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Prosecutors on Obama 'Truth Squad' sound retreat

Missouri prosecutor Bob McCulloch

Missouri law officials, including public prosecutors, who were reportedly planning to “respond immediately” to any misleading advertisements against Barack Obama if they “might violate Missouri ethics laws,” have now backed off the intimidating implications of that report, promising they have no intention of prosecuting anyone.

As WND reported, prosecuting attorneys Bob McCulloch and Jennifer Joyce originally announced on KMOV-TV in St. Louis their participation in Obama’s “Truth Squad,” pledging to defend the candidate from untruthful ads with an undefined “immediate” response.

“Whether it is directly attributable to the (McCain) campaign or to one of the soft money operations,” McCulloch told the station, “if they’re not going to tell the truth, somebody’s got to step up and say, ‘That’s not the truth. This is the truth.'”

The move prompted Missouri’s governor to object that the prosecutors were using “police state tactics” to squelch information hurtful to the Obama campaign.

“What Senator Obama and his helpers are doing is scandalous beyond words,” wrote Gov. Matt Blunt in a statement. “The party that claims to be the party of Thomas Jefferson is abusing the justice system and offices of public trust to silence political criticism with threats of prosecution and criminal punishment.”

A spokeswoman for St. Louis City Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce, however, told WND that the televised “Truth Squad” announcement was misunderstood.

“The only action they would take would be to provide truthful information to the public so they can make up their minds,” said Susan Ryan. “Neither (Joyce) nor anybody involved in this has any intention of prosecuting anybody.”

When asked if the initial announcement suggested legal ramifications for “crossing ethics laws in Missouri,” Ryan confirmed, “Unfortunately it did suggest that, but the ‘Truth Squad’ has no intention of prosecuting anyone for this.”

Further, Ryan insisted, attorneys McCulloch and Joyce are participating in the “Truth Squad” as part of their private citizenship, on their own time, and in no way in their capacity as prosecutors.

“That’s not how they announced it,” objected Gov. Blunt in an interview on the Fox News Channel’s “America’s Newsroom” show. “They rolled it out as prosecutors willing to take actions as prosecutors.”

Blunt conceded that government officials could serve on “Truth Squads” in their private time but defended his sharp criticism of the way the announcement was made.

“What I found troubling,” said Blunt, “is that a campaign enlisted prosecutors, and those prosecutors specifically talked about targeting their opponents; they talked about responding to ‘alleged violations of the law.’ Generally when a prosecutor talks about responding to an alleged violation of the law, that means you’re going to prosecute.”

When Blunt was asked if he would take action against the attorneys, he said, “They have really stepped back from how they announced this. When they announced this I think it was intimidating. … In a lot of ways they have reversed course, and I’m glad to see that.”

While some of Missouri’s reported “Truth Squad” have backed down, one named in the KMOV-TV report claims he was never on course to begin with.

Jefferson County Sheriff Oliver “Glenn” Boyer, who also was named in Gov. Blunt’s statement, told WND that not only had he never agreed to join the “Truth Squad,” it “infuriated” him that anyone would think he would use his office to quash others’ freedom of speech.

“I’m a small, Democratic sheriff in rural Missouri,” Boyer told WND. “I haven’t even seen the original interview with Jennifer Joyce and Bob McCulloch. … All I know is, I came into my office on Monday morning unaware of any of this. I had a fundraiser Saturday, when all this started, of my own. I came into my office Monday morning, and I’ve got 500 emails and 19 nasty phone calls calling me a communist pig! I think, ‘Man, I thought it was a pretty good fundraiser.'”