Don Siegelman -- New Travel Restrictions
Wed Apr 30, 2008 at 13:28:00 PM CDT
Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman has been out of prison on bond for just about a month. In that time, he has given interviews to 60 Minutes on CBS, The Verdict on MSNBC, the New York Times, the House Judiciary Committee, the Tuscaloosa News, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. on Ring of Fire and Thom Hartmann's radio show. I probably missed a few, but my point is that Siegelman has been talking, mostly to the national press, about his situation. If, say, a Washington insider had pulled strings in Alabama to get Siegelman put away, those interviews would be like rubbing salt in the wound of Siegelman's release from prison. What could be done to keep Siegelman away from the press?
Travel restrictions on a non-violent offender who has been deemed "not a flight risk" don't make much sense. In fact, they probably won't even do much to shut Siegelman up in these days of interviews via phone and internet. In simple terms, this is yet another form of intimidation, more suitable in the old Soviet Union than in America.
I'll take this development as an opportunity to share a couple of video clips from Scott Horton's lecture in Huntsville last week. The first deals with the signs of political prosecution and the second with the use of shock tactics by prosecutors.
Or perhaps I should quote my former partner and friend Michael Mukasey in his recent speech in San Francisco, "A politically motivated political corruption investigation is just corruption by another name." Exactly.
Now, I started my review of the Siegelman case ... looking at a series of questions that are used to flag political prosecutions. These questions are in fact used by our Department of Justice and Department of State. The are used in connection with determinations as to whether or not assistance should be rendered to foreign powers requesting help in connection with prosecutions involving political figures. These are the questions used to determine whether a prosecution is political and should receive support from the United States.
1. Is the subject an opposition political figure?
2. Is the crime that has been charged something applied uniformly, or does it seem to be used just on political adversaries. And this is particularly the case when the crime as charged deals with details of running campaigns.
3. When was the probe initiated and how did it come to be initiated? Does it comply with established procedures and rules governing investigations? Charges brought against political candidates during an election cycle are particularly suspect. And the golden rule is that prosecutors investigate crimes, not people. So, what was the crime and how did it come to the attention of the prosecutors?
4. Was an intrusive investigation conducted? That is, does the investigative work appear geared to disrupting the political figure's work, for instance, as a representative in the legislature or a local official? Does it appear geared to embarrassing a candidate for an election? Was the investigation played out in the media? Was the arrest and announcement of charges hyped in the media? Is the allocation of resources and materials for the investigation and prosecution "normal" or commensurate with similarly charged crimes?
5. Is the trial open to the public? Is the presentation of evidence open to the public? Was a gag imposed on counsel? Did the prosecutors engage in questionable conduct in picking a court and a judge? Was the defendant granted freedom pending trial and appeal?
6. Is there a political tone to the prosecutor's presentation of his case? Does he speak of a political party or movement as "corrupt" rather than a specific individual? Is there evidence to show that the prosecutor discussed the case with Government figures outside of the chain of prosecutorial authority? Were senior political figures exercising influence in the prosecution?
7. Was the defendant or his counsel the subject of harassment, threats, robberies or break-ins?
8. Does the prosecution run parallel with a political campaign which is being maintained by the Government or the Government's party? Is the prosecution being cited as evidence of "corruption" by the opposition? Does the Government appear to have access to the prosecution's evidence? Does it have prior knowledge that charges will be brought? Is this information used for political purposes?
9. Does the media have prior knowledge of criminal investigations, of charges brought, of evidence that will be used? Does the media quote government officials or prosecutors in connection with pending cases?
When I applied this test to the Siegelman case, it achieved a score that was pretty much off the charts. In fact, I'd say, further off the charts than most of the cases I'm used to studying in the former Soviet Union.
Questioner: I have been really alarmed, not only at the legal procedures followed by the U.S. Attorneys in Alabama, I have been alarmed by their procedures picking people up and taking them to jail, at their procedures in Sue Schmitz here in town who was rousted out of her shower at 6 in the morning
Horton: And Mr. Latifi and his wife gave me a very graphic description of what happened in their house, too. Which I have to say matches things I heard about and things I experienced in the Soviet Union when I was working as a lawyer there.
Questioner: ... For instance Sue Schmitz she was ready to turn herself in. And to use FBI brutality to take her to the jail in her nightgown is really kind of overdoing it -- it reminds me of a police state.
Horton: It's a psycological tactic that is used around the world -- I hate to say this but it's used in police states around the world to shock and shake up targets and to get them to speak and stop defending. And it involves going in and effecting arrest in the hours before dawn, using heavy force, brandishing weapons -- with people who are perfectly willing to just turn themselves in? Excuse me. That's ridiculous! A prosecutor who does something like this deserves to have the spotlight focussed on her. And this has been going on. It's been going on in Montgomery and Birmingham.
Plenty more good stuff there, but my fingers are tired!
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