Several prominent conservatives, including former members of Congress, submitted an amicus brief with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals calling for the conviction of former Rep. Steve Stockman of Texas to be overturned.
The former two-term Republican House member was convicted in federal district court in April 2018 of 23 counts of mail fraud, campaign finance violations, money laundering and filing a false tax return. Last November, Stockman was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Nearly all the charges related back to checks he received from two donors, totaling about $950,000, which were written to non-profit organizations affiliated with Stockman.
The congressman raised funds in hopes of establishing a “Freedom House” for interns on Capitol Hill in Washington, which ultimately was not built due to lack of resources.
Further, the non-profit Center for the American Future put out a statewide mailer in Texas in 2014 contrasting the political positions of incumbent Republican Sen. John Cornyn and Stockman, who was challenging him for the GOP nomination.
Supporters have claimed that Stockman was the victim of “deep state” retaliation by the Obama administration’s Justice Department, pointing out he was informed just two weeks after filing a resolution in the House in July 2014, which called for the arrest of former IRS official Lois Lerner, that he was the subject of a criminal investigation.
He also spoke out forcefully against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, particularly in relation to her handling of the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. The Texan also became the first member of Congress to endorse the Stop Hillary PAC, which was formed to block her from becoming president.
However, Stockman is not appealing his conviction on the grounds the prosecution was politically motivated, but rather that he was engaging in First Amendment protected activity and the jury instructions addressing the complicated area of election law were wrong on some counts and unclear on others.
“All of Stockman’s acts for which he was indicted and convicted took place in the context of raising and spending money for non-profit organizations and political campaigns—activities that involve sacrosanct First Amendment freedoms,” the congressman’s appeal brief to the 5th Circuit reads.
Stockman’s attorney David Warrington told The Western Journal that the DOJ was acting aggressively when it decided to prosecute his client criminally rather than allowing the Federal Election Commission to impose fines, when appropriate, to address campaign finance related issues.
“Because of the First Amendment implications attendant to campaigns and elections, there has generally been a deference to handling this stuff civilly. That just didn’t occur here,” he said.
The FEC did not even refer Stockman to the DOJ in the first place, according to Warrington. Instead, federal prosecutors initiated their own criminal investigation.
The DOJ racked up charges when they went to trial by including multiple counts of mail and wire fraud (email communications in this instance) in relation to the alleged campaign finance violations.
As a further indication of how aggressively Stockman was targeted, his legal team pointed out in their original pleading that the DOJ empaneled at least three grand juries before finally convincing one that Stockman may have broken the law.
It should be noted that during federal grand jury inquiries the defense is not present, so jurors only hear one side of the argument.
Attorney Mark J. Fitzgibbons — who filed an amicus brief supporting Stockman on behalf of American Target Advertising, Inc. (a conservative direct mail company) and several prominent conservatives — told The Western Journal he was amazed to learn the details behind the former congressman’s conviction.
“When you have complex law combined with the First Amendment, and they’re pressing criminal charges to this degree, it’s shocking,” he said. “It looks like they were trying to teach people a lesson: keep your head down.”
Fitzgibbons wrote in an email to Stockman’s supporters that the former lawmaker is an “innocent man” and the victim of a “political vendetta.”
Among those signing onto the brief are former Republican Reps. Bob Barr of Georgia and Bob McEwen of Ohio, as well as Media Research Center chairman Brent Bozell, Tea Party Patriots honorary chair Jenny Beth Martin, American Center for Law & Justice senior counsel Colby May, American Target Advertising chairman Richard Viguerie, conservative commentator Joe Miller and publisher of The Western Journal Floyd Brown.
In the brief, Fitzgibbons contends it would be concerning enough if Stockman faced civil fines given the “complex laws” in question, much less that he was criminally prosecuted.
U.S. attorneys “confused the jury by pushing multiple incorrect interpretations of the law about fundraising, tax-exempt law, and campaign finance law, and multiple Jury Instructions were wrong as a matter of law in this criminal matter,” the brief reads. “The Government unlawfully treated lawful fundraising as predicate acts for other criminal charges.”
Sidney Powell — author of the book “Licensed to Lie: Exposing Corruption in the Department of Justice” who worked pro-bono for Stockman following his conviction — told The Western Journal last year that justice was not served in his case.
“The ‘Public Integrity’ section of the Department of Justice is wrongly named. It is notorious for political prosecutions,” the former federal prosecutor and regular Fox News guest said. “It is highly likely they targeted former Congressman Stockman and have been extremely and unreasonably harsh toward him because he was so outspoken in trying to hold Lois Lerner, the Clintons, and Obama accountable.”
Powell likened Stockman’s prosecution to that of the late Alaska GOP Senator Ted Stevens, who was convicted of federal corruption charges just eight days before his 2008 re-election bid, which almost certainly led to his narrow defeat by just over one percent of the vote tally.
However, the conviction was overturned just months later, before Stevens was sentenced, after a probe of the DOJ found evidence of gross prosecutorial misconduct, including withholding exculpatory evidence.
In an email to The Western Journal this week, Powell reaffirmed that Stockman has not been treated fairly.
“The length of the sentence is outrageous for a first time non-violent offender and for these technical, complex and even questionable crimes,” she said.
Prosecutors successfully petitioned the court for Stockman to be imprisoned, while he awaited his sentencing last year (which took place eight months after his conviction), and he remains in jail as he pursues his appeal.
Powell identified this move as a means the DOJ used to inhibit his ability to wage his legal defense.
Miller, a former federal magistrate judge and 2010 GOP U.S. Senate nominee in Alaska, believes Stockman is the victim of politically motivated prosecution.
“The persecution of Steve Stockman is an outrage,” he said. “What does it teach us? Those who stand up to the Deep State do so at their peril. Hopefully, President Trump puts an end to this madness.”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.