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Constituent service

Speaking of clueless, I happened to run across this story (via Crosblog) from a couple of weeks ago about a right-wing congressman who has attempted to use his political influence to help one of his cronies get leniency after raping a teenage girl.

In what one Marin prosecutor called a situation that raises questions of propriety, U.S. Rep. Lynn Woolsey intervened on behalf of an acquaintance who raped a Marin teenager.

Woolsey, D-San Rafael, used her official congressional stationery to tell a sentencing judge the sex felon had a "promising life ahead of him."

Oh, wait, sorry -- Lynn Woosley isn't a right-wing congressman; she's actually a leftist Democratic congresswoman. Perhaps that explains why this story barely made the news anywhere. Can you imagine what the coverage would have been like if Trent Lott had done this?

And Woolsey's explanation of her actions? Dodging and weaving:

Pressed by the Independent Journal on why she sent the letter, Woolsey was initially defensive and seemed to draw a blank.

"Obviously, in my eyes he is not a criminal," she said of the son of her office employee. But then she appeared to change her mind. "I knew nothing about the incidents. I had no idea what the courts had found out."

Woolsey, who wrote her letter after Pearson pleaded guilty on Sept. 11, 2003, to raping the Marin teen, said she was advocating for Pearson's family, not for him.

"What I said in that letter was that when deciding his sentence, he has a good support system - that was not based on what he did or didn't do. His family support system would be paying very close attention to what happened to him."

So, her defense is that she decided to ask for leniency for a criminal without knowing what the criminal had done? I see.

Leaving aside the twisting and turning over the letter, what about her use of official taxpayer-purchased government stationery to do it? Does that seem a little... improper to anyone else? A private citizen certainly has the right to provide input before sentencing; indeed, as I understand it, character witnesses are a normal part of the sentencing process. But a member of Congress has no right to officially intervene.

This isn't a big deal (except to the victim); the only reason I'm blogging about it is because I was shocked to find out about it when it had gotten virtually no press coverage. As far as I can tell, neither the New York Times nor the Washington Post, nor the AP nor Reuters has picked up this story. Not even as a brief mention. Why not?


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Comments (1)


Does that seem a little... improper to anyone else?

No. Members of congress write letters all the time and this one seems to be perfectly appropriate. She knows the family and expresses that, there is no evidence she suggested anything about what kind of sentence was appropriate. The judge who sat through the trial can certainly weigh that information in sentencing. It doesn't mean the person won't receive appropriate punishment.


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