The NFL has been appropriately shamed this week for not taking substantive action immediately in the case of Baltimore Ravens' superstar Ray Rice after he knocked his wife out cold in an Atlantic City hotel elevator earlier this year.
But what about the failure of the Judicial and Congressional branches, so far, to take any action at all in the case of federal U.S. District Court Judge Mark Fuller after he beat his wife bloody in an Atlanta hotel room last month?
Both Rice and Fuller, as supposedly first-time offenders, were allowed to participate in pre-trial diversion programs to avoid prosecution entirely. Rice agreed to attend domestic abuse counseling for a year. Fuller will have his arrest record expunged after completion of once-weekly domestic abuse counseling for just 24 weeks.
Rice was eventually suspended indefinitely by the NFL.
Fuller enjoys a lifetime appointment as a federal judge --- and can only be removed from his $200,000/year job-for-life if he is impeached and found guilty by Congress.
Fuller, a Republican George W. Bush appointee to the federal bench, sits in judgment of others. For example, rather than recuse himself for blatant conflicts of interest, he sent former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman to federal prison for 6.5 years for something that 113 bipartisan former state Attorneys General argue was never a crime before the popular Democratic Governor was charged with it.
America was outraged by the video tape showing Rice knocking out his then-fiancée (now wife) in mid-February.
America hardly even knows about Judge Fuller dragging his wife around the hotel room by her hair and striking her repeatedly in the mouth, leaving blood behind on the bathroom tub in early August, despite a police report and a 911 call during which his wife begs for police and an ambulance and repeatedly says "Help me, please. Please help me. He's beating on me." The 911 dispatcher reportedly says during the call that she can hear the Judge hitting the woman.
But, of course, we have no video of Judge Fuller's violent assault on his wife. We also have no access to the records of Fuller's first wife charging that he beat her as well, because a fellow judge, in an unusual and still-unexplained move in 2012, ordered the divorce records sealed, against the wishes of that first wife.
So where is the outcry over what is going with Fuller?...
America is justifiably furious over the NFL's initial, callous treatment of Rice's assault, a paltry two-game suspension. In July, prior to the release of the video, according to Politico, Democratic Senators Richard Blumenthal (CT), Chris Murphy (CT) and Tammy Baldwin (WI) wrote to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell "decrying the league's 'disturbingly lenient, even cavalier attitude towards violence against women.'"
After the release of the Rice video earlier this week, the story has been wall-to-wall on cable news outlets. ESPN's Keith Olbermann raged that the "Atlantic County, NJ district attorney's office, the Baltimore Ravens, the National Football League, and commissioner Roger Goodell," by failing to take appropriate action previously, have "made a mockery of the process by which those who batter those they claim to love are to be brought to justice."
Vice-President Joe Biden said that the NFL "did the right thing," finally, in response to the "brutal" attack by Rice. The White House issued a statement declaring Rice's actions "contemptible and unacceptable in a civilized society." The statement by WH Press Secretary Josh Earnest, after speaking to the President, went on to say: "Hitting a woman is not something a real man does, and that's true whether or not an act of violence happens in the public eye, or, far too often, behind closed doors. Stopping domestic violence is something that's bigger than football --- and all of us have a responsibility to put a stop to it."
All of that is true. But where is the outrage over Fuller beating his wife bloody just weeks ago and receiving no actual punishment at all? Where are the outraged desk-thumping talking heads? Where are the Senators and Presidential statements decrying the domestic abuse by a sitting federal judge currently enjoying a lifetime appointment, who can only be "fired" by a dysfunctional U.S. Congress? Where are the calls from anyone in that branch of Government to impeach Judge Mark Fuller?
What are they waiting for? Did the assault not happen unless TMZ releases a video?
So far, the editorial board of the Alabama Media Group, a consortium of Fuller's home state newspapers, has called for Fuller's resignation (twice) and one of its columnists has called for his impeachment, comparing the Fuller case to Rice's and damning the Atlanta prosecutor for allowing Fuller to cop a deal, "Like the whole wife-beating thing never happened at all."
Esquire's Charlie Pierce has also noticed the irony, in his "Tale of Two Thugs." CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin penned a column Tuesday night, charging that "the prosecutors failed in Atlantic City and Atlanta," by letting both Rice and Fuller off the hook with pre-trial diversions, rather than prosecution for domestic abuse.
But, in general, the outrage and demand for accountability over a federal judge beating his wife --- apparently the second wife of his to become a victim of his violent physical assaults --- has been remarkably muted, virtually non-existent, particularly among those who can actually now take action to bring accountability in the case.
So far, our attempts to get comment from some leading members of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, where any official attempt to remove Fuller from the bench via impeachment would usually begin, has not turned up much.
A spokesperson for Democratic Rep. John Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the committee and its former chair, says that, "per past practice, the next step would be for the Judicial Conference to consider proceedings, then they send a recommendation to the Judiciary Committee based on their review." The Judicial Conference is, essentially, the administrative and disciplinary body for the federal U.S. Court system. We are seeking comment from them on whether or not they plan to recommend impeachment of Fuller, or some other action.
Republican Rep. Sensenbrenner, a senior member and also a former chair of the Judiciary Committee, has presided over many judicial impeachment investigations, successful and otherwise, as begun in the committee, going back as far as the 1980s. His office has yet to respond to our request for comment as to whether they plan to bring up impeachment charges against Fuller.
For his part, after he was let off the hook by the Atlanta prosecutor late last week, Fuller released a statement saying, "I also look forward to addressing the concerns of the Court and hopefully returning to full, active status in the Middle District of Alabama." Isn't that grand? He'll be back soon! It seems we really need a video, or it never happened.
In the meantime, we'll continue to see if anyone in Congress comments in an official capacity on Judge Mark Fuller beating the hell out of his wife and getting off with less than a wrist slap before going back to his lifetime job as a federal jurist any minute. We can only hope the attention given to Rice eventually --- and soon --- spreads to the realization that Fuller, who should have been removed from the job for past improprieties long ago, finds no home or lasting comfort on the federal bench.
"Because if the NFL and the Baltimore Ravens can make a statement about domestic violence, so can the courts and the United States Government," writes John Archibald for the Alabama Media Group. "Fuller shouldn't get the opportunity to quit. He needs to be impeached. We should demand it. He is, after all, wearing our colors."
UPDATES 9/15/2014: Outrage slowly growing over Fuller case as senior federal judge (also a Republican) says Fuller must be kept off the bench, and as domestic abuse experts call for accountability. Details now here...
ALSO, Fuller case --- and questions about the lack of outrage (and impeachment) --- finally mentioned on MSNBC, on Politics Nation with Al Sharpton today. Watch here...
UPDATE 9/17/2014: MSNBC's Chris Hayes plays portion of 911 call from Fuller's wife, in which she is heard being repeatedly struck. Full story now here...
Recently related stories at The BRAD BLOG:
• 8/11/2014: "Federal Judge in Don Siegelman Case Arrested, Charged with Abusing Wife in Atlanta Hotel"
• 8/25/2014: "Federal Judge Who Was Arrested for Beating His Wife (and Who Sentenced Don Siegelman) Is Now Hoping to Avoid Prosecution Altogether"
• 9/5/2014: "BREAKING: Federal Judge Who Presided Over Siegelman Case and Who Recently Beat His Own Wife Bloody Strikes Deal to Avoid Prosecution"