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We've been hearing the wingnut rallying cry that Gerald Walpin, the recently fired Inspector General, had a "sterling reputation."  In fact, he likes to brag that he was a federal prosecutor who once "prosecuted Roy Cohn."

But was his reputation as a federal prosecutor really that "sterling"?  Or did he have a reputation as a loose cannon even then?  

Well, according to the New York Times archives, Walpin nearly derailed the Roy Cohn prosecution he brags about. And his conduct in that case was so unscrupulous that the Times described the Justice Department as being "embarrassed," saying he "mishandled" the case; the judge castigated his conduct as "shocking" and "terrible."

Most of this diary is based on the following two articles from the New York Times archives.  Sorry that they are pay-only.  (If anyone knows a free source, please let me know.)

Cohn Mail Watch Scored By Judge
(New York Times, March 1, 1964)

Cohn Mail Watch Embarrasses US;  Justice Officials Say Case Has Been Mishandled
(New York Times, March 2, 1964)


By way of background, in 1964 Gerald Walpin was the Assistant US Attorney handling the prosecution of Roy Cohn for perjury and obstruction of justice. A jury subsequently acquitted Cohn of all charges.

However, there was drama along the way.  It seems that the ever-zealous Walpin ordered a "mail watch"* on Cohn and his attorney, but failed to mention that fact to anyone else at the Justice Department.  

When Cohn objected to an unrelated mail watch ordered by the IRS, Walpin submitted a sworn affidavit to the court denying that DOJ had any involvement. This was strictly true with regard to the IRS order, but because Walpin still had not disclosed his own order to his colleagues, DOJ issued a public statement "strongly [denying] that the Justice Department had any check on [Cohn's] mail."  And Lyndon Johnson, having been assured by DOJ that they had not ordered any mail watch, was fully prepared to repeat this denial at his next press conference; the only reason he didn't was because he wasn't asked about it.

Way to go, Gerald!

Of course the time came when Walpin had to disclose his mail watch order to the department and to the court.  According to the Times, the judge, Archie O. Dawson, was outraged, denouncing the order of a mail watch on a defendant's attorney after indictment as "shocking."   It must have been especially ironic for a rightie like Walpin to hear the judge denounce his actions this way: "That smacks of Russia rather than the United States. ... I think it is terrible."  The only reason the case was not dismissed was because the judge determined the government had not obtained any information for its case from the mail watch.

How did his superiors at DOJ react?  According to the Times (March 2, 1964):

Justice Department officials said today they were surprised and disturbed that an assistant Federal prosecutor in New York had ordered a mail watch on Roy M. Cohn and on Mr. Cohn's lawyer.

The officials said they had known nothing about the order and had thought the only mail check was an unrelated one ordered by the Internal Revenue Department. The evidently were embarrassed by the episode.

[. . .]

The feeling at the Justice Department today was that, while there had not been anything [in Walpin's sworn affidavit to the court] that could technically be called a misstatement, the public position of the Government had been misleading.

One official said in some distress: "It has not been handled well."

Hmmm, withholding crucial information from colleagues, loose with the facts, acting without authority, doesn't work well with others ... gee, does any of this sound familiar?


* In a "mail watch," according to the NYT article, the post office notes the names and addresses of those who send letters to the person who is the subject of the order, but the mail is not opened or read.

Originally posted to matchpoint on Tue Jun 23, 2009 at 01:42 PM PDT.

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