Matt McCoy, Iowa's first openly gay
state senator, has claimed that Matthew Whitaker pursued federal
charges against him in 2007 because of his sexual orientation, and
warned that Whitaker, who President Donald Trump on Wednesday named
as acting attorney general after he fired Jeff Sessions, will abuse
According to the AP, Whitaker pursued
McCoy while serving as the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of
Iowas based in Des Moines.
Whitaker charged McCoy with attempted
extortion by an elected official. McCoy faced 20 years in prison, if
convicted. Prosecutors alleged that McCoy demanded $2,000 from
Thomas Vasquez for a waiver to Iowa's Medicaid program to sell home
security products for the elderly.
Vasquez recorded 12 hours of
conversations with McCoy and made the payments with money supplied by
McCoy, who also operated a consulting
business, met Vasquez through Alcoholics Anonymous. Vasquez and
McCoy signed a contract that paid McCoy $100 for each security system
he sold through his firm. The relationship soured, and McCoy said
that he accepted the payments because he believed that Vasquez was
following through on money he was owed.
Whitaker's office acknowledged that it
had made a mistake in withholding information that showed that
Vasquez was a paid FBI informant. Critics also pointed out that the
prosecution withheld evidence from the grand jury that would have
cleared McCoy, such as playing parts of the recordings where McCoy
directed Vasquez to write checks to his company.
Vasquez had a history of domestic and
substance abuse problems. He filed for bankruptcy in 2001. At a
pretrial hearing, he said that it was likely he used some of the
money the FBI paid him to buy drugs.
After a 9-day trial, jurors quickly –
two hours with a long lunch break – and unanimously returned a not
guilty decision. The incident damaged McCoy's reputation and left
him with $100,000 in legal fees. He said that he believes Whitaker
pursued him in part because of his sexuality.
AG Matt Whitaker defended man's “religious beliefs” to call LGBT
“I'm still carrying this around my
neck – both the financial burdens as well as the emotional scars,”
told the AP. “This all happened so that Whitaker could have a
political trophy on the wall and I was it.”
Des Moines Register columnist
Rekha Basu was among those who criticized Whitaker's office.
“Why would the federal government
contact, wire and pay an informant without checking him out – or,
worse, despite knowing he was disreputable?” Basu wrote. “It has
all the earmarks of a politically motivated witch hunt.”
Speaking with NPR, McCoy
added: “And so I know Matt Whitaker will misuse his office,
because I've seen it. And I know that he will misuse his power,
because he's done it.”