The US Attorney who prosecuted Tommy Chong is wrapped up in the US Attorneys scandal.
With U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales under attack in Congress for firing eight U.S. attorneys, [U.S. Attorney Mary Beth] Buchanan has also come under scrutiny because of a Justice Department administrative post she held in 2005. A former top aide to Gonzales has said Buchanan was consulted in the firings, and now a House committee is seeking to interview her.
The controversy has exposed a strong undercurrent of dissatisfaction with Buchanan in the legal community in western Pennsylvania, where critics say she has devoted too much time pursuing headline-grabbing cases of sometimes minor importance and trying to please Washington.
Two critics are former U.S. Attorney Fred Thieman, a Clinton appointee under whom she primarily prosecuted credit-card fraud cases, and Thomas Farrell, a former assistant U.S. attorney. Both are now defense attorneys and say Buchanan has padded her record of prosecutions with minor cases or headline grabbers.
Among the cases they and others cite: her office’s prosecution of comedian Tommy Chong’s multimillion-dollar drug paraphernalia business. Though the business was based in California, she brought the case in Pennsylvania as a result of an investigation that grew out of a local “head” shop bust. Critics say the Chong case was more about making Buchanan famous than fighting crime.