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Verdict in Federal Bingo Trial Shines New Light on the Don Siegelman Case

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Cross Posted at Legal Schnauzer

The outcome of the federal Alabama bingo trial, which produced zero convictions for nine defendants and 37 counts, has been described as "one of the most remarkable setbacks nationally" for federal prosecutors in decades. It also has been described as a "humiliation of epic proportions" for the Obama Justice Department and its Bush DOJ holdovers.

In a narrower sense, the bingo verdict provides proof that the Don Siegelman case, perhaps the most notorious political prosecution in American history, was unlawfully decided. It also provides proof that at least one other Bush-era political prosecution, that of Mississippi attorney Paul Minor, was unlawfully decided.

Ironically, the proof comes from the reporting of The Birmingham News,  perhaps the leading mainstream-media cheerleader for federal prosecutors in "public corruption" cases.

Do you want even more irony? The Birmingham News has repeatedly praised the work of prosecutors and judges who ramrodded the Siegelman case--and the newspaper has hinted over and over that, in its view, the Siegelman case was decided correctly.

Isn't it interesting, then, that Alabama's largest newspaper winds up providing proof that the Siegelman case was NOT correctly decided. Do you think the News' editorial higher ups, the leading mouthpieces for

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our state's corrupt elites, will even notice what they have done? I doubt it.

Since the verdict was announced last Thursday, the News' coverage has reflected this primary theme: The defendants really were guilty, but prosecutors from Washington screwed up the case. As usual, columnist John Archibald carries the water for his big bosses, with a piece titled "Verdict No Surprise: Prosecutors Bungled Bingo Case." Consider this analysis from Archibald:

Federal prosecutors, especially the superstars brought in by Washington, had more slip-ups than a blindfolded banana peeler on a hockey rink.

They stumbled picking a jury and fumbled as they misjudged the role politics would play in the defense strategy. They bumbled as they failed to realize how their star witnesses would ooze on the stand, coming across, after pummeling by the defense, as self-serving, politically driven and racist.

Archibald's attack on the Washington crowd is curious, given that the lead prosecutor on the case is listed as Louis Franklin, out of the U.S. attorney's office in Montgomery. That's the same Louis Franklin who played a lead role in the Siegelman case.

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In its non-Archibald coverage, the News  also made excuses for prosecutors, especially in an article titled "Vote-Buying Verdict Shows Prosecution Perils." Reporter Kim Chandler tracked down every former prosecutor she could find to point out that the feds had an overwhelmingly difficult task in this case:

Former prosecutor Ron Brunson, who was a prosecutor in the Northern District of Alabama for 15 years said prosecutors must be extremely disappointed to walk away without a single conviction.

Public corruption cases alleging that campaign contributions are bribes are innately difficult, Brunson said. In a robbery or murder case, prosecutors are trying to prove who committed a crime. In this case, he said, "You had to prove there was a crime."

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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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