Richard L. Thornburgh, who served as attorney general under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, accused the Justice Department yesterday of prosecuting a prominent Pennsylvania Democrat for political reasons, one of a series of cases singled out by House Democrats as examples of alleged GOP meddling at the Justice Department.
Thornburgh, who served as attorney general from 1988 to 1991 and whose law firm represents Cyril Wecht, a nationally known coroner from Pittsburgh, testified yesterday that Wecht had been indicted for mail fraud and a “hodgepodge” of other charges by overzealous prosecutors keen on pleasing political appointees in Washington.
“He has always been a contentious, outspoken, highly critical and highly visible Democratic figure in western Pennsylvania,” Thornburgh told the House Judiciary Committee. “In other words, he would qualify as an ideal target for a Republican U.S. attorney trying to curry favor with a department which demonstrated that if you play by its rules, you will advance.”
Thornburgh also said that Wecht “was not the only apparent political prosecution in western Pennsylvania,” pointing to three high-profile cases of other local Democrats brought by U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan of Pittsburgh.