Special counsel Jack Smith reminded U.S. District judge Aileen Cannon that she once stopped a defendant from trying to play the same game that she has been letting Donald Trump play.
The former president’s legal team has asked the judge to force the Department of Justice turn over even more documents than the 1.3 million pages they’ve already received to bolster their claims the Mar-a-Lago documents case is a “selective prosecution,” but Smith’s team reminded Cannon she once worked on another case that limited such fishing expeditions intended to delay the trial, reported The Daily Beast.
“It’s not quite the same as confronting a judge with an opinion they wrote or joined,” said Catherine Ross, a professor emeritus at George Washington University Law School. “I don’t think selective prosecution comes up often. There are very few people who can pass the laugh test on claiming that. I think they have her locked in a pretty tight spot — if she were a normal judge.”
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Smith’s team cited a case Cannon worked on as a federal prosecutor in South Florida involving a 2015 sting operation that busted two men who planned to rob a fake stash house, where they showed up armed with AK-47s, and one of them appealed his conviction by arguing he was targeted by “selective prosecution” aimed at Blacks and Hispanics.
Cannon was already on the bench when her former team won that case in 2021, when the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals pointed to a longstanding precedent that requires a “demanding burden” to make that claim, and Smith’s prosecutors reminded the judge of that case to argue that she should rule against Trump for the same reason.
“She worked on almost no cases. She had very little courtroom experience. To find a case that actually she worked on and that resulted in a published opinion is in itself improbable,” Ross said. “It’s a brilliant maneuver, and particularly with a judge who had so little trial background.”
The Trump-appointed Cannon has frequently ruled in favor of the former president and allowed him to stall the proceedings, even after a strong rebuke from the 11th Circuit, and legal experts agree that Smith’s reminder was a compelling argument.
“It’s smart lawyering,” said Robert A. Sanders, a retired Navy JAG captain who now teaches law at the University of New Haven. “The message is: Remember what you did earlier? And how you got jammed up for it — when you went in a direction no one in the world thought was right? Think about what you’re going to do this time.”