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How a Former Prisoner Took Down a Big Shot from the Private Prison Industry (and Cheney Pal)

Gus Puryear had his judicial nomination scuttled by a former prisoner turned criminal justice advocate.

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While that may in fact be how things are done in Washington -- and Haden would know, as he previously served as nominations counsel for Senator Orrin Hatch and chief counsel for Senator Jeff Sessions -- it isn't prudent to say so publicly. Upon being informed of Haden's cavalier comment, Senator Leahy's chief counsel noted dryly that Haden "seems to have no idea how Senator Leahy approaches nominations."

In the end, the Puryear nomination concluded with a whimper, not a bang. After the Senate adjourned on January 2, 2009 his nomination was returned to the White House, dashing Puryear's dream of a federal judgeship. The vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee will now be filled by President Obama; in a written statement, Puryear blamed the demise of his nomination on "election-year politics."

The Puryear opposition campaign declared victory in a January 22, 2009 press release. "While some may consider it ironic that a former CCA prisoner managed to derail the judicial nomination of CCA's general counsel, the fact remains that Mr. Puryear was a questionable, partisan candidate who had conflicts and problematic issues, both past and present, that ensured his nomination would not survive scrutiny," Friedmann stated. "The opposition campaign simply provided the necessary level of scrutiny."

Although Puryear and Friedmann have never met, they both attended CCA's annual shareholder meeting last May. "I don't have anything personal against Mr. Puryear," said Friedmann. "And I'm sure he's enough of a professional to understand that the opposition campaign that killed his nomination was simply business. Just as his employment with CCA, in which he profits from people's incarceration, is simply business."

Sources: www.againstpuryear.org, Tennessean, Nashville Scene, Nashville City Paper, Nashville Post, Mother Jones, TIME, Harper's Magazine, AlterNet, Democracy Now!, UPI, Associated Press, politico.com, www.usdoj.gov, Jackson Sun News, www.finance.yahoo.com