The top government witness in the 2006 federal conviction of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman on corruption charges says prosecutors failed to give the defense required records documenting witness-coaching.
Former Siegelman aide Nick Bailey swears that prosecutors failed to reveal to the defense details of most of his two dozen prep sessions before he became the Bush Justice Department's key witness that former HealthSouth chief executive Richard Scrushy bribed the former Democratic governor. Scrushy arranged $500,000 in donations to an education non-profit fostered by Siegelman to increase school funding. At trial, Bailey suggested the donations were required by Siegelman to reappoint Scrushy to a state regulatory board. The defendants, bolstered by legal experts and whistleblowers, claim that they were framed to eliminate Siegelman from politics.
Even more explosive is a sworn statement by Bailey's current employer Luther "Stan" Pate, another Alabama businessman.
"Nick was told that the government was working to prevent the publicizing of an alleged sexual relationship between Nick and Don Siegelman," Pate wrote. "Nick also told me that one of the agents working the Siegelman/Scrushy prosecution asked him whether he had ever taken illegal drugs with Governor Siegelman or had a sexual relationship with him. These comments had a dramatic effect on Nick, and, in my observation, added significantly to the pressure he felt to go along with whatever the prosecutors wanted him to say."
Allegations of sexual blackmail by the government are among the evidentiary exhibits that support legal arguments by Scrushy and Siegelman seeking a new trial based on new evidence from whistleblowers and investigative reporters.
The filings reviewed July 20 but filed late June 26 include a report by the Investigative Group International (IGI), which some nickname "The President's Investigator." This is because IGI Chairman Terry Lenzner was a Watergate prosecutor of former President Nixon and later helped defend former President Clinton during impeachment. IGI says that it was hired in April "by counsel for the defense."
IGI Vice Chairman David Richardson's affidavit said that Bailey told him and Lenzner during meetings in June that Bailey "did not believe that Governor Siegelman had been bribed by Mr. Scrushy," among other contradictions of Bailey's themes during Siegelman's second trial. Bailey, now free after being sentenced to 18 months in prison on bribery charges unrelated to Siegelman, had been facing a far longer term before he agreed to cooperate with prosecutors against Siegelman.
Pate wrote in his affidavit that he befriended Bailey after the former governor's aide told him in the spring of 2002 that "he was in trouble with the law."
"It was obvious to me that he was a man in trouble with heavy burdens," Pate wrote in his affidavit. "I believe in giving people second chances" but "would not condone any breaking or bending of any laws or rules whatsoever...." Pate said Bailey's office was next to his, and that he observed Bailey on "an emotional roller-coaster" trying to please prosecutors. He said that Bailey feared for his safety both in and out of prison, as well as for the security of his friends and their reputations.
Bailey said in his affidavit that he was brought to Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama in 2004 some two years after he began cooperating, and was told there by federal prosecutor and Air Force Reserve Col. Stephen Feaga that the government was "starting over" on the Siegelman investigation on the basis of orders from "Washington."
In 2007, allegations of massive irregularities in the investigation and trial of the Siegelman case became nationally prominent just after the U.S. attorney firing scandal. This was because Alabama attorney and Republican campaign volunteer Dana Jill Simpson filed an affidavit with Siegelman's sentencing judge, Chief U.S. District Judge Mark E. Fuller of Montgomery. In her sworn statement and in her testimony before the House Judiciary Committee staff, Simpson claimed that fellow Alabama Republicans conspired to remove Siegelman from politics in coordination with what she understood to be White House political strategist Karl Rove and a federal judge who "hated" Siegelman. Rove has denied wrongdoing to the news media. His responses to congressional investigators this month are not yet public.
In February 2008, a CBS 60 Minutes segment featured former Arizona Attorney Gen. Grant Woods, a Republican then co-chairing John McCain's 2008 GOP Presidential Campaign. Woods said the federal prosecution was clearly political to remove a Democrat from public life. In the show, the then-imprisoned Bailey first made his allegations that he had been coached to provide testimony against the defendants without the required disclosure.
Government officials have maintained throughout the case so far that their conduct has complied with legal and ethical requirements. No officials were available near close of business on July 20 to comment on the allegations by the co-defendants, each of whom is under a seven-year prison sentence, with massive fines. Siegelman is free on bond.
Prosecutors recently asked for a 20-year sentence for Siegelman, 63, upon resentencing by Fuller, who is alleged by the co-defendants to have tolerated prosecution misconduct. Scrushy, 56, is serving his sentence while claiming that he was framed to imprison Siegelman. Scrushy says also that he refused lighten his own sentence by making false accusations against Siegelman.
Events are coming to a head. Fuller has called for final briefs by next week amidst a growing nationwide campaign by grassroots activists and legal experts critical of the prosecution. But an all-Republican federal appeals court panel affirmed the convictions in March, aside from dismissing two of seven charges against Siegelman for lack of evidence. The predominately Republican full court of appeals denied a rehearing.