Monday, November 27, 2006
The Department of Justice announced that it will appeal a federal judge’s decision to overturn guilty verdicts against former San Diego Councilman Michael Zucchet, who was convicted in July 2005 of extortion and wire-fraud. A few months later, a U.S. District Judge overturned those convictions. Full Focus reporter Rebecca Tolin has the update.
There’s a new development in a case that’s already had some surprising twists and turns. San Diego U.S. Attorney Carol Lam will indeed be able to appeal a controversial decision to overturn guilty verdicts against Michael Zucchet.
A jury convicted the former San Diego City Council member in July 2005 on extortion and wire-fraud charges. The jury found Zucchet, along with former councilmember Ralph Inzunza, tried to repeal the “no touch” rule at strip clubs in exchange for campaign contributions. In a controversial move, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Miller overturned the jury’s verdict against Zucchet, acquitting him of seven corruption counts. Miller granted Zucchet a new trial on the remaining two counts. U.S. Attorney Carol Lam lobbied for permission to repeal miller’s decision. And after a year, the solicitor general’s office – part of the Justice Department – granted her request. But Zucchet’s attorney Jerry Coughlin says the government has little chance of winning, since his client is innocent.
Jerry Coughlin: All that happened is another branch of the government allowed them to go to the next court to see if they can get another court to disagree with Judge Miller. I think that’s an uphill burden for them. I don’t think they have a snowball’s chance of winning it. We’re ready to go and we’re looking forward to making good law that will mean no one else will suffer this fate again.
Coughlan says this case is so unique, it could go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. As for U.S. Attorney Carol Lam, she declined an interview but said it’s rare for a trial judge to overturn a jury’s unanimous finding of guilt. And it should not surprise anyone that the government would seek to defend the jury’s verdict on appeal.