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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 5/24/09

Chipping Away at the Siegelman Case with Paul Benton Weeks

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I’m not the only person who thinks former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman got a raw deal. By last month, the bipartisan list of former State’s Attorneys requesting a new look at the case had grown to 75.  Although the conviction of former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens was dismissed last month because of prosecutorial misconduct, Don Siegelman is no closer to freedom. In fact,  the DoJ now seeks to increase Siegelman’s sentence from 7 to 20 years.

One of those incensed about the Siegelman case is Paul Benton Weeks, a Missouri attorney who places a high value on judicial integrity.  I attended a tele-conference Monday morning that Weeks hosted, along with journalist Andrew Kreig.  Kreig just finished an extensive article on the Siegelman case, the result of five months’ research.  Weeks explained why he is convinced that Siegelman’s sentence should be overturned. Paul and I continued our conversation after the press conference.

Welcome to OpEdNews, Paul.  The focus of your argument is Mark Fuller, the presiding judge in the Siegelman case. How did you become interested in Fuller in the first place?  

Hi, and thank you for speaking with me.  I am an attorney and in 2002, we had a large class-action case pending in the federal district court in Montgomery, Alabama.  The case is known as the "BASS" case, because it was filed to determine who owned the assets and magazine of the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society.  We represented the half-million members of BASS.  Consequently, the BASS case involved a dispute as to the ownership of property and assets, including the world famous BASS MASTERS MAGAZINE, worth over $75 million, and the real rub in the case was that the opposing parties (the BASS founder and his cronies) had close ties to Daddy Bush and the Bush family.

We knew we had a good case and a very good judge, Myron Thompson, who had already made important rulings in the case that were in our favor.  Suddenly, in late 2002, we received a notice from the federal court in Montgomery that Judge Thompson was no longer our judge and that a brand-new, George W. Bush-appointed judge, Mark Fuller, had been appointed to our case.

Because I live and practice law primarily in Missouri, we did not know anything about this new federal judge.  So, we did what any lawyer should do: we conducted a basic, preliminary inquiry to determine simply who Mark Fuller was and what kind of history he had.  And, to put it bluntly, what we found was shocking.  We uncovered strong evidence that Mark Fuller had engaged in serious misconduct, including possible felony and federal crimes -- misconduct that Fuller may have engaged in both before and after he became a federal judge.  

One of the most disturbing crimes he may have committed is having engaged in a scheme to defraud the public Retirement System of Alabama (RSA) out of more than $330,000 of retirement benefits to which Fuller's buddy [Mark Devane] was not entitled.  Fuller's part in the scheme included 'spiking' Devane’s salary by more than $80,000 the last year that he worked for Fuller [when Fuller was the district attorney in Pike and Coffee Counties].  It's complicated, but it's clear that Fuller and Devane were up to no good. Ultimately, their scheme failed because public authorities determined that their claim for the extra money was bogus and false.

What did you do with this information?

After I realized that there was disturbing evidence that Mark Fuller was a real scoundrel, I drove all the way to Alabama and conducted an extensive investigation of Fuller and I spoke with several people while there.  I discovered that Judge Fuller had found out that I was in Alabama investigating him. He instructed an employee at his former DA’s office to report anything he could find out about my investigation.

In any event, I was so shocked at all this evidence that I decided that Fuller was entirely inappropriate to preside as a judge in any case -- and that, he was certainly not going to preside in my case if I could stop it.  So, I prepared an extensive affidavit that I signed in late July 2003 detailing all of the evidence against Fuller. We used it to support a motion to have him disqualified from the BASS case.  After our motion to recuse Fuller was filed, he was removed from the BASS case very quickly, within a day or two of our filing.  And, I've heard from a very good source that after my affidavit was filed, Fuller lived in fear for months that he was going to be indicted for his apparent crimes.

But that's not the end of the story.  Investigating Mark Fuller for misconduct is kind of like the proverbial 'gift that keeps on giving'.  Once you start looking into him and his past, you just keep finding more and more evidence of serial misbehavior.  And, you cannot help but realize that this man is totally unsuitable to sit as a federal judge -- or, as a judge, period.

What’s in that affidavit?

My affidavit identifies multiple sources of evidence suggesting that federal judge Mark Fuller committed crimes before and after becoming a federal judge.  Those crimes include the scheme to defraud the Retirement System of Alabama (RSA) I already mentioned.  My affidavit also identified evidence suggesting that Fuller misappropriated substantial funds from the district attorney's treasury for purposes of carrying out this scheme to defraud the RSA. It also identifies evidence that when Fuller was the DA for Pike and Coffee Counties in Alabama, he was actually out of state for much of the time, acting as the chief executive office of a government contractor, Doss Aviation, in Colorado. If so, Fuller may have violated the federal 'honest services' statute, among other laws. My affidavit can be found online in a 2007 story written by Scott Horton for Harper’s Magazine.

Stay tuned for part two of our interview. You’ll learn more about Judge Mark Fuller, that explosive affidavit, and what citizens can do to voice their outrage about how Don Siegelman has been treated.


If you’d like to know more about the Siegelman case:

Scott Horton, The Pork Barrel World of Judge Mark Fuller

Andrew Kreig,  Siegelman Deserves New Trial Because of Judge's 'Grudge,' Evidence Shows

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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