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Hullabaloo


Monday, February 25, 2008

 
Siegelman Story Reaches The Light Of Day

by dday

CBS' story on the Don Siegelman case last night was fine for a 9-minute television expose, but of course it isn't possible to take in all of the contours in that length of time. Scott Horton, who has doggedly followed this case for Harper's, and who was interviewed for the story, explains in greater detail.

...the show was dominated by one of 52 former attorneys general from 40 of the 50 states who have called for a Congressional probe of the conduct of the Siegelman case, former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods. He leveled a series of blistering accusations at the Bush Administration’s Justice Department. With the Alabama G.O.P. this evening issuing a near-hysterical statement in which it characterizes the CBS broadcast—before its transmission—as an anti-Republican attack piece, it was notable that Woods, like the piece’s other star witness, is a Republican. Not just any Republican, either. Grant Woods is co-chair of the McCain for President leadership committee, and a lifelong friend and advisor to the presumptive 2008 G.O.P. presidential candidate. Woods is also godfather to one of the McCain children.

Attorney General Woods has this to say about the Bush Justice Department’s prosecution of Siegelman: “I personally believe that what happened here is that they targeted Don Siegelman because they could not beat him fair and square. This was a Republican state and he was the one Democrat they could never get rid of.”

In other words, not being able to beat Siegelman at the polls, Woods believes that his own party corruptly used the criminal justice process to take out an adversary. This is an extraordinary, heavy accusation. Not something that a senior Republican would raise easily about his own party. And the facts back the accusation up, beginning to end.


The nub of the case is that Siegelman allowed HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy to remain on an oversight board on which he had already served, and in return Scrushy gave money to a noble effort to improve education in the state of Alabama, an effort Siegelman approved of. That's literally the reason that Siegelman is in a jail cell right now. This is the kind of thing that, were it actually considered bribery, would put every politician in America in jail. The case hung on evidence that Siegelman walked out of a meeting with Scrushy with the check, a baseless lie spouted by a convicted criminal on Siegelman's staff, and the Justice Department KNEW it was a lie and yet continued the case. 60 Minutes tried to talk with the accuser, a man named Nick Bailey, but the DoJ refused to authorize the interview (he's in a federal prison).

The prosecutors nabbed him and then told him he could get a light sentence if he worked with them to nail Siegelman, their real target. This very process is a perversion of the justice system, which as former U.S. Attorney Jones very properly says, requires that prosecutors investigate crimes and not people. But it gets still worse. Bailey testifies that he saw a check change hands at a meeting at which Scrushy’s appointment to the oversight board was decided. This is the evidence that landed Siegelman in prison. And it was false. And the prosecutors knew that it was false.


Horton also notes that CBS has plenty more on this case:

CBS conducted dozens of interviews and has much more that it hasn’t shown. The additional footage concerns the Canary team—husband Billy who advised the campaign of Republican gubernatorial candidates against Siegelman, and wife Leura Canary, whose prosecution of Siegelman was essential to the G.O.P.’s efforts to secure the Montgomery statehouse. And they have much more on the inexplicable conduct of federal Judge Mark Fuller, appointed by George W. Bush, a former member of the Alabama G.O.P.’s Executive Committee, and a man who publicly stated that Siegelman had a grudge against him—but who refused to recuse himself from the case.


Apparently, half of the segment mysteriously dropped off the air on one station covering a healthy portion of Alabama, for what they claimed were "techincal" difficulties (no, really, the press release did read "techincal". I'm supposed to say something like "this is Alabama, after all," right?). This station is owned by Republican Party backers. Ho-hum.

I don't know if the 60 Minutes piece will act as a defibrillator, to bring the Siegelman story back to life. I sincerely hope it does. Karl Rove deserves to go down for illegitimizing the cause of justice in this country. Siegelman's lawyers have called for a special prosecutor, as have the Alabama Democratic Party.

UPDATE: Here's the state of justice in America.

It has been 20 months since Siegelman’s trial ended and no trial transcript has been produced by Fuller's court. This is in violation of the rules of criminal procedure which require a transcript within 30 days of sentencing. Siegelman can't appeal his conviction with out an official trial transcript.


The Attorney General, by the way, has said he would rather let the case go through the normal appeals process rather than open an investigation.

Kafka would be proud.

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