
    I hope she ends up prosecuting drunks at the Tuscaloosa court house. For $40,000 a year.

  28. karen,
    this is about embarrassing the new ag and obama. when they fire her, she will compare it to gonzo firing the u.s. attorneys in gonzogate. it is totally different, but the rethug morons will drink it in like it is fine wine and use it in arguments whenever someone brings up the disgusting behavior of the chimpy justice department.

  29. karen,
    this is about embarrassing the new ag and obama. when they fire her, she will compare it to gonzo firing the u.s. attorneys in gonzogate. it is totally different, but the rethug morons will drink it in like it is fine wine and use it in arguments whenever someone brings up the disgusting behavior of the chimpy justice department.

  30. Pingback: Dr. Cyril Wecht Opens Up About Being Targeted by U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan « By Meg White