The story reverberated around the Web throughout the weekend and has potential for a number of intriguing followups. Let's take a look at the latest turn in a story that shows just how far our Justice Department has sunk in the Era of Rove:
Peter B. and Me
Our Friday post about the Siegelman story probably attracted more attention than anything we've done on Legal Schnauzer. And I was invited to appear via telephone on the Peter B. Collins Show, a progressive radio program based in San Francisco.
This was my second visit to the Peter B. Show; the first was back in July after Raw Story's Lindsay Beyerstein had broken the story about my unlawful termination at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) because I write this blog.
Brad Friedman of Brad's Blog was a guest on Friday, and he and Peter B. asked a number of insightful questions about the latest revelations in the Siegelman case.
I was in the last segment of the three-hour program. You can listen by going to the Peter B. archives here and clicking on "download this episode" for 11-14-08. You can click on the timekeeping device just above the play/pause button and drag it over to about the 2:42:36 mark--and that's where my segment begins.
We delved into a number of interesting subjects, including the similarities between the Siegelman case and the Paul Minor case in Mississippi, along with some speculation about how an Obama administration might approach the DOJ scandal.
I got a bit of big head the last time I turned into a "radio star." Mrs. Schnauzer is trying her best to keep my feet on the ground this time.
The Scott Horton Perspective
No story about the Siegelman case would be complete without input from Scott Horton, legal-affairs contributor for Harper's magazine and a law professor at Columbia University.
Horton has played a central role in bringing the Siegelman case to the nation's attention, and he posted "What the Justice Department is Hiding" at the Daily Beast, a new Web publication started by former Vanity Fair and New Yorker editor Tina Brown.
Horton provides an excellent summary of the Siegelman case, along with insight on the latest revelations about wrongdoing by U.S. Attorney Leura Canary and improper communications between jurors and the prosecution team.
Documents provided by Canary staffer Tamarah T. Grimes show the entitlement at the heart of Canary's operation:
Grimes also charges that Canary ran the U.S. Attorney’s office like a personal fiefdom, enlisting federal employees for babysitting, and appointing relatives to positions in violation of federal nepotism rules.
Justice Department sources reveal that after bringing these charges, Grimes was subjected to intense harassment by Canary, who at one point threatened she would prosecute Grimes for perjury unless Grimes withdrew her complaints.
The improper jury communications focus on a juror who was called "Flipper" because she liked to entertain her colleagues by performing backflips.
Grimes quoted the lead prosecutor describing direct interaction with a juror who was about to be questioned by the judge and who was “scared and afraid she is going to get into trouble.” This conduct violated rules guaranteeing the independence of jurors as well as an order issued by the judge in court against dealings between the jurors and the prosecution team.
Communications of this sort between litigants and a juror often lead to a mistrial and potential disciplinary action against lawyers involved. However, the Justice Department kept these jury interactions secret from the court and defense counsel in what may constitute a serious act of obstruction.
A Justice Department investigation into the charges was a sham, Horton shows:
“Look at the list of people these ‘investigators’ failed to question and at the questions they failed to ask. Frankly, this doesn’t much look like an investigation,” said one Congressional staffer.
The internal probe failed to question the marshals who were on jury duty. This omission suggests that the purpose of the report was not to get at the truth. Was this a fair investigation of the Grimes accusations, or was it a rushed effort to exonerate—through “inconclusive” findings—an errant U.S. attorney on the eve of a massive transfer of power in Washington?
Concern about the Siegelman matter, and other political prosecutions, appears to be very much on the DOJ radar:
A career Justice Department lawyer stated that apprehension about the matter was building within the department. “What happened in this case is a disgrace that threatens the reputation of the Department as a whole and federal prosecutors across the country,” he said. He identified David Margolis as having failed to take corrective measures. “He has essentially checked out and is intent on sweeping everything under the carpet. It will be one hell of a mess for the new tenants.”
"Flipper" Is Revealed
David Fiderer, of Huffington Post, has a fascinating read about the inner workings of the Siegelman jury. The piece is titled "Dirty Little Secrets About Juror Contacts in the Don Siegelman Case."