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It's Really Not About Don Siegelman

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opednews.com Headlined to H3 8/27/09


Cross Posted at Legal Schnauzer
Karl Rove's Congressional testimony is receiving prominent display in the news, so perhaps it's a good time to put the larger Department of Justice story in perspective.

Thanks to Rove's history in the state, and the prosecution of former Governor Don Siegelman, the alleged use of the DOJ for political purposes has deep roots in Alabama. But even here, the public does not seem to grasp the seriousness of the issues involved. Even respected Alabama journalists (yes, there are a few) don't seem to fully "get" the story.

Consider my recent back and forth with Tim Lennox, a fellow Alabama blogger and veteran broadcast journalist. I started things by taking Lennox to task for writing that Rove had denied involvement in the Siegelman case, when Rove in fact did no such thing. Lennox countered with a post that hinted that blinders prevent some folks from seeing the Rove/Siegelman story clearly. I think he meant to include me among the blinders-wearing crowd.

Lennox has been around Alabama journalism for many years. I was a regular listener to his radio show in Birmingham. And I watched his Alabama Public Television program pretty regularly. I think he's a fair and capable guy.

But here is where he and I differ. Lennox has referred a few times in recent posts to "Siegelman supporters." Those apparently are the folks he considers to be wearing blinders--and he seems to put me in that crowd.

Don Siegelman has been in Alabama politics a long time, and I'm sure he has many backers--people who know and like him personally, have campaigned for him, supported him financially, etc. I'm not in that crowd, and I know a number of people who aren't in that crowd--but still think the Bush Justice Department emitted numerous noxious odors and should be examined closely.


Certain Alabama press outlets have created this notion that there is a "cult of personality" surrounding Siegelman, that his dynamic persona causes supporters to overlook his criminal wrongdoing. Lennox seems to buy into this, to some extent.

But Siegelman himself has said, correctly, that the story is not just about him or his case. The Web-based journalists who have done the heavy lifting on this story--Scott Horton, Larisa Alexandrovna, Glynn Wilson, and yours truly--are not "Siegelman supporters." The key whistleblower in the case, Alabama attorney Jill Simpson, wasn't even a member of Siegelman's party.

All of these folks, I feel certain, know the story isn't about Siegelman--or Rove, for that matter. It's about the rule of law. It's about big ideas, summarized in the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, such as "equal protection" and "due process." Do those ideas still matter, will they still be enforced?

Tim Lennox is a sharp guy, and I think, in time, he will grasp that the "Siegelman case" really isn't about Siegelman at all. Lennox, I'm guessing, has spent the past several years living in Montgomery, and that's enough to corrode anybody's brain a little bit.

I'm certainly no smarter than Tim Lennox, but I've had a personal experience that helps me understand what the Siegelman case really is about. I know what it's like to walk into a courtroom and, after later studying the relevant law, realize the judge had cheated me repeatedly. In fact, I would love to sit down with Lennox sometime and show him exactly what happened in my case. Perhaps that would help him understand how a corrupt justice system threatens our democracy.

And that's really the issue here. If you study the facts and the law involved, you see that Don Siegelman and Richard Scrushy did not commit a crime. That goes also for the Paul Minor case in Mississippi. And yet, four men sit in prison from those two cases, and a fifth (Siegelman) might be heading back to prison.

Did Karl Rove play a role in those cases? That remains unclear. But this much is crystal clear: The judges and the prosecutors in both cases acted corruptly. And that, aside from any role Rove might have played, needs to be investigated.

In the Siegelman case, the alleged criminal activity clearly took place outside the five-year statute of limitations. The judge and prosecutors had to know that, but they barged ahead anyway. The alleged actions of Siegelman and Scrushy do not constitute a crime. But based simply on the statute of limitations, the case should have never gotten off the ground.

In the Minor case, the underlying rulings by two state judges were decided correctly under the law, so there could not possibly be a bribe or fraud. But the judge gave unlawful jury instructions--the same thing happened in the Siegelman case--resulting in convictions.

I've had two brief phone conversations with Don Siegelman. And I've never communicated with Paul Minor at all. I don't think that qualifies me as a "supporter" of either gentleman.

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I live in Birmingham, Alabama, and work in higher education. I became interested in justice-related issues after experiencing gross judicial corruption in Alabama state courts. This corruption has a strong political component. The corrupt judges are (more...)
 

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