Samuel Alito

MSNBC reporter Chris Matthews today hammered the Democratic Party, claiming it was circulating a document that emphasizes the fact Samuel Alito, President Bush’s latest Supreme Court nominee, failed as a prosecutor to win a case against Italian mafia figures, suggesting the issue was highlighted because Alito is an Italian-American.

“I’m sitting here holding in my hands a pretty disgusting document,” Matthews told viewers of “MSNBC Live.” “This is put out not for attribution, but it comes from the Democrats. They’re circulating it; I can say that.”

In what he describes as a Democrat “complaint sheet,” Matthews says, “The first thing they nail about this Italian American is he failed to win a mob conviction in a trial … way back in ’88.

“In other words, they nail him on not putting some Italian mobsters in jail from the [Lucchese] family. Why would they bring up this ethnically charged issue as the first item they raise against Judge Alito?”

In 1988, Alito, then U.S. attorney for New Jersey, presided over a case where the alleged mafia defendants were acquitted of all 77 charges against them.

The case was long and complicated, with testimony running 40,000 pages. Some jurors said they were simply overwhelmed by the trial.

Alito’s team of attorneys were the “prosecutors who couldn’t shoot straight,” one newspaper reported.

Continued Matthews: “This is either a very bad coincidence or very bad politics. Either way it’s going to hurt them. … Not abortion rights, not civil rights but that he failed to nail some mobsters in 1988 – this is the top of their list of what they’ve got against this guy. Amazingly bad politics.”

President Bush announced Alito’s nomination this morning. Many conservative groups have enthusiastically come out in support of Alito, pointing out the appeals court judge has a proven track record of judicial restraint.

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Protest of filibuster organizing

Text of President Bush’s remarks

Samuel Alito’s statement

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