Suspended Philly Fed Prosecutor Says Government’s Initial Allegations Weren’t Accurate

Ex-U.S. Atty. Laurie Magid
By Allan Lengel

Philly federal prosecutor Laurie Magid, who was recently given a 100-day suspension without pay, is pushing back, saying the allegations initially lodged by the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) simply weren’t accurate.

In fact, in a press release Magid says the Office of Special Counsel has admitted for the first time that she “did not solicit her colleagues to attend two fundraisers hosted by her husband, and has acknowledged that there was nothing illegal or improper about his hosting the fundraisers.” The fundraisers were for Sen. Arlen Specter and gubernatorial candidate Patrick Meehan, the former Philly U.S. Attorney.

“The government has completely abandoned its original allegation of solicitation, and has admitted that Ms. Magid asked for OSC’s advice before the fundraisers and that the OSC told her that her husband could hold fundraisers,” Magid’s press release said

Magid was the first assistant U.S. Attorney from summer 2005 until July 2008 when she became acting U.S. Attorney. From February 2009 to May 2009 she was the interim U.S. Attorney and then was replaced. She is currently an Assistant U.S. Attorney, who focuses primarily on white collar probes into healthcare and other frauds.

Magid’s press release went on to say: “The settlement, in which Ms. Magid acknowledges three minor and inadvertent violations, resolves the entire matter concerning events from 2007 to early 2009,” the release said. It said she plans to continue serving as a fed prosecutor after the suspension.

Earlier this year, months before the final settlement, the  Office of Special Counsel alleged that Magid was improperly involved in the fundraisers and that “at least one one AUSA expressed concern that he felt pressure to attend this political fundraiser,” the document said.

In early 2009, the husband threw a fundraiser for gubernatorial candidate Patrick Meehan, the former U.S. Attorney, who eventually decided to run for Congress. Magid helped her husband with the invite list, which included 35 of her subordinate employees. Of those, about 18 got the invitations at their official U.S. Attorney address, the document said.

“When invitations were received, performance evaluations were in progress,” the government alleged at the time. “Several of respondent’s subordinate employees expressed concerns that they felt pressure to attend this political fundraiser or make a financial contribution.”

But the  final  “settlement agreement” issued by the Office of Special Counsel, said that Magid consulted with the OSC, which advised her that her husband could throw a fundraiser for Sen. Specter and she could attend. It also said Magid could not solicit, accept or receive any contribution.

In the agreement, she admitted receiving from a subordinate employee who could not attend the fundraiser, a $200 contribution check while they were in the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Then prior to a fundraiser at her home for Patrick Meehan, the former U.S. Attorney for Philly, she accepted, without solicitation, a $250 political contribution from a subordinate employee while in the federal building. The settlement said the contribution came from an assistant U.S. Attorney who was a close friend of Magid and that friend left the check in her office in her absence.

The document also said that on Dec. 6 and 11 of 2008, she sent an email to a subordinate support staff, while on duty, requesting an “alum” list to provide to her husband for the invitation list to the Meehan fundraiser.

The government document concluded that the activities violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits  accepting or receiving political contributions or engaging in political activities while on duty or in a federal building.

Her press release stated: “Cotrary to the inflamatory allegations previously leaked to  and reported in earlier, erroneous press accounts of the investigation, there was nothing improper about Ms. Magid’s participating in the fundraisers or in her husband’s hosting them.”

As for requesting the alum list, the press release stated: “The list contained information that was available in legal directories. Ms. Magid requested the list by asking a staff person to email it to her because she was permitted, according to OSC guidance, and the law, to compile names for fundraising events.”

Meanwhile, the publication Politico said the Office of Special Counsel signaled that it wasn’t happy with the punishment for Magid, indicating it may have been too tough.

“This case is an example of why we are encouraging Congress to take a closer look at the Hatch Act, including it’s overly restrictive penalties,” OSC spokesman Darshan Sheth told Politico. “OSC applies the statute as it is currently written. We look forward to working with Congress to reform the Hatch Act to avoid any unintended consequences of the Act.”

Politico indicated that the new special counsel Carolyn Lerner, who was sworn in on June 17, and was not around when the Magid investigation was in full swing, would emphasize education over enforcement.

When asked by Friday to comment, Sheth referred to the comments made in Politico.

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