photo booth, Netroots Nation, 2012
Thanks, Joan. Governor Siegelman and I first worked together in 1988 when he was Alabama Secretary of State and I worked for Better Business Bureau on several consumer issues. I also volunteered on his campaigns through the years as he ran and won Alabama's Attorney General, Lt. Governor and Governor. We've been close friends since 2004 and I knew that what the US Attorney was prosecuting him for wasn't a crime. I believed, at that point in time, in the justice system and could not imagine an innocent man would be found guilty of these manufactured charges. Wow, was I ever wrong! So I took it upon myself to try to find justice through every venue I could think of, starting with sending out the message for everyone on my email listserv and yahoo groups to call Congressman John Conyers and every member of congress on the Judicial Committee and ask for an investigation into the governor's case.
At 3:00pm the day after Governor Siegelman was sentenced, stripped, shackled and taken to federal prison, Democratic Congressman Artur Davis called me and said he'd discussed Siegelman's case with Congressman John Conyers and that they were not going to do anything at that point in time and I should stop having people call Congress as we were tying up the phones. I told him, if that's the case we will call back tomorrow and the next day and the next until we get an investigation. Eventually, whistleblower Dana Jill Simpson was called to tell her story about the US Attorneys and Karl Rove's involvement.
Judge Mark Fuller who presided in Governor Siegelman case said at the sentencing hearing, that he would request that the BOP place Don at a facility "as near Alabama as he can be designated" . And what happened is that Don will be put back into the very same prison in Oakdale, Louisiana, almost 500 miles away from his home. All this does is put another huge burden on his precious family.
Did Judge Fuller have options that were more convenient for Don's family, if nearness was his motivation?
Yes. The prison in Talladega is only 49 miles away and Maxwell Air Force base only 97 miles from Don's home. Judge Fuller must have thought that Don's enthusiastic supporters like me would be viewed as way too much of a distraction if Don were in Alabama. Pensacola, Florida, however, is only 251 miles away, about a 4-1/2 hour drive for Don's wife, Lori. Much closer that the 9 hour drive to Oakdale, La.
Almost 30 years ago, Don and Lori were in a horrible car wreck when they were hit by a drunk driver. Lori was hurt very badly. Included in those injuries was the loss of an eye. Driving over 900 miles in a day is difficult for anyone, but it is especially difficult for her and would be dangerous to nearly impossible for her to go alone. This whole ordeal is a travesty for this precious family and this judge is pushing near the edge of "cruel and unusual" punishment, in my opinion.
Yes, indeed. Speaking of Don's family, I understand that his daughter, Dana, spoke for him at the sentencing and has started a petition for a presidential pardon. How's that going?
The petition has over 16,000 signatures, at this point in time, but we need many, many more to present to the White House. Dana is such an inspiration to so many, but I must say especially to me. When Gov. Siegelman, was sent to prison, so far away, with so little contact, Dana would be the one who would keep me strong and determined. So young, but so wise, Dana is very much her father's daughter. I remember when Don had been in prison for several months; Dana and I had a conversation that totally took me by surprise. Her spirituality calmed me and gave me the strength to continue my activist work. In that conversation, she compared her dad's plight with the story of Joseph and the Coat of Many Colors. I think anyone familiar with that Biblical depiction can easily see the reasons for her comparisons.
Governor Siegelman's attorneys have appealed the sentencing to the 11th Circuit Court. I don't know the status. Other than that, the petition for pardon at www.change.org/pardondon , writing letters to the President and praying for a miracle are all that's left us.
A miracle would be good. Anything you'd like to add before we wrap this up?
The injustice that this family is enduring seems never-ending, but they continue this quest for justice, as do I. Please join us by signing Dana's petition to the President. Thanks, Joan, for this opportunity to speak up for this fine man and his wonderful family.
Caught in the Crosshairs: Former Governor Don Siegelman Talks with OpEdNews 8/16/2009
Collateral Damage: Interview with Dana Siegelman 7/27/2009