Desperately Seeking the Next 'Willie Horton:' How a Loose Network of GOP Lawyers Is Digging for Dirt on Controversial Clinton Prosecutors

By Hosenball, Mark; Klaidman, Daniel | Newsweek, June 3, 1996 | Go to article overview

Desperately Seeking the Next 'Willie Horton:' How a Loose Network of GOP Lawyers Is Digging for Dirt on Controversial Clinton Prosecutors


Hosenball, Mark, Klaidman, Daniel, Newsweek


JANET NAPOLITANO seemed the perfect Republican target. Her resume made her look like Rush Limbaugh's dream "feminazi": Democratic activist, zealous abortion-rights advocate, former legal-services lawyer for the poor. She had even been one of Anita Hill's lawyers during the Clarence Thomas hearings in 1991. A Clinton appointee as U.S. attorney for Arizona, she had zero experience as a prosecutor.

So when ABC's "20/20" aired allegations earlier this month that Napolitano had thwarted an undercover operation to catch a child pornographer, the GOP pounced. The Dole campaign rushed out a press release criticizing Napolitano for being soft on porn, and Dole himself demanded that Attorney General Janet Reno explain the Arizona prosecutor's "shocking" conduct. Dole's Capitol Hill ally, Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, vowed to make Napolitano explain herself before Congress. It was all part of a concerted Republican effort to build a "Hall of Shame" for prosecutors and judges deemed soft on crime. Around the country, NEWSWEEK has learned, a loose network of former Republican prosecutors is searching for liberal jurists and lawyers, the kind who might, say, turn loose another Willie Horton.

The facts in Napolitano's case may raise questions about political correctness, but they hardly qualify her as the child molester's best friend. The case involved James N. Moore, a Phoenix bus driver who got caught up in a sting called Operation Special Delivery. In order to catch potential child molesters, the Postal Service came up with a scheme to sell child porn to unsuspecting customers. Under the federal Child Protection Act, the Feds can prosecute people who "knowingly" receive child pornography. After Moore showed up on a mailing list of porn customers, Postal Service inspectors sent him a solicitation offering him videotapes of all-male entertainment and "hot lads." According to police, he then ordered $27 worth of tapes from the "Young Teen" (ages 12-15) and "Young Men" (16-21) selections.

When the post office asked the U.S. attorney for a warrant to search Moore's home, Napolitano's office refused. Her assistants believed that the evidence that Moore was predisposed to buy child porn was "weak." According to postal inspector Karen Cassatt, one of Napolitano's assistants declared that the U.S. Attorney's Office had a "philosophical disagreement" with the sting operation because it targeted homosexual males.

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