The Justice Department is arguing that no evidence exists for a hearing on new evidence pertaining to the 2006 conviction of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman. The government's effort is a bad-faith attempt to keep intact dubious prosecutions nationwide that curtailed public choices in elections.
::::::::On Aug. 27, holdover officials from the Bush Justice Department filed 226 pages arguing that former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman and his co-defendant have presented no evidence since their 2006 bribery convictions that justifies a hearing or new trial.
As in the past, DoJ officials exaggerate to block justice and to protect themselves. By seeking to imprison Siegelman for 20 more years, DoJ clearly seeks to end public debate about Alabama's most prominent Democrat.
Siegelman's case remains the centerpiece of unresolved evidence that Karl Rove used DoJ to target Democratic officials nationwide. Scrutiny risks revelations in hundreds of other disputed DoJ investigations that altered the nation's political map during the Bush years.
Yet DoJ risks even more – including everyone's civil rights – by shirking its responsibility to tell the truth in its filings, and to endorse a public hearing to clear the air.
New evidence since Siegelman's 2006 trial includes claims of judicial bias and corruption, plus DoJ political prosecution orchestrated by Rove, judge-shopping, jury tampering, failing to comply with prosecutor recusal, firing a DoJ whistleblower, and suppressing evidence that DoJ tried to blackmail its central witness against Siegelman with a sex scandal.
Also, 75 former state attorneys general ─ the chief law enforcers from more 40 states ─ made a bipartisan filing that is unprecedented in U.S. legal history to argue that Siegelman committed no crime by appointing a donor to a state post.
Siegelman's convictions centered on his 1999 request to HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy to donate to a non-profit foundation to improve Alabama's funding for education via a state lottery. Scrushy arranged two donations to the foundation. Siegelman reappointed Scrushy to an unpaid state board on which he'd served under three previous governors. A jury found guilt on 7 of 32 bribery-related charges. The defendants received lengthy prison terms and heavy fines.
Last year, Siegelman, now 63, was released on appeal bond after a CBS 60 Minutes exposé about his prosecution. Scrushy, 53, remains in prison, with each of his convictions stemming from the donations to the foundation.
Alabama's Republican Party sniped at CBS reporting. But former National Press Club President Robert Alden, a Washington Post editor for 48 years before his retirement in 2000, found it compelling. “The Siegelman prosecution,” Alden tells me, “is one of the worst miscarriages of justice that I'm aware of in the past half century in America.”
Denial Under Oath?
DoJ's most recent filing falsely told presiding federal judge Mark Fuller that Business Council of Alabama CEO William Canary has denied under oath to the House Judiciary Committee that he schemed with “Karl” to remove Siegelman from Alabama politics. But no committee record exists of such a sworn statement, as noted by Alabama reporter Roger Shuler.
Canary is well-known in relevant quarters of DoJ, where many “loyal Bushies” remain in power after eight years of such employment practices as the mid-term firings of U.S. attorneys who failed to use their powers for political prosecutions. Politics has been vital also for hiring and promoting DoJ career staff.
Canary is a longtime Rove ally who advised the state's current Republican governor in his successful 2002 gubernatorial campaign against Siegelman. Canary's wife Leura is Alabama's U.S. attorney for the office that is prosecuting Siegelman. She remains in power despite the nation's tradition that its 93 U.S. attorneys resign after a change of presidents.
Many of those accused of framing Siegelman deny claims by the defense, whistle-blowers and investigative reporters. But none of the denials have been in public under oath and subject to cross-examination. Some have been comments to the press, and others in affidavits that can avoid key issues.
Rove and Harriet Miers, the highest-ranking of the Bush White House advisors accused of improperly interfering at DoJ, were interviewed in private this summer by House Judiciary Committee staff and a Congressman from each party. But the rules did not require an oath. Upon release of the transcripts Aug. 11, Rove claimed vindication in his Wall Street Journal column.
A Real Probe Needed
But Rove and Miers also asserted memory loss many times on key questions during the interviews, and Rove misled his Journal readers by falsely claiming that Alabama whistle-blower Dana Jill Simpson has never testified.
An attorney, Simpson voluntarily testified in 2007 under House Judiciary Committee staff cross-examination. She swore that a prominent fellow Republican predicted in early 2005 that Siegelman would be re-indicted later that year after collapse of the government's first case against him. Also, she swore that she heard that Siegelman's next case would be steered to the Bush-nominee Fuller, who “hated” Siegelman and would “hang” him.
Rove's spin on these kinds of post-conviction issues shows why this summer's interviews should be just a first step in a more thorough probe and public hearing.
The Justice Department should live up to its name by welcoming cross-examination of witnesses under oath before a fair judge. Questions about this case and so many like it around the country will not be forgotten simply by imprisoning the defendants. Others care also.
Andrew Kreig is an investigative reporter, attorney, author, business strategist, radio host, and longtime non-profit executive based in Washington, DC.
His most recent book is "Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their Masters," the first book about the Obama administration's second term. The book grew out of his work leading the Justice Integrity Project, a non-partisan legal reform group that investigates official misconduct.
In a diverse career, he has advocated for the powerful, and investigated Mafia chiefs, Karl Rove, and top Obama administration officials. The major "Who's Who" reference books have listed him since the mid-1990s.
He holds law degrees from Yale and the University of Chicago, and a b.a. in history from Cornell. His experience includes work as law clerk to a federal judge, as an attorney at a national law firm, and as president/CEO of a worldwide high-tech trade association.
The contact for interviews, lectures, and review copies is Mary Byers at Eagle View Books. The author has lectured on five continents, held research fellowships at three major universities, and appeared on more than 100 radio, television and cable news shows as an expert commentator.