Mary Gets Quite Contrary

Friday, December 5th, 2008

Mary Beth Buchanan, who makes a strong case for the title of worst U.S. attorney in the country, says she won’t abide by the customary practice of all U.S. attorneys submitting their resignations with the swearing in of a new administration.

“It doesn’t serve justice for all the U.S. attorneys to submit their resignations all at one time,” she said yesterday.

U.S. attorneys serve at the discretion of the president and may be hired and fired at will, although their appointments must be confirmed by the Senate. When a new president is elected, U.S. attorneys of both parties generally tender their resignations.

Instead, the Republican said she plans to continue her work in the Western District of Pennsylvania. More than that, she said she would consider working in the Obama administration. She would not discuss what her future might hold beyond the U.S. attorney’s office.

“I am open to considering further service to the United States,” Ms. Buchanan said.

It was Buchanan, you might remember, who prosecuted Tommy Chong for selling glass-blown bongs over the Internet.  Soon after then-Attorney General John Ashcroft announced that fighting porn would be a priority during his tenure, Buchanan brought the first federal obscenity case in 20 years, against porn producer Extreme Associates.  She also prosecuted Karen Fletcher, believed to be the first person convicted on federal obscenity charges for distributing written material. Despite an embarassing defeat in court, Buchanan is also still pursuing charges against Pennsylvania medical examiner Dr. Cyril Wecht, a case so reeking in political opportunism that former Bush 41 Attorney General Dick Thornburgh agreed to represent Wecht, and has since publicly accused Buchanan of using her office for baseless, partisan prosecutions of Democrats.

I’ve written pretty extensively of what I think is one of Buchanan’s most outrageous cases.  It’s her prosecution of Dr. Bernard Rottschaefer, a Pennsylvania physician Buchanan put in prison for allegedly writing Oxy prescriptions in exchange for sex.  Since Rottschaeffer’s conviction, Buchanan’s case has fallen to pieces, as each of the five witnesses who testified to getting illegal prescriptions from Rottschaeffer have since been shown to have lied.  Buchanan refuses to reopen the case.  She also refuses to pursue perjury charges against her star witness, Jennifer Riggle, who explicitly conceded in letters to her boyfriend that she lied on the witness stand.

Buchanan has made no secret of her ambitions for elected office.  During her tenure as a federal prosecutor she has actively sought out high-profile, often dubious cases to win favor with her superiors in the Bush administration.  It’s mostly worked.  She’s been promoted twice.  But it also makes it extremely unlikely she’d have a place in an Obama administration.

Buchanan isn’t delusional.  She’s calculating.  My guess is that this is a stunt to force Obama to fire her, at which point she’ll make a public stink, play the martyr, then attempt to parlay the resulting controversy into a run for the Senate, or perhaps for governor of Pennsylvania.

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29 Responses to “Mary Gets Quite Contrary”

  1. #1 |  Nando | 

    I never wish harm on anyone but I hope this lady gets lost in the woods and is never found again. She can become a hermit, for all I care, and just disappear from public life and I guess I’d be just as happy.

  2. #2 |  ktc2 | 

    No, she needs to do an equal time in prison as those she’s sentenced unjustly. She’s the worst kind of political opportunist who doesn’t care how many innocent lives she destroys to gain political advantage. The death penalty would be too kind for her.

    I’m reminded of: “Hangin’s too good for him, burnin’s too good for him! He should be torn into little bitsy pieces and buried alive!”

  3. #3 |  Marty | 

    she hasn’t achieved at the level Buchanan has, but I’d like to see Catherine Hannaway dragged out into the woods and never found again, also…

  4. #4 |  SSFC | 

    Let’s not forget Buchanan’s ridiculously silly prosecution of the makers of the Whizzinator, for which we, as taxpayers, can be thankful that the government now owns the whizzinator dot com website.

  5. #5 |  bob | 

    The documentary aka: Tommy Chong does a pretty good job of showing how knuckle dragging stupid the justice department has been.

  6. #6 |  TomMil | 

    I really think the Obama Administration should accomodate her wishes to be a martyr. They shouldn’t just fire her but they should investigate her fully and prosecute her for anything they find, no matter how trivial. They should use the old authoritarian approach of, “We know the criminal, now we merely need to find a crime.” She has already demonstrated that this is the kind of world she wishes to live in and I am sure she would never admit that she should be held to some lower standard than say, a hippie comic (Chong). Although I don’t always agree with the bromide, “Turn about is fair play”, this seems to be an appropriate case for its application.

  7. #7 |  Michael Chaney | 

    But it also makes it extremely unlikely she’d have a place in an Obama administration.


  8. #8 |  James | 

    Michael Chaney,

    Answer: Talk to Former Mayor Tom Murphy, Former Sheriff Pete DeFazio, the Late Mayor Bob O’Connor, the current Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, Former Coroner Cyril Wecht, or even former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh

    With the exception of Thornburgh, who openly questions Buchanan due to her actions in the Wecht case, all other individuals were either targeted with investigations and some brought up on questionable charges with a questionable legal basis that Buchanan utilized her position to ram through.

    You could also talk with her former coworkers such as Monica Goodling, Buchanan’s mentee, Kyle Sampson…or Tom Farrell.

    Hey wait, better yet, why not read what Tom Farrell has to say here:

  9. #9 |  Gonzo | 

    Slightly off-topic, but god are some of the comments depressing from the Karen Fletcher, obscenity-in-print link. Here’s my favorite:

    “1DT10USER: This was not a case of an overzealous prosecutor. There is a freedom of speech, but there are certain things you cannot say. You cannot yell fire in a crowded building. You cannot advocate the overthrow of the government by force. There is no freedom of speech for obscene communications. These are hard and fast rules for a reason. What she was doing was clearly obscene, and she knew it. The stories themselves must have been really bad for them to prosecute.”

    Seriously? Hard and fast? Yeah, the obscenity standard has never been utterly fluid and amorphous.

    Man. I follow this blog, but I’m a lot more disinterested in politics than most of you guys, I think. Not that that’s better. But my libertarian leanings stem generally from an interest in art (I’m an English professor).

    Nabokov could have and did run into this sort of thing, though on a lesser scale, when trying to publish “Lolita.” And the further literary implications are, of course, numerous, and rather redundant to mention. I’m not conflating Karen Flecher and Nabokov, but how could you ever compare obscenity laws to shouting “fire” in a crowded theater? They don’t even assess the same things.

  10. #10 |  Red Green | 

    Farrell is correct, Mary Beth is “a dog”. She does “have fleas”. She should join up with Sarah P. in Alaska politics. Go team go…

  11. #11 |  Highway | 

    But what’s actually going to happen, as Radley surmises, is that she’ll get fired, make a big stink about it, and then run for some state or national office as a ‘tough on crime’ prosecutor.

    Those words are now enough to make me vote AGAINST somebody if I have a chance.

  12. #12 |  martin | 

    If she runs for Senate or Governor I’m taking bets on her chances to get elected. My prediction: near 100%. One look to the north of PA suffices: Everybody should have known what kind of law-twisting, self-promoting, grandstanding jerk Eliot is. Yet, he became NY governor by a landslide.

  13. #13 |  James | 


    Why did Hit& Run take the article down?

  14. #14 |  Tommy Chong prosecutor won’t resign (as customary) when Obama takes office | NORML's Daily Audio Stash | 

    […] bongs over the internet.  Radley Balko’s been paying real close attention to some of the other notable Buchanan cases: Soon after then-Attorney General John Ashcroft announced that fighting porn would be a priority […]

  15. #15 |  Mattocracy | 

    What an evil human being. This woman is a terrorist. There should be a place at Gitmo for her.

  16. #16 |  The Criminal Criminal Justice System | 

    […] Mary Gets Quite Contrary – Radley Balko, The Agitator, […]

  17. #17 |  Ben (the other one) | 

    After reading the Post-Gazette article, the phrase that came to mind was “reality-based community” (as in, the one to which Ms. Buchanan does not belong).

    It’s certainly true that not all US Attorneys resign or are even replaced in a change of administration. This is usually because 1) the person is a career federal prosecutor, or 2) the transition doesn’t involve a change of parties (e.g., from Reagan to Bush I). Obviously, neither is the case here.

    Does she really think that there aren’t Democratic attorneys in Western Pennsylvania to whom President-Elect Obama might owe a favor or two? Like, perhaps because Pennsylvania was the subject of some political interest recently?

    On top of all that, the photograph reminds me Violet Beauregard– replacing blueberry pie with carrot cake.

  18. #18 |  Mister DNA | 

    They’ll be able to get her to resign. All they gotta do is promote her… to head up the Justice Department’s newly created Division of Cleaning Toilets. Ideally, this should involved a transfer to the Southwest, where there’s lots of Mexican restaurants.

  19. #19 |  cuernimus | 

    It’s sad when the most cynical thing you can say about a person’s intentions is what probably ends up being completely true.

  20. #20 |  Jason | 

    Good insights with this article.

  21. #21 |  Gonzo | 

    Kin I get a mod on that last one? Fo’ real.

  22. #22 |  Michael Chaney | 

    James, I know what MBB has done… I don’t know why that would preclude her from being under Obama. Oh, wait, we’re still pretending Obama’s the savior?

  23. #23 |  James | 


    I do not believe Obama is a savior or any such nonsense. I do think that he is smart enough to put competent individuals around him, and as a former constitutional law professor, I am sure the radical nature of Buchanan will fit in nicely with his administration…not.

    She is going to be getting a pink silp like everyone else. She thought doing this type of press article would benefit her. In the past, she has done the same thing over and over again when a federal judgeship opens up in the third district. It is just mary’s nature of attempting to push people into putting her in positions of trust.

    Hopefully, Obama will end this individual’s tenure in the justice department.

  24. #24 |  James | 

    Now she has gotten Obermiller blowing his top:

  25. #25 |  James | 

    Seriously though, did anyone really think that MBB was going to go out quietly??? come on. one only has to review one of her cases to see her grandstanding.

  26. #26 |  C (The Forgotten Man) | 

    So, did SHE find the Weapons of Mass Intoxication?

  27. #27 |  Ron | 

    Oh, and Democrats have never pulled shenanigans like this? Why does it make your blog only when republicans do it?

  28. #28 |  Jordan Clark | 

    Can we please go beyond the stupid red team vs. blue team for a moment,for just one topic? Here in Buchannan is a truly evil individual. One who has no qualms about walking over the (many) bodies of her victims; on her path to relative power. She has sought to put people in PRISON for writing words which offend??!!? There is no comparison to “yelling fire in crowded theater”, or “advocating overthrow of gov’t by force; that is unless it’s somebody elses gov’t, ie Iraq. Putting a compassionate physician in PRISON and ruining a good mans reputation, on lies, libels, slander, etc….”tough on crime?” This bi… is crime!

  29. #29 |  itsme | 

    Buchanan is one of the greatest threats to freedom in America. In many ways, she’s worse than Bush and Cheney.