You have to wonder if this is what businessman Nasser Kazeminy and former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman really had in mind.
Yes, two attorneys representing Kazeminy held a news conference this morning to announce that three investigations, including one by the Department of Justice, show that Kazeminy and Coleman were guilty of no criminal wrongdoing in their relationship.
Yes, one of the attorneys representing Kazeminy, Louis Freeh, has impressive credentials. He headed the FBI from 1993 to 2001.
And yes, the media event at the law offices of Winthrop and Weinstine in downtown Minneapolis, will offer solace to hard-core Republicans who forever will believe that Coleman lost his 2008 senatorial bid to Al Franken in large part because late-campaign charges of smelly conduct between Coleman and his generous friend, Kazeminy.
“We know today what we knew in 2008 to be true,” said Coleman in a statement that was passed out at the media event. “A disgruntled businessman in Texas lied to extort money. My political opponents turned those lies into multi-million dollar attacks against my family and Nasser Kazeminy.”
So Coleman and Kazeminy were innocent of criminal conduct?
Former FBI head announces results
Yes, says Freeh, who was hired by Kazeminy to conduct what he called a thorough investigation.
Freeh was quick to add that another firm, Greenberg Traurig, LLP, reached the same conclusion.
And he also said that a U.S. Department of Justice and FBI probe also ended months ago with no criminal charges.
That the Department of Justice never announced that its investigation was over is not surprising, Freeh said. The department seldom announces when it’s beginning or ending an investigation.
But he included a letter he wrote to the Department of Justice in a media packet. In the letter from Freeh to Justice is this sentence: “This letter will confirm that the matter which has been investigated by the Public Integrity Section, Criminal Division, United States Department of Justice, the United States Attorney for the District of Minnesota and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, has been closed, and that no criminal charges will be filed in connection therewith.”
So all of that was announced.
But clean slates? There’s much that doesn’t pass the good-judgment test.
Kazeminy did give Coleman and his family more than $100,000 in gifts over the years, dating back to when Coleman was mayor of St. Paul (1993-2001). Included in the gifts were Neiman Marcus suits the businessman gave to his friend.
“There was no quid pro quo in the gifts,” said Freeh. “There was no wrongdoing.”
There was no finding by Freeh’s investigation or by the Greenberg Traurig investigation that Coleman’s wife received $75,000 for her work as an insurance agent for Hays Cos.
In October 2008, Paul McKim, who was involved in unfriendly business dealings with Kazeminy, claimed to reporters at the Star Tribune that Kazeminy had told Hays Cos. to give Laurie Coleman that money as a way to funnel funds to his friend, the senator.
Now, in an affidavit, McKim has retracted that allegation.
“I have no personal knowledge that either Senator Norm Coleman, his wife, Nasser Kazeminy, Otto Candies or the Hays Companies engaged in any unlawful conduct.”
But why start this all up again? Given the fact that no charges ever were filed? Why not let it fade away?
Freeh and Robert Weinstine indicated that at this time they were not setting the stage for any sort of suit against McKim or the Star Tribune, which led the way on coverage of this story.
Effort meant to correct public record
It was important, Freeh said, to get it “on the public record that the government closed the case. No criminal charges. That’s not on the public record.”
It was important not only Minnesotans but also for “the children and grandchildren” of Kazeminy and Coleman understand that was how all of this ended.
Someday, Freeh said, those children or grandchildren will google the names of Kazeminy and Coleman, and if this news event had not been held, there would have been no clear conclusion to the rash of allegations.
It is the responsibility of the Minnesota media to give this story — this story of no criminal charges —as much play as the initial allegations received, he said.
“Sadly, though these allegations were entirely false,” Freeh said, “they were repeated in hundreds of local and national media reports, which consumed the final days of Minnesota’s closely contested U.S. Senate race. As a result, the good names of Mr. Kazeminy and Sen. Coleman were gravely injured and tarnished.”
Freeh did say that Coleman, Kazeminy and their families understood how a news event like today’s would bring back an old story. Freeh also said that he understood that it’s difficult to clear names once they have been tarnished.
He said there once was a secretary of Labor accused of many “horrors,” but eventually was cleared of wrongdoing.
“He asked, ‘Where do I go to get my good reputation back?’ “
It is a legitmate question.
Still, there was much that was strange about this event.
For example, given the long time period between Freeh’s February letter to Justice and the news conference, why was it held at a time when Kazeminy was “out of the country” and at a time when Coleman apparently was not available?
Freeh and Weinstein said the timing was based on the ending of a bankruptcy case in Texas that involved Deep Marine Holdings, which was founded by McKim and in which Kazeminy had an interest.
Coleman wasn’t present because Freeh and Weinstine represent Kazeminy, they said. (Coleman has been represented by Doug Kelley in matters surrounding the allegations.)
Both the principals were represented by statements handed out during the media event.
Both statements were filled with passion.
Said Kazeminy: “From the moment it began more than two years ago, this ordeal has been a nightmare for my family, friends and me. Imagine turning on the television, or picking up the paper and seeing lies repeated over and over about you and those you love.
“Today is a day of vindication for my family and loved ones and for all those who stood by our side during this difficult time. Though we’ve been waiting more than two years, we always knew this day would come because the facts were on our side.
“Tomorrow we begin the difficult task of rebuilding our good names and reputations, but today we can once again celebrate the fact that in America, the truth will always prevail.”
Here’s Coleman entire statement:
“The decision of the Department of Justice to close the file on false accusations made against me, my wife Laurie and my friend Nasser Kazeminy is welcomed, but not a surprise.
“We know today what we knew in 2008 to be true: A disgruntled businessman in Texas lied to extort money. My political opponents turned those lies into multi-million dollar attacks against my family and Nasser Kazeminy.
“The reputations of many people suffered as a result of the lies that were told. Certainly, Nasser deserves better than this. I celebrate today’s announcement as one step closer to giving the Kazeminy family back their good name.
“I’ve never been one to dwell in the past, and life is too short to be bitter and angry. My wife and family are grateful for our friends, and thousands of Minnesotans who never doubted the truth. And, I want to thank those who were dedicated to the truth, and found it.”
Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.
The originial story misstated the investigations’ finding about Laurie Coleman. There was no finding by Freeh’s investigation or by the Greenberg Traurig investigation that Coleman’s wife received $75,000 for her work as an insurance agent for Hays Cos.