Siegelman Son Seeks AG Post In Alabama


Joseph Siegelman, son of a former Alabama governor convicted in one of the nation's most notorious political prosecutions in recent American history, last week announced his candidacy to become their state's next attorney general.

joseph siegelman don siegelmanThe young Democratic attorney faces many obstacles in the deep Red state before emulating his father — former Gov. Don Siegelman, now 71 and recovering from emergency open heart surgery Feb. 9 — in winning their state's top elective law enforcement post. The elder Siegelman, shown at right with his son, was Alabama attorney general for a term in the late 1980s before election as lieutenant governor for two terms.

Don Siegelman won election as governor in 1998, serving a term from 1999 to 2003 while undergoing non-stop attack from Republican prosecutors beginning with his first months in office. His conviction and imprisonment on what independent investigators but not courts have shown to have been trumped up corruption charges resulted in his imprisonment and the devastation of the Alabama Democratic Party. Among other results , the prosecution thwarted both his re-election and plan to run for the presidency.

His son, managing partner of a Cochran Law Firm office in Birminghan, faces a long shot but highly dramatic and nationally important race to overcome a Democratic opponent in a June primary and, in November, the winner of a four-person Republican primary.

Although Joseph Siegelman will doubtless continue to frame his race in terms of justice for all Alabamians his father's conviction is known to virtually every voter. It is not just an implicit part of the current candidacy but will surely weigh on the minds of voters. 

Commentators will note, as here, that political figures from the long-running prosecution are still part of Alabama's landscape on both Republican and Democratic sides of the attorney general race. 

alice martin croppedThat's most visible in the GOP candidacy of Alice Martin (shown at right), one of the elder Siegelman's prosecutors when she was the presidentially appointed Bush Administration U.S. attorney for Alabama's Birmingham district and prosecutor of Siegelman on corruption charges that were dropped in 2004 after Chief U.S. District Judge U.W. Clemon repeatedly disallowed prosecution tactics.

But there's more, much more, to the upcoming race, including divisions among Democrats and Alabama's ongoing massive problems with public corruption.

The latter were underscored most recently by a three-month jail sentence on Feb. 15 for former House Majority Leader Micky Hammon, prompting legal blogger Roger Shuler aptly to opine: Ex-Alabama Rep. Micky Hammon gets three months in prison for essentially stealing more than $50,000, showing our justice system is hopelessly broken.


Democratic Contenders

chris christie alabama demJoseph Siegelman's first major obstacle would be to defeat in the June primary his Democratic opponent Chris Christie (shown at right), who resigned in December to run the race after a 30-year career in Birmingham with the prominent law firm Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP.

The Birmingham Business Journal profiled Christie in Former Bradley Arant attorney Chris Christie is running for Alabama attorney general by Angel Coker, quoting him as saying in a Tweet, “I've dedicated my life to serving others and fighting for those who need a voice. I am the kind of leader who will help change our state government's culture for the better.”

chris christie alabama doug jones feb 2 2018 facebook croppedChristie (who is different from former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie) has formidable establishment relationships that include U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, the Democrat who revitalized his party by his narrow victory in December over the disgraced GOP nominee and former Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore. Jones (at right above) and Christie are shown together at a recent Democratic gathering.

Jones had built much of his reputation as the Clinton-appointed U.S. Attorney in Birmingham who successfully prosecuted defendants in the 1964 bombing of a church that killed four schoolchildren during the Civil Rights struggles.

But as a key part of Don Siegelman's defense team, he agreed to what he has described as a seemingly innocent request by Bush Justice Department prosecutors to extend the statute of limitations for Siegelman following the collapse of Alice Martin's 2004 prosecution.

Prosecutors responded with a secret grand jury indictment in 2005 claiming, among other things, that Siegelman had violated many federal laws in 1999 by agreeing to reappoint Republican businessman Richard Scrushy to a non-paid state regulatory board after Scrushy's company, HealthSouth, donated to the Siegelman-backed non-profit Alabama Education Foundation, which had been founded to advocate for a state lottery to improve funding for K-12 education.

Siegleman and Scrushy were then tried before the Republican-appointed Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller of Montgomery in a case marred by massive irregularities that were always sustained on appeal. Fuller sentenced both men to seven-year terms that were slightly reduced on appeal, with Siegelman released in February 2017 after nearly 20 years of prosecution efforts targeting him and his Democratic allies.

He and his supporters have cited whistleblowers who have stated in detail how the case was a political frame-up, including with a sworn claim that prosecutors Alice Martin and her Montgomery U.S Attorney counterpart Leura Canary were assigned the task of stopping Siegelman by criminal prosecutions.

Canary's husband William Canary was head of the Alabama Business Council and also the campaign manager for Siegelman's GOP opponent in the 2002 gubernatorial election, Congressman Bob Riley. Riley was narrowly elected in 2002 and Republicans feared that Siegelman might run again in 2006 for the office.

Leura Canary claimed to have recused herself from the 2006 prosecution in favor of her staffer Louis Franklin. Biit evidence suggests that she remained in control And paper worked is suppressed or lost.

President Trump named Franklin as U.S. attorney for Montgomery.

Joseph Siegelman for years has unsuccessfully sought on behalf of his father official papers documentating the supposed Canary recusal.

Meanwhile, Jones became enriched by co-chairing with Riley's son Rob Riley the legal team prosecuting a civil fraud suit against the elder Siegelman's co-defendant Scrushy and HealthSouth.

Plaintiffs won a $500 million judgment while Scrushy was largely incapacitated in prison. Jones used his wealth and his lingering renown from the Birmingham bombing case to stay prominent as a centrist Alabama Democrat during a period when the party was highly unpopular and financially devastated after the long-running prosecutions against Siegelman and his codefendants, some ruined even though acquitted.

Don Siegelman was always very popular among Black Alabama Democrats, many of whom were not inclined to believe Bush administration, court and mainstream media claims that the Siegelman and Scrushy actions constituted a bribe, much less one that deserved such harsh treatment when officials in Alabama and elsewhere convicted of vastly worse crimes receive far less punishment, if any.

In Alabama, the top level of GOP officials in all three branches of government have been forced to resign from scandals in recent years. These include Moore, who was twice removed from the Supreme Court for failure to follow the law, GOP Gov. Robert Bentley, implicated in a massive sex scandal with an aide and cover-up, and former House Speaker Mike Hubband, sentenced to prison for graft. 

The blogger Roger Shuler has published hundreds of columns about largely GOP corruption, including many involved the Siegelman case. These have landed him in repeated legal difficulties, including five-months detention in 2013 on contempt of court charges arising out of his claims of sex scandal involving Rob Riley, among others.

But he is neither alone or wrong in assessing the Joseph Siegelman race as especially important in raising the issues of legal reform or business-as-usual even if Don Siegelman's case is not raised directly in the Democratic primary campaign. Shuler's column on his blog Legal Schnauzer, Joseph Siegelman's run for attorney general of Alabama must have some of the state's nastiest political animals nursing quivery rectums, is excerped extensively below in an appendix. In summary, he wrote on Feb. 13, "Last week's announcement that Joseph Siegelman had qualified to run as Alabama attorney general has the makings of perhaps the most intriguing political news in . . . well, ever, at least in the 40 years I've had connections to the state."

As the son of former governor Don Siegelman, Joseph has a perspective on the "justice system" that probably is unique in post-modern America. His father was the target of likely the most flagrant political prosecution in U.S. history, and that surely has had a profound impact on Joseph Siegelman. What's it like to watch your dad shipped off to federal prison for six-plus years, for what we've called "a crime that doesn't exist" -- in a case that prosecutors brought almost one full year after the statute of limitations had expired?

It's hard for us to answer that question with certainty, but we suspect Joseph Siegelman would take his role as AG with the utmost seriousness. We suspect he would have plenty of motivation to investigate his father's case -- to ensure that justice delayed is not justice denied. And we suspect he would have a strong interest in deterrence, to make sure that future political thugs think twice before concocting a scheme like the one that sent two innocent men -- Don Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy -- to prison.

In related news, Don Siegelman was released on Feb. 13 from a hospital for recovery at home following open heart surgery Friday. A Free Don, a Facebook site maintained by his supporters, has long reported news of his case, including showings of Atticus and the Architect, a recent documentary film by Steve Wimberly portraying Siegelman as an "Atticus Finch" character and former Bush White House senior advisor Karl Rove as the "architect" of political prosecutions around the nation, primarly to destroy Democractic political leaders like Siegelman. Rove has denied wrongdoing and Leura Canary, as an influential civic leader, blocked a showing of the film at a Montgomery theater when it was first released.

GOP Contenders

Those qualifying for the GOP race besides Martin are current Alabama Attorney Steve Marshall and former AG Troy King, plus Birmingham judge Chess Bedsole, who worked on the Trump for president campaign.

Each is likely to be the favorite if nominate in the Deep Red state despite some obvious handicaps by some. The current attorney general, for example, was elevated to the office after a controversial decision by his predecessor Luther Strange not to criminally prosecutor the governor Bentley for the massive sex scandal and cover-up. Bently then appointed Strange on an interim basis to the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by the Trump elevation of Sen. Jeff Sessions to become U.S. attorney general. The appointment process became an issue helping Roy Moore defeat Strange in the GOP primary in September.

The Martin candidacy probably carries the most baggage, however. Clemon, the former trial judge in the 2004 prosecution of Siegelman, wrote a letter to the U.S. Justice Department describing it as a the most baseless prosecution he had witnessed in his nearly 30 years on the federal bench. Also, Harper's legal columnist Scott Horton, an adjunct law professor at Columbia University and an influential media lawyer, wrote an entire column in 2007 denouncing her under the title The Alice Martin Perjury Inquiry. This was one of many Horton wrote about the Siegelman frame-up through the years. He stated, for example:

The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, Alice Martin, does not have the background or demeanor that one usually associates with U.S. attorneys: more importantly she has some very serious skeletons in the closet.

In sum, Alabama voters and those around the nation who dig a little into previously published research can expect a civics course in law enforcement and ethics no matter what the election results in this race.

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Editor's Recommendations

(Reverse chronological order)

Feb. 16

Legal Schnauzer, Opinion: Ex-Alabama Rep. Micky Hammon gets three months in prison for essentially stealing more than $50,000, showing our justice system is hopelessly broken, Roger Shuler, Feb. 16, 2018.  A former Alabama lawmaker yesterday was sentenced to three months in prison and ordered to pay more than $50,600 in restitution for converting campaign funds to his personal use. The downfall of former House Majority Leader Micky Hammon (R-Decatur) represents another sad chapter in Alabama's culture of corruption. But it also provides more evidence of gross inequities in our justice system -- whether it crosses jurisdictional boundaries from Alabama to Michigan, or whether it's contained in The Heart of Dixie.

How soft was the court's treatment of Hammon, who became majority leader when Republicans took over the Alabama House in 2010 and maintained that position until 2017? (He was a close ally of former House Speaker Mike Hubbard, who has been convicted on corruption charges.)

Prosecutors actually asked U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson to order no prison time for Hammon. When is the last time you've heard of federal prosecutors going that easy on a defendant? Heck, even Thompson could not believe it -- and he could not abide by the request.

"Converting campaign contributions to personal use"? That's a polite way of saying Hammon stole funds intended for campaign purposes and used them for personal reasons. So did Hammon get off unbelievably easy? The answer is yes, and we can compare his case to three others -- showing the justice system makes little or no effort to produce even the appearance of fairness or "equal protection under the law."

(1) Don Siegelman -- The former governor was sentenced to more than six years in federal prison, even though no evidence pointed to him benefiting by one penny from a contribution that went to a campaign fund for an education lottery. No evidence pointed to an unlawful "explicit quid pro quo" -- the standard required for a bribery conviction involving a campaign-contribution -- and no such jury instruction was given. On top of that, it's undisputed that the government brought its case almost one full year after the five-year statute of limitations had expired, meaning the Siegelman case never should have gone to trial, much less ending with a conviction.

Bottom line? Siegelman spends six-plus years in federal prison, while not pocketing any money. Hammon steals more than $50,000 and is sentenced to three months -- and prosecutors don't want him to serve any time. Fair?

joseph siegelman, Joseph Siegelman, son of ex-governor, to run for Attorney General, Leada Gore, Feb. 9, 2018. Joseph Siegelman, a Birmingham attorney and son of ex-governor Don Siegelman, has qualified as a Democrat to run for Alabama Attorney General. His filing comes a year to date that his father was released from prison after serving more than five years on bribery charges.

Joseph Siegelman is an attorney with The Cochran Firm, specializing in personal injury, product liability, medical malpractice and mass tort legislation, according to his biography on the firm's website. He is a graduate of the University of Alabama and UA School of Law and completed coursework at the London School of Economics and Political Science in London.

In 2016, Joseph Siegelman filed suit against the Department of Justice Office of Professional Responsibility seeking documents related to the prosecution of his father, who maintains his conviction was politically motivated.

A jury convicted Don Siegelman in 2006 of bribery for appointing HealthSouth founder Richard Scrushy to a state hospital board in exchange for $500,000 in contributions to the governor's campaign for a lottery. He was freed from prison on Feb. 8, 2017.

Joseph Siegelman joins Democrat Chris Christie in qualifying for the AG's race. There are four candidates on the GOP side: Chess Bedsole, Troy King, Steve Marshall and Alice Martin.

Legal Schnauzer, Opinion: Joseph Siegelman's run for attorney general of Alabama must have some of the state's nastiest political animals nursing quivery rectums, Roger Shuler, Feb. 13, 2018. Joseph Siegelman surely will make a public statement to this effect: "I'm not seeking this office in order to gain justice for my dad or my family. My goal is to represent the interests of all Alabamians, to help provide us with a justice system that we can trust and respect."

But the truth is this: The Don Siegelman case helped turn Alabama into a judicial and legal sewer, and it's unlikely the state ever can move forward unless the rule of law is restored. And Joseph Siegelman might be the only person who is willing, and capable, of turning over the rocks necessary to expose the bad actors in his father's case and hold them accountable.

We suspect the mere thought of Joseph Siegelman in the AG's office is enough to make some prominent sphincters pretty tight in Alabama right now. And we think that is a good thing -- an extremely good thing.

don siegelman, Former Governor Don Siegelman recovering from heart bypass surgery, Jared Boyd, Feb. 10, 2018. Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman is recovering from an emergency heart bypass surgery, a spokeswoman confirmed via e-mail Saturday afternoon. "Don is sitting in a chair, talking (and) looking great! You would never know the docs had his heart out yesterday. Amazing!" the former governor's brother Les Siegelman wrote on a Facebook fan page dedicated to Siegelman's causes.

The post details Siegelman's recent health, stating that he was prompted by doctor's to get the emergency surgery, following a routine physical and "subsequent procedures." "He required four by-passes to fix 90% blockage in the 'Widow Maker'," Les Siegelman wrote, "Doctors said he could have died in his sleep. They anticipate a rapid and full recovery."

According to Les Siegelman, his brother is in recovery at St. Vincent's Hospital in Birmingham. In an e-mail correspondence via the e-mail address associated with Siegelman's official website, the former governor's administrative assistant reported Siegelman is on track to be released from hospital care on Wednesday.

"Yes, he will be released unless there is a snafu which we don't want. He cannot be interviewed as he will be in violation of his home confinement," the administrative assistant wrote. "Anyone who goes to visit must be cleared by the (Federal Bureau of Prisons)."

JIP Editor's Note: Siegelman was framed with his co-defendant Richard Scrushy on corruption charges that broke the back of the Democratic Party in his state according to extensive investigative reporting by the Justice Integrity Project, among other researchers. The continued courtroom injustices thus retain news value, particularly in light of widespread failures to prosecute and other government figures accused of vastly more and with vastly more evidence than involved in this case.

chris christie alabama dem2017

Birmingham Business Journal, Former Bradley Arant attorney Chris Christie is running for Alabama attorney general, Angel Coker, Jan. 26, 2018. Birmingham lawyer Chris Christie (shown at right) has put his name in the hat for Alabama's attorney general seat. The election for attorney general will be held on Nov. 6, and the candidate filing deadline is Feb. 9.

“I'm Chris Christie, and I plan to be Alabama's next attorney general. I've dedicated my life to serving others and fighting for those who need a voice. I am the kind of leader who will help change our state government's culture for the better,” Christie tweeted on Wednesday.

Christie was a trial lawyer at Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP for 30 years before leaving at the end of 2017 to begin campaigning for attorney general. During his time at Bradley, he defended seniors caught in lawsuits between the federal government and hospice providers and also represented fraud victims.

WIAT-TV (CBS 42, Birmingham), Former Alabama governor Don Siegelman speaks, Sherri Jackson, Aug. 9, 2017 (6:38 mins.)  "There's no way to put the feathers back in the pillow." That's how former Alabama governor Don Siegelman describes the trajectory of his life since 2002. "My life has dramatically changed; in 2002 I was looking forward to being re-elected--the election was stolen. I had planned to announce in December I was planning to run for the Democratic primaries. I had my speech, I gave part of it to the Democratic Governors Association in 2002. But that was 15 years ago and we are still fighting for the truth."

The truth is, a lot has happened since Don Siegelman went to prison on corruption charges in 2006. Siegelman maintained that naming Richard Scrushy, the man who contributed half a million dollars to his lottery campaign, to a certificate of need board was just politics. Plus the money went to the lottery campaign, not Seigelman's pocket.

But 10 years after Don Siegelman was sentenced to 6 years in federal prison for that action, the U.S. Supreme Court threw out the conviction of former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell who did indeed pocket money, and accepted lavish gifts from a Virginia business man who sought to do business in his state.

"McDonnell is I'm sure is a decent man but he admitted to taking $177,000 from a contributor, a donor, a Ferrari, Rolex and he was acquitted. Where as in my case there wasn't even an allegation of that I benefitted by a single penny--not a dollar," Siegelman said.

Siegelman doesn't feel that the McDonnell case vindicates him in anyway. He said, "It just shows that justice can be bent one way or another depending on who is looking at the set of facts."

In the case of Don Siegelman, he says having now disgraced Judge Mark Fuller look at his case was a problem from the start. Siegelman believes Fuller should be in jail.

"He should, he's the one who abused his authority and he should have recused himself. Clearly he had a conflict: he opposed the lottery, he opposed me he, he was embarrassed by the fact we had audited his office after he left as DA," Siegelman said. "But all of that aside, the US judicial conference made up of the chief judges of every circuit judge and chief judges of district courts around the country found and certified evidence to Congress that Judge Fuller had committed perjury and had lied to federal investigators repeatedly denying that he had kicked, punched and abused his wife at least eight times before and after their marriage."

Mark Fuller resigned from the federal bench in August of 2015, a year after his arrest in an Atlanta hotel room on domestic violence charges against his wife.

"He committed violent domestic assault, he lied to federal prosecutor, lied to the state prosecutors in Georgia, lied to the state police, lied to the magistrate, the prosecutor over there--he was doing so to throw them off, to obstruct justice to cover up his crime--he committed perjury according to the highest ranking judges in the country," Siegelman said. "Yet the department of justice is doing nothing, here is a man who really is a criminal, who really deserves punishment."

Then there is Leura Canary, the former federal prosecutor who now sits on the board of the Capri Theater in Montgomery, who has been instrumental in blocking a screening of the documentary Atticus versus the Architect which details the peculiar prosecution of Don Siegelman and its political overtones.

A preview ran in Birmingham at the Alabama Theater earlier this year. The full documentary has been screened in Atlanta and is scheduled to run in several other venues including in Tuscaloosa, Decatur and in Leesburg, Virginia.

In previous news reports Canary has said the film defames her.

"There are good reasons why Leura Canary doesn't want this documentary shown," Siegelman explained. "It raises serious questions about whether she should be criminally charged. We plan to ask the Capri to reconsider again and hopefully they will realize that the first amendment is more important than one's personal feelings about being embarrassed by a documentary."

Siegelman also wants the public to see Department of Justice documents that the project on government oversight obtained, showing what he suspects will shine a light on the role politics played in his prosecution.

"The email that they disclose was from 2002. If we had access to that, we could have easily shown that this case was politically motivated," he said.

According to Siegelman "this letter is still under seal, it's still not a public document -- we still do not have a report for which they refer in this letter of June 3, 2010."

Don Siegelman's son Joseph who is now an attorney and has spent the majority of his professional life fighting for his dad's release from prison. He filed a freedom of information act request to get that report. The request remains before a judge who has yet to rule on the matter. Until then Siegelman says "we will keep fighting. I'm sure my son will. We'll do what we can within the system that we have to seek the truth."

alice martin2007

Harper's, The Alice Martin Perjury Inquiry, Scott Horton, Sept. 8, 2007. Update, April 22, 2008: Harper’s was informed on April 17, 2008 that the perjury investigation against Alice Martin was concluded on November 28, 2007, with a finding by the Department of Justice Office of Professional Responsibility that Alice Martin “did not commit professional misconduct or exercise poor judgment.”

The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, Alice Martin, does not have the background or demeanor that one usually associates with U.S. attorneys: more importantly she has some very serious skeletons in the closet. Martin is one of the more colorful and alarming characters to figure in the Siegelman saga. Back when I started writing about the U.S. attorneys scandal, I got flooded with personal accounts of dealings and encounters with Alice Martin — they came in from attorneys, businessmen, political figures, and prosecutors who work for her, and even a judge. And not a single person had a positive thing to say about Martin. Many expressed questions about her professional competence — and her handling of the HealthSouth case may be the basis for some lasting judgments on that score. But in others she was characterized as mean-spirited, mercurial, petty, vindictive, and extremely partisan. Indeed, her extreme partisanship was a consistent theme of comment.

It’s easy to understand where that comes from. Martin ran for public office as a Republican twice, and lost twice to her Democratic opponent. In an interview with the Associated Press after she lost one of the races, in November 1998, she expressed bitterness and resentment towards Democrats. She has made her aspiration to stand as a Republican candidate for state-wide office in Alabama widely known.alice3

But if she is to have a future career in politics, she has some obstacles to overcome. One is the broad and well grounded sense that she went after Governor Siegelman as part of a Republican political vendetta. Another is a small question of perjury arising from her testimony in an employment discrimination case. Indeed, it is extraordinary for Martin, as a sitting U.S. Attorney, to be the subject of a perjury investigation. As far as I can see, this is another of those amazing things which the Alabama press has saturated in total silence.