Florida Judge Continues Whitewash of Siegelman Frame-up

By Andrew Kreig 

Andrew KreigA Florida federal judge has ruled that former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman and his co-defendant have been treated so fairly that no one can reasonably suspect the appearance of bias. The decision by U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle denied a hearing or other discovery on whether Siegelman’s trial judge should be recused. Hinkle thus continued the whitewash of the nation’s most notorious political prosecution of the decade.

Hinkle's decision absolving Chief U.S,. District Judge Mark E. Fuller of Alabama's Montgomery-based Middle District carries the veneer of independence and fairness. But Hinkle trivializes Fuller's mind-boggling irregularities and a judge's legal duty to avoid even the appearance of unfairness. Most important, Hinkle severely undermines public confidence in the judiciary when he protects his colleague Fuller from scrutiny regarding the fabulous sums Fuller has been making Frank M. Johnsonon the side while implementing the Bush administration's long jihad against Siegelman, his state's most prominent Democrat. Hinkle, a wealthy man with many investments, fails to see any potential conflict in Fuller's repeated, dubious rulings in favor of his Bush administration patrons while also being enriched by Bush contracts totaling $300 million to the judge's closely held company, Doss Aviation, Inc.

Further, Hinkle was a substantial stockholder in another company, ChoicePoint -- exactly when ChoicePoint used despicable methods in 2008 to thwart a private detective’s researches into Fuller's Doss holdings. ChoicePoint, since acquired by Lexis-Nexis, is notorious for other reasons in Florida's state capital: At the request of Gov. Jeb Bush's administration, ChoicePoint furnished the state with flawed records that enabled the state government wrongly to remove thousands of African-American voters from eligibility to vote in 2000. This helped George W. Bush win the Presidency that year in disputed Florida vote returns with a reported margin of just several hundred votes. The 5-4 Bush v. Gore Supreme Court decision sealed the victory by forbidding Florida from continuing vote recounts.

 

To be sure, there's no way of knowing how much Hinkle knows about the operations of the companies in which he invests. He has declined to respond to my request for comment for this column, and to provide a photo and his 2010 financial disclosures covering the year 2009. Also, he probably doesn't know of all the wheeler-dealing described in this column and elsewhere by the independent press. As often in the cases we review, defense lawyers have been slow, timid and incomplete in presenting material to the court in compelling fashion about misconduct by judges and prosecutors.  Further, the collapse of the mainstream media as an effective watchdog on courts and other government operations ensures that Siegelman coverage, like most, is now little more than brief reports on official findings.

That said, any decent person, much less a federal judge sworn to uphold the Constitution, would have found ample evidence in the record to inquire further. Defense attorneys filed in 2009, for example, an extraordinary series of affidavits from the major prosecution witness, Nick Bailey, and the prominent Republican businessman Luther "Stan" Pate IV, among others, describing irregularities in the prosecution.

In sum, Hinkle joins his counterparts in Alabama courts and in the United States Senate in their utter contempt for the notion that public hearings with sworn testimony and cross-examination are a legitimate way to resolve questions about Fuller's role in the Siegelman case and its offshoots. Last week, we documented in Justice Irregularities In Alabama Continue Disgrace how the Senate unanimously approved George Beck as the new U.S. attorney for Alabama's Middle district without a hearing subjecting Beck to questions about his role in Siegelman's frame-up. That column reported also how Alabama court and Justice Department officials seek to prevent defendants in a gambling trial from being able to question Siegelman's Republican successor, former Gov. Bob Riley, about allegations Riley and his cronies received $27 million in secret and apparently illegal payments from gambling interests. That purportedly includes $13 million from one of the defendants in the ongoing gambling corruption trial in the federal courthouse in Montgomery, portrayed above in a photo from Wikipedia files, and another $13 million from out-of-state Indian casino operators seeking to protect their turf by encouraging Riley to limit gambling in Alabama.

Let’s step back, look at the big picture and the players and examine reflect on why we should all care. The last part is easy. The late Alabama federal judge Frank M. Johnson, for whom the Montgomery courthouse is named, is venerated for standing up for civil rights. In his day, that most visibly involved racial issues in Alabama, "The Cradle of the Confederacy." These days we all face a much broader assault on our due process rights. The corruption we have long described in the Siegelman case is centered in exactly that courthouse. Hinkle is the latest in a long line of authorities who write at length but dare not hold a hearing with witnesses to ascertain the truth.

Hinkle isTallahassee Federal Courthouse former chief judge of the federal court district based in Florida’s state capital of Tallahassee, located in Florida's Panhandle just southeast of Alabama.  His courthouse is portrayed at right in another photo via Wikipedia. Last year, Stanley F. Birch, Jr., a 1990 appointee of President George H.W. Bush and acting chief judge for the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, picked Hinkle to resolve ongoing controversies about whether Fuller should recuse himself from the Siegelman case. An all-Republican federal appeals court panel backed Fuller again this year. Hinkle followed up with his more detailed opinion just before the July Fourth holiday. The opinion escaped notice until a few brief news reports late last week. Democratic President Bill Clinton had appointed Hinkle to the bench in 1996. On the surface, therefore, Hinkle seems different because of his party than Fuller and his fellow Republicans on the federal appeals court, who have insisted for years that Fuller has acted above suspicion. Hinkle’s 40-page decision seemingly removed all partisan taint by smacking down every argument for recusal by the once-prominent Democrat Siegelman and his co-defendant, businessman Richard Scrushy.

To recap background extensively reported in our previous columns listed below in the appendix: Never-investigated allegations against Fuller include a 2003 sworn statement and 140 pages of supporting documents alleging that Fuller deserved prosecution and impeachment for corrupt practices to defraud the state of Alabama of $330,000 in an apparent blackmail scheme while Fuller worked simultaneously as a full-time Alabama state prosecutor and as a Colorado businessman at Doss. Sworn testimony before House staff in 2007 was never explored in public with cross-examination of relevant witnesses regarding a sworn claim that Fuller “hated” Siegelman and was instrumental in a Republican plot involving federal prosecutor Leura Canary and her husband, William Canary, to frame Siegelman. William Canary, campaign manager for Siegelman's 2002 opponent, Bob Riley, is a political ally of Karl Rove. Rove lives in Florida's Panhandle, and has long had a keen interest with Canary in transforming Alabama politics from Democratic to Republican office-holders.

Air Force Boeing TankerThe alleged purpose of their plot was to end Siegelman's career as his state’s most popular Democrat. From that, it is widely speculated that Republicans in the statehouse and their cronies nationwide, including in major federal offices, would be enriched. Among the purported benefits was $27 million in secret funding for Riley from gambling entrepreneurs -- who had to keep the funding especially secret since he is publicly an opponent of gambling. Another was the Defense Department's $35 billion Air Force contract for a next generation of tankers, with a factory to be built in Mobile. Meanwhile, Fuller was being enriched by the Bush administration with $300 million in federal contracts from 2006 to 2009 to Doss, which refuels Air Force planes and trains Air Force pilots. Fuller controls Doss as by far its largest shareholder. Earlier in his career on the bench, he reported 44 percent of shares. Later reports indicated reduction to a 32 percent share, which was still larger than any of the other shareholders.

Hinkle barely touched on such matters, confining his discussion largely to a fleeting reference to a judge’s right to own stock. Click for Hinkle's decision. Hinkle devoted most of the ruling to vindicating a series of pro-prosecution Fuller rulings and ex parte contacts between jurors, law enforcement and court personnel that were kept unknown to defense attorneys. I looked in vain through the decision for any sign of balance, compassion or judicial initiative to pierce the mysteries of the case. Instead, I saw narrow-minded, pro-prosecution rubber-stamp arguments.This was much like a 180-page federal appeals court decision in this case by an all-Republican panel of federal appeals court judges who, in 2009, ruthlessly condemned the defendants at nearly every turn.

These kinds of post-trial reviews by the courts are sufficient to end interest  in this case for the vast majority of Justice Department defenders and journalists in the mainstream media, who essentially cut off all but the most routine coverage following a CBS 60 Minutes expose in February 2008 documenting irregularities. But 60 Minutes, much like the generally timid defense attorneys in this case, was reluctant to dig into judicial connections and misconduct. That’s natural. A chief federal judge is presumed be immune from personal ambitions such as greed and revenge.

But our project and others in the independent media have recounted many times the story of Siegelman’s conviction and a joint effort by prosecutors and the trial judge to frame him. Alabama journalists Roger Shuler and Glynn Wilson and national writers Wayne Madsen, Scott Horton and David Fiderer are among those who have compiled a remarkable archive of corruption in the case.

More important for now is research on Hinkle as he vindicated Fuller and the overall system. Hinkle's decision omits mention of Liljeberg v. Health Services Acquisition Corp., a controlling U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1988 that a federal judge has the duty to advise litigants of potential conflicts. The reasoning was that it is the judge's duty to put forward potential conflicts so that litigants need not become private detectives. Common sense indicates the precedent's relevance. Also, neither Hinkle nor the appellate courts clearly address the established legal standard for recusal, which is to require removal if a reasonable, independent observer might consider the situation to create even the appearance of bias. Instead, these judges in effect declare that any public doubt about judicial fairness cannot exist.

Clarence ThomasHinkle's opinion prompts a closer look at the judge himself. This reveals, perhaps not surprisingly, that he has become fabulously wealthy and has scant incentive to encourage the kind of research into judicial finances that are at the heart of the current scandals involving Fuller and, coincidentally, Clarence Thomas, left, the presiding Supreme Court Justice overseeing the 11th Circuit. We wrote extensively about Fuller and Thomas this spring in, "Judges Who Refuse to Recuse Taint Our Justice System."

It’s worth emphasizing that when judges obscure the sources of their wealth, it’s not just from voters and newspaper readers and others who might hold vague concerns about disclosure and good government. These judges are hiding the facts also from litigants, who are deprived of the opportunity to seek recusal – especially when judges ignore the Supreme Court’s standard – because they have no idea that judges might have a more pressing personal goal than dispending justice impartially. In Fuller's case, the most damning evidence -- 180-page of affidavits documenting his bogus attempt to obtain $330,000 in state pension fund for a colleague -- is missing from the clerk's office files from the courthouse that Fuller controls as chief federal judge.

The official way for an outsider to try to understand a judge's finances is to know that the U.S. Courts Administrative Office in Washington, DC maintains annual financial disclosure records. But the office makes it difficult to obtain any information about a judge without his or her permission, and only puts financial information between broad ranges. That said, experienced researchers can find the forms on the website of Judicial Watch, a politically conservative organization that drives traffic to political site by what appears to be a unique arrangement with the court system for Judicial Watch to obtain official financial data. Judicial Watch reputedly does so by long-standing freedom of information litigation, or the threat of such litigation.

Regarding Judge Hinkle, the latest figures as of the year 2008 indicate a rich judge with a diverse portfolio. In 2007, for example, he listed more than 50 investments. One of them alone, in Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, was valued at between $1 million and $5 million. Among others of obvious interest were his holdings, worth between $15,000 and up to $50,000, in ChoicePoint, a data collection company. ChoicePoint enabled the Jeb Bush administration to purge the voting rolls before the 2000 Presidential election of large numbers of traditionally Democratic-voting African-American voters. This helped provide then-candidate George W. Bush with his winning margin in the state.

Mark FullerJudge Fuller is portrayed at right in a portrait he asked free-lance photographer Phil Fleming to take minutes after the Siegelman verdict in 2006 to commemorate the occasion. Two years ago, I wrote a column about Fuller for the Huffington Post entitled, "Alabama Decisions Illustrate Abuse of Judicial Power." It cited many cases supervised by Fuller on different public policy issues to illustrate the plight of litigants who face a biased judge. I wrote that his track record "shows that he continues to supervise cases compromised by his personal, financial or political interests despite his promise at his 2002 confirmation hearing to recuse himself from any conflicts." One example was the effort of a private detective to learn in 2008 about financial conflicts that Fuller was hiding during the trial of Siegelman and his co-defendant, businessman Richard Scrushy. I cited the case, Walton v. Neptune Technologies, to illustrate the potential risk for attorneys, private investigators and litigants when researching the background of a vindictive judge.

Here is an excerpt:

Priscilla Black Duncan of Birmingham, an active Democrat, is a sole practitioner whose clients include Jill Simpson and her friend Mark Bollinger. Bollinger, with 35 years of law enforcement experience, used his account with the data service ChoicePoint to help her [Simpson] research a question about Doss Aviation in February 2007 for Scrushy's unsuccessful motion asking Fuller to recuse.  Also, Duncan represents Rebecca Walton, who filed a job bias and sex harassment suit in 2005 against her former employer, Neptune Technologies. In March 2009, Duncan requested that Fuller recuse himself from Walton on the grounds that "he would find it impossible to be fair," given her other clients Simpson and Bollinger.

In her legal brief, Duncan noted Simpson's research exposing Fuller's finances and her congressional testimony in 2007. In that testimony, Simpson alleged that a Republican friend had predicted in early 2005 that Siegelman would be indicted and that Fuller would be assigned the case to "hang" the defendant. Simpson said she was told that Fuller "hated" Siegelman because of the circumstances of the RSA [Retirement Systems of Alabama] pension case [in which Fuller is alleged to have tried to defraud RSA of $330,000]. Regarding Bollinger, Duncan's brief cited email correspondence suggesting that ChoicePoint cut off Bollinger's subscription to ChoicePoint's 17 billion records because of the judge's complaint about Bollinger's help for Simpson and Scrushy.

Neptune responded by arguing that Fuller should be able to retain jurisdiction over the job bias plaintiff Walton. On April 15, 2009, Fuller ruled that he would continue to preside over Walton because she had not objected to him in a timely manner. Also, Fuller wrote that he would have denied Walton's motion even it had been on time, saying he "has no financial or other personal interest in the actions of any of Duncan's clients."  The judge praised Neptune for the quality of its legal arguments in arguing for his continued oversight.

Hinkle had holdings worth up to $50,000 in ChoicePoint at the relevant time in 2008 before he sold it later in the year, according to his financial disclosure for that year. That's just one of the many investments streams for the 1976 graduate of Harvard Law School, whose accolades include membership in the prestigious legal society, Inns of the Court. He apparently likes to work behind the scenes. So, photos of him are rare, aside from one here showing his participation with Jeb Bush at a law firm's essay-writing contest on freedom.

Barry Richard, an illustrious Florida trial attorney and political powerbroker, was willing to comment about Hinkle in the absence of any response from Hinkle himself for this column. Richard is widely known as a prominent Democrat, although he was also 1998 counsel for the successful gubernatorial campaign of Republican Jeb Bush.  Republicans used Richard again in 2000 as the lead counsel for the Bush-Cheney campaign in its effort to avoid a Florida recount in the Presidential election. In another coincidence regarding the small-world of big-time law, Richard was one of the colleagues at the firm of Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Abramoff represented the Mississippi casinos who alleged funneled $13 million in secret campaign donations to Riley, Siegelman's opponent. Richard has succeeded Abramoff in prominent representation of Indian tribes in their gambling operations. The cases include Richard's advocacy for the Seminole Tribe before Judge Hinkle as the tribe seeks coveted "Class III" licenses under federal and state gaming law to enable the huge profits from Las Vegas-style gambling. Richard's full biography is on his firm's website, which includes his citation by the National Law Journal in 2006 as one of the nation's "100 most influential lawyers."

Richard describes Hinkle this way to me: "I was recently asked by a publication to name my favorite federal judge and I named Judge Hinkle. He is absolutely even-handed, approaches every case with no pre-conceived judgments, has an ideal judicial temperament, and in every hearing is the smartest person in the room."

Summing Up

So, there it is. These judges are smart. There's no need to inquire further about fairness, is there? A jury convicted Siegelman of asking Scrushy, a billionaire, to donate $500,000 in 1999 to an education foundation to back a state lottery to fund better schools, and then reappointed Scrushy to a state board of modest power and stature. Ninety-one former state attorneys general from more than 40 states have protested that politicians routinely ask donors for money, usually directly for themselves, and thus Scrushy's donations do not constitute a crime. Also, the jury convicted Siegelman of backdating a check to obscure the gift of a motorcycle from a lobbyist. For this, FullerGod of Mammon Wikipedia Commons in 2007 imposed seven-year terms and had the defendants hauled off in chains to begin serving their terms without appeal bonds.

The Detroit preacher Reinhold Nieburh, one of the inspirations for Alabama's Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote that intelligence and logical thinking are often over-rated as guarantees of fairness. This is because, as Nieburh argued in his 1932 book Moral Man and Immoral Society, those blessed with such talents usually reap their highest possible financial rewards in this way: By arguing that those who have wealth and power fully deserve their lot -- as do the unfortunate. Nieburh urged a concept of individual morality to overcome such group thinking. "Every thinking Christian must squarely face the major thesis of this book," commented The Christian Century, "or confess the impotence of his faith for a day when the dawn is lowering red."  Another way of summing up is to say that Mammon, as portrayed in medieval times at right, always attracts many followers.

Whatever the case on that, the path from Nieburh to the Rev. King leads also to the Alabama federal judge, Frank Johnson, who made history in the South by seeking to enforce federal law in the civil rights era. Reflecting back over his career, Johnson authored a law review article entitled "Judicial Independence" in 1979 saying that judges must be accountable for their actions. More recently, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions co-authored a law review article with a similar title arguing that Congress strictly enforce the Constitution's Good Behavior clause. Sessions, now ranking Republican of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a strong defender of Fuller and the new U.S. attorney, Beck, and an opponent of Siegelman, argued in his law review article that the Senate remove any federal judge whose conduct does not meet exacting standards.

But that's rhetoric. The Fuller saga illustrates that authorities want accountability primarily for political opponents and small fry. Sessions, Hinkle, Fuller -- and Democratic and Republican leaders alike -- have proved that the last thing that any of them want is a public hearing with cross-examination on Alabama's multi-million mysteries.


Contact the author Andrew Kreig or comment
 
Below are background articles on the matters referenced in the column above, and on other recent news items involving the courts See the full article by clicking the link.

 

Fuller Recusal from Siegelman-Scrushy Case and Senate Confirmation of George Beck as U.S. Attorney

Legal Schnauzer, Democrats Join the Effort to Cover Up Misconduct in the Siegelman Case, Roger Shuler, July 13, 2011.  The Hinkle ruling shows that the case is not about Siegelman's personality; in a sense, it isn't about Siegelman at all. It is about the fundamental notions of fairness that are supposed to hold sway in our courtrooms. They come under the umbrella known as "due process," and they include the right to an objective, unbiased judge; the right to an untainted jury; and the right to face prosecutors who follow fundamental legal procedures.

Associated Press / AL.com, Federal judge won't remove Fuller from Siegelman case, July 7, 2011.  A federal judge in Florida has refused to order U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller to step down from deciding whether former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy should receive a new trial on government corruption charges. Fuller presided over their 2006 trial and sentenced both to federal prison. Siegelman and Scrushy had asked Fuller to step down from considering the new trial motion because he participated in a meeting with government officials, undisclosed to the defense about allegations some jurors sent e-mails to each other during the trial. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle of the Northern District of Florida ruled last week that he found no reason to question Fuller's "impartiality" and to order him to step down from the case.

Justice Integrity Project, Justice Irregularities In Alabama Continue Disgrace, Andrew Kreig, July 4, 2011. The U.S. Senate approved by voice vote June 30 a new U.S. attorney for Alabama, thereby extending a series of disgraces blighting the federal justice system in that state and nationally. The Senate voted to approve George Beck, 69, to run the Middle District office in Alabama’s capital city of Montgomery. The Senate failed to require that Beck appear at a hearing to answer questions about a host of pending issues.

Connecticut Watchdog, Strong Senate Oversight Is a Consumer Issue, Andrew Kreig, July 5, 2011. The U.S. Senate approved by voice vote June 30 a new U.S. attorney for Alabama, thereby raising media watchdog issues for the federal justice system in that state and nationally. On the eve of the big holiday, the Senate approved George Beck, 69, to run the Middle District office in Alabama’s capital city of Montgomery. Among Beck’s accomplishments, he represented as a private defense attorney the main prosecution witness in the still-disputed 2006 corruption conviction of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman.  Confirmation hearings are one of the few times in our political system when the public can learn – through the expert questions of Senators, who serve as our surrogates – about sensitive matters in such fields as law enforcement. Here, the Senate Judiciary Committee failed to require Beck to appear at a hearing and answer any questions, including about the Siegelman case and several other major disputes.

Legal Schnauzer, Coverup in the Siegelman Case Now Extends to the U.S. Senate, Roger Shuler, July 5, 2011.  The Senate approved by voice vote on June 30 the appointment of George Beck as U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Alabama. Beck replaces Leura Canary, the Bush appointee who helped turn the Don Siegelman case into perhaps the most notorious political prosecution in American history.  Beck's nomination was an opportunity for senators to grill a key figure in the Siegelman prosecution, to help determine how the U.S. justice system went badly off track in the Bush years. The Senate, however, elected to punt, giving Beck a free pass into his new position and throwing an extra load of dirt onto a coverup of Bush-era criminality. For progressives who once had hope for the Barack Obama administration on justice matters, consider this: Beck is an Obama nominee, and the Senate is controlled by Democrats.

Thom HartmannThom Hartmann Program, Andrew Kreig describes George Beck Senate confirmation controversy, Thom Hartmann, July 6, 2011. The high-rated, nationally syndicated TV and radio host , left, interviews the Justice Integrity Project director about the Project's latest scoop regarding the federal prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman.

Associated Press / Daily Oklahoman, George Beck sworn in as US attorney in Alabama, Phillip Rawls, July 6, 2011. A  lawyer who has handled some of Alabama's best known cases waited longer to become the chief federal prosecutor in Montgomery than he may get to serve if President Obama is a one-term president.  George Beck, 69, of Santuck took the oath of office Wednesday as U.S. attorney for Alabama's Middle District. The length of time he will be in office depends on whether Obama is re-elected next year.

Huffington Post, Alabama Decisions Illustrate Abuse of Judicial Power, June 10, 2009. The plight of litigants who face a biased judge is illustrated by the track record of a prominent Alabama federal judge, as well by major recent decisions requiring new trials in West Virginia and Georgia courts. The track record of Chief U.S. District Judge Mark E. Fuller of Montgomery, Alabama shows that he continues to supervise cases compromised by his personal, financial or political interests despite his promise at his 2002 confirmation hearing to recuse himself from any conflicts.

Alabama-Mississippi Gambling Prosecutions & Abramoff Investigation

Legal Schnauzer, Why Did the FBI Launch a Raid on Mississippi Choctaw? Roger Shuler, July 14, 2011. Two days have passed since federal authorities launched an investigation at Mississippi Choctaw casinos, and we still don't know what prompted the action. News reports indicate that Mississippi Choctaws spent $13 million, funneled through Republican felon Jack Abramoff, to help get Bob Riley elected governor in 2002. If Tuesday's raid has anything to do with Riley, Abramoff, and perhaps the Bush administration (hello, Karl Rove!), it would be a major national story. But so far, we have no indication that such weighty issues are driving the investigation.  But I have a hard time believing that Eric Holder actually could serve some useful purpose while he is U.S. attorney general.

Legal Schnauzer, FBI Has Raided Mississippi Choctaw Gaming Facility, Roger Shuler, July 12, 2011. Law-enforcement officials are on the grounds of two casinos in Philadelphia, Mississippi, as part of a federal investigation, multiple news outlets are reporting this afternoon.  The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians operates the Silver Star and Golden Moon casinos. The Choctaws reportedly funneled $13 million, through Republican lobbyist and felon Jack Abramoff, to help Bob Riley get elected governor in Alabama in 2002. Riley last year launched a series of raids against gaming facilities in Alabama, apparently in an effort to protect the Choctaws' market share. The Riley raids led to a federal electronic-bingo prosecution that is ongoing in Montgomery.  Is today's action in Mississippi an outgrowth of the Alabama electronic-bingo case? Could it help shine light on activities that helped turn Alabama into "ground zero" for prosecutorial misconduct under the Bush Justice Department? Could this be a sign that the Abramoff affair continues to generate scandal?

Bob RileyLegal Schnauzer, The Tale of Bob Riley's Motorcycle Crash Gets Stranger and Stranger, Roger Shuler, July 7, 2011. The story of Bob Riley's motorcycle crash in Alaska has taken a peculiar twist, with news that the man who rescued him said he did not realize at first that the former Alabama governor was even hurt. Steve DeMolen, a sales representative for Caterpillar, and his friend, Delany Smith, came upon the site of Riley's crash on a remote highway north of Fairbanks. During a two-hour drive to the nearest hospital, the only injury DeMolen noticed on Riley, left, was a cut hand. According to news reports, doctors later determined that Riley had a broken collarbone, several broken ribs, and a punctured lung. None of that, however, was apparent to DeMolen: DeMolen, a retired master sergeant and a Harley-Davidson rider, said he came upon the accident as he crested a hill and saw wavy bike tracks on the downhill slope. The couple then saw the bike, another motorcyclist and a man trying to right himself, DeMolen said.

Associated Press / Daily Oklahoman, George Beck sworn in as US attorney in Alabama, Phillip Rawls, July 6, 2011. A  lawyer who has handled some of Alabama's best known cases waited longer to become the chief federal prosecutor in Montgomery than he may get to serve if President Obama is a one-term president.  George Beck, 69, of Santuck took the oath of office Wednesday as U.S. attorney for Alabama's Middle District. The length of time he will be in office depends on whether Obama is re-elected next year.

Casino JackPolitico, Michael Scanlon sentenced to 20 months, John Bresnahan, Feb. 11, 2011.  Michael Scanlon, a business partner of disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, was sentenced today to 20 months in federal prison for his role in the scandal that helped bring down former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas). Abramoff and Scanlon were paid more than $70 million by a number of Native-American tribes with casino operations, then worked -- legally and illegally -- to defend these tribes from other competitors, federal and state regulators and political opponents. Scanlon owes more than $20 million in restitution as part of his plea deal with the government, although responsibility for paying that debt is split with Abramoff. Scanlon’s lawyers are engaged in a legal dispute with Abramoff’s former employer, Greenberg Traurig, over how much he owes in repayment to the firm. Greenberg Traurig paid off the tribes after the scandal broke, and is now seeking repayment from Scanlon for some of those payments. [Scanlon, a former aide to Alabama political leader Bob Riley, was a prominent figure in the film Casino Jack last winter.]

Florida-Ohio Voting Irregularities

Democracy Now, Florida Creates "The Matrix," a Big Brother-Like Surveillance System with Help From ChoicePoint-Related Firm, Aug. 7, 2003. Remember the Florida election of 2000 when a private database company scrubbed thousands of eligible voters from the rolls? Well now one of the co-founders of Database Technologies is back in the headlines — he’s working with law enforcement agents in Florida to create what may soon expand into a national surveillance system. We talk with privacy expert Wayne Madsen, investigative reporter Greg Palast and a top intelligence official from the state of Florida.

Daily Kos, Madsen: End of Year Update on Investigation, Jamboi, Dec. 31, 2004. A clearer picture of how this Election Fraud '04 was done is beginning to emerge. Where did the Katherine Harris get the info to throw all those African American voters off the rolls in 2000 in Florida? Public and commercial database records, everything from DMV files to education and insurance records. They red-lined poor African American and working class white districts just like credit card and mortgage companies do. And how did they know where to put only 2 voting machines in polling places in Ohio for use by over 3000 voters? Same process.

Clarence Thomas & Supreme Court

Legal Schnauzer, Will Clarence Thomas get away with a federal crime? Roger Shuler, Jan. 25, 2011. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is amending financial-disclosure forms dating back more than 20 years, in an apparent effort to avoid prosecution for making false statements to the United States government. Hal Neilson, an FBI special agent in Oxford, Mississippi, undoubtedly wishes he had been given such an opportunity. He also probably wishes the mainstream press would try to make the kind of excuses for him that are being made for Clarence Thomas.

Legal Schnauzer, Did Clarence Thomas Commit a Federal Crime by Hiding Wife's Income? Roger Shuler, Jan. 24, 2011. Does this mean a justice on the nation's highest court has committed a crime? The answer probably is yes. Will the legal system kick into high gear in an effort to protect one of its most exalted members? The answer to that definitely is yes -- in fact, it already seems to be happening.

Think Progress, Justice Thomas Omitted His Tea Partying Wife’s Income From Financial Disclosure Forms, Ian Millhiser, Jan. 22, 2011. This revelation that Justice Thomas failed to comply with his disclosure obligations comes as he is caught up in another ethics scandal regarding his participation in fundraisers for far-right political groups. Thomas once attended a gathering of wealthy corporate activists convened by billionaire Charles Koch to raise money for right-wing political causes, and he also attended at least one fundraiser hosted by the far-right think tank that used to employ his wife.