This week illustrated once again for me the power of radio to complement written reporting on nationally important topics.
On June 7, Washington Update co-host Scott Draughon and I celebrate the sixth anniversary of our weekly public affairs on the MTL network he founded a decade ago. Separately, WWL host Tommy Tucker, right, invited my return June 6 to discuss a regionally important issue on his New Orleans-based AM and FM show broadcast to five Gulf states. It's available nationally by web-link, Tommy talks to Andrew Kreig. California-based host Peter B. Collins did the same on his nationally available June 4 show regarding the Supreme Court's decision the previous day to deny further review for the corruption convictions of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman.
All in all, the week illustrates my friend Scott's theme that talk-radio provides a unique way to communicate that is more personal and powerful than the written word. Scott, at left, is the author of the pioneering book, The Art of the Business Radio Show. In it, he drew on several decades of his radio and legal experience to provide practical suggestions to start-ups in the field on why business-oriented radio is effective.
On our one-hour Washington Update series Thursdays at noon (EDT), we take a broad approach to "business" by focusing also on political and legal factors. Thus, we hosted June 7 two guest journalists who provide expert perspectives on political and legal reform issues. First was veteran Alabama journalist Bob Martin, who discusses the Siegelman case. Martin, at right, is editor and publisher of the Montgomery Independent, located in the state's capital city. He holds the same titles at the Millbrook Independent, located in nearby community. He continues to break new stories on the Siegelman case, including a report that Siegelman's trial judge has just cashed out with $18 million from the sale of a defense contracting company the judge secretly controlled while presiding over the 2006 corruption trial of Siegelman and businessman Richard Scrushy.
Our next guest was Lindsay Markel, a dedicated young crusader against injustice. As reported last week, she is the assistant director of the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University, where I have been a senior fellow the past three years. Through the Institute’s Justice Brandeis Innocence Project, Markel and other staff and student research assistants use journalistic methods to investigate likely wrongful convictions in which exoneration won't hinge on a DNA test. In November, she co-authored an article for the Boston Globe Magazine, Failing the DNA test. She described why Massachusetts is one of only two states in the country without a law granting prison inmates the right to test DNA evidence that might prove their innocence. She is at left outside a Massachusetts prison in a photo by Michael Lovett of Brandeis.
Click here to listen to the live interview, available now by archive on the My Technology Lawyer (MTL) radio network. Mac users need “Parallels.” Scott and I began the show with commentary on national political topics, such as Wisconsin recall results.
Biographies, book titles and other newsmaker credentials of nearly 100 of our recent Washington Update guests are here. They include former Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Bob Graham (D-FL), best-selling author Harold Evans, film star Rutger Hauer, comedian and humor historian Larry Wilde, law professor John Donohue of Stanford Law School, and business strategist J.S. MacLeod, CTO of Bechtel. It has been a great experience, and we welcome guest suggestions and any other input.
Regarding other shows, Tommy Tucker's CBS-affiliate show is broadcast on WWL-AM (870) and FM (105.3). He invited me back for the third time in three weeks, saying he wanted an outsider to discuss the latest in a series of ongoing controversies between U.S. Attorney Jim Letten and various government defendants in misconduct and corruption investigations. Tucker said local attorneys can get so immersed in disputes that the radio audience may wonder if they are getting unbiased information.
The latest controversy involves an attempt by former Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard to disqualify Letten's office from pursuing corruption charges against Broussard because one of Letten's staffers, Assistant U.S. Attorney Salvatore Perricone, was caught authoring nearly 595 anonymous web commentaries about civic affairs on the website of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Many of Perricone's harsh comments under the name "Henry L. Mencken1951" sought to shape public opinion in unprofessional ways about his own federal cases, colleagues, judges or defendants.
Letten, at left, is a holdover Republican Bush-appointee retained by the Obama administration for the federal district surrounding New Orleans. Letten has rebuffed the recusal demand by Broussard and a co-defendant in a payroll padding case, saying the "Mencken" web-postings were not closely related to their prosecution.
In my interview June 6 here, I said defendants were unlikely to prevail unless they could show a clearer-cut relationship of the fired prosecutor, Perricone, to unfairness in the prosecution. Broussard, a Democrat, held his combined city-parish post from 2003 to 2010, when he resigned because of the investigation into such allegations as a claim his wife was unqualified to hold her government job. Broussard became well-known nationally for comments following the Hurricane Katrina disaster in 2005. I concluded by saying that what might seem unfair to defendants does not necessarily lead to legal relief.
Earlier this spring, Tommy Tucker bluntly shared his views: That the prosecutor Perricone was a "'Gutless Wonder" who sought to use inside information to emulate political pundits on radio and elsewhere who visibly stood behind their opinions. I recommend his column, excerpted below.
Tucker is a former "Oldies" DJ who reflected at one point this week on the career path that brought him from the world of entertainment radio to that of a "morning-drive" news-talk show host leading a show four-hours a day that includes tough commentary.
His words made me think both of fond memories growing up in New York City listening to the still-reigning king of oldies, Bruce Morrow. "Cousin Brucie" and his wife Jodie later became good friends through my high school classmate and future radio entrepreneur, Robert F.X. Sillerman. I'm with Bruce and Jodie at a National Press Club discussion in 2009 of his wonderful Doo Wop: The Music. The Times. The Era. With his bride of many decades looking on, the Sirius/XM radio star described his love for radio, the music and the fans in his infectious, still-humble and enthusiastic way. Later, he hosted an impromptu late-night dinner for a dozen of his former radio colleagues in the area, with exactly the same fun-loving but empathetic qualities showing through privately as in the public. In sum, he and his peers at the top of radio show to my mind an all-out commitment to the audience and the performance, on par with the efforts of great singers, dancers and sports stars.
My six years collaborating with -- and learning from -- Scott Draughon and his able producer and guest coordinator, Linda Williams, have been a similarly gratifying experience, albeit in the news-talk segment of radio. We hope you'll add your voice to our show with opinions, questions, criticism and guest referrals June 7, as every week.
Related News Coverage
Washington Post, Justices won't hear former governor's appeal, Robert Barnes, June 4, 2012. Supreme Court turns down appeal from Siegelman. The Supreme Court on Monday turned down former Alabama governor Don Siegelman’s attempt to challenge his public corruption conviction. Siegelman and former Alabama hospital executive Richard Scrushy were found guilty on charges Scrushy made $500,000 in political contributions to one of Siegelman’s favored causes so that the governor would name him to a state hospital board.
Justice Integrity Project, Supreme Court Denies Siegelman, Scrushy Appeals, Andrew Kreig, June 4, 2012. True to recent form, the U.S. Supreme Court denied relief June 4 to former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman on corruption charges. This sets the stage for Siegelman's reimprisonment in the most notorious federal political prosecution and frame-up of the decade. The court denied without comment the certiorari petition of Siegelman and co-defendant Richard Scrushy, former CEO of HealthSouth, Inc. In 2007, U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller sentenced them to seven-year prison terms on multiple charges from Siegelman's solicitation of donations from Scrushy in 1999 for the non-profit Alabama Education Foundation. Siegelman supported the foundation's initiatives to increase school funding with a state lottery over the opposition of a Republican-orchestrated coalition. On receipt of the court's decision, Siegelman gave a brief comment to his supporters, who have helped him through the years by donating to help pay millions of dollars of legal bills. As published on a list-serve run by Alabama supporter Pam Miles, Siegelman wrote, "Cert Denied.....:)...I'm Blessed by having your love and support..." Later he expanded it to read:
Justice Integrity Project, Project Files To Unseal Fuller Records, Describes Importance, Andrew Kreig, May 25, 2012. The Justice Integrity Project filed legal papers with an Alabama court this week to unseal the divorce court records of embattled federal judge Mark E. Fuller. At the same time, I described the importance of the case in an in-depth interview with Joan Brunwasser, left, of OpEd News. Additionally, ongoing developments in the communications industries showed the vitality of the web-based platform and the reluctance of traditional news organizations to report such developments. Our project's filing asked the Montgomery County Circuit Court to hold a hearing on its decision to seal Fuller's divorce records. In a filing joined by Alabama journalists Bob Martin of the Montgomery Independent and Millbrook Independent and Roger Shuler of Legal Schnauzer, we argued that longstanding precedent in state and national courts is that such records should remain public, except for potential details redacted in exceptional circumstances.
New Orleans Prosecutor and Police Controversies
WWL-AM and WWL-FM (New Orleans), Tommy talks to Andrew Kreig, the director of the Justice Integrity Project, about the latest in the Sal Perricone saga, Interview by Tommy Tucker, June 6, 2012.
WWL-TV (New Orleans), Letten fires back after Broussard asks U.S. Attorney's office be removed from his case, Mike Perlstein, June 4, 2012. U.S. Attorney Jim Letten has fired back at Aaron Broussard with a strongly worded response to the embattled former Jefferson Parish president’s request that the U.S. Attorney’s office be removed from his criminal case. The 21-page response contends that arguments for recusal by Broussard and his co-defendant, former Parish Attorney Tom Wilkinson, are not supported by any evidence.
Justice Integrity Project, Convicted Katrina Cover-up Cop Faces Uphill Climb In Leak Protest, Andrew Kreig, May 21, 2012. A New Orleans policeman seeking a new trial on charges of covering up post-Hurricane Katrina police killings confronts tough legal obstacles. That was my response May 21 to New Orleans radio host Tommy Tucker on my return to his show as a guest expert on the federal prosecutions now prominent in regional news coverage. Former New Orleans Sgt. Arthur Kaufman faces a six-year term imposed for minimizing guilt of fellow officers in deadly shootings on a New Orleans bridge after Hurricane Katrina. On Friday, May 18, he filed papers seeking a new trial or investigative hearing because authorities illegally leaked news in 2010 that his boss was expected to plead guilty to cover-up-charges. Kaufman claims the leak foreclosed an unbiased jury on his later trial on cover-up charges. Juries ruled he was involved in a police conspiracy to plant a gun, fabricate witnesses and file false reports to make the shootings appear justified.
WWL-AM and WWL-FM (New Orleans), Sal Perricone: ''Gutless Wonder', Interview by Tommy Tucker, March 16, 2012. This is my take after reading all 595 blog posts by federal prosecutor Sal Perricone. This is strictly and solely my opinion. And it’s my job is to give opinions here on WWL a privately traded and public enterprise, not a government entity. That’s why they pay me. After reading these blogs, I think this guy is a frustrated Glen Hannabaugh…which is an amalgam of right-wing talk show hosts. That’s what he wants to be. What I’ve seen from his opinions is tinged with racism, and they’re VERY hard to the right conservative side. Look, you’ve got the right to believe whatever you want. But here’s my problem with Perricone, though:
I think you, sir... Sal Perricone...are a GUTLESS WONDER. Because WE come here and do this on a microphone, and everybody knows who we are. I go to the grocery store; I go to church on Sunday; I’m active at my daughter’s school…and everyone knows who I am. So I come and I sit in front of this microphone, and I voice these opinions, and if people disagree, they know where I am, and they know where to find me. But here’s what leads me to call Perricone a “gutless wonder”...because unlike the people that work here and other radio stations having to uncover their own facts, he had access to inside information that the canon of judicial ethics expressly forbade him from using, and it appears he used that to write some of his blog posts. Not only did that help him with his blog posts and his Glen Hannabaugh-wanna-be role as a conservative commentator, but it also possibly tainted jury pools, it may have compromised investigations, and it also could lead to some convictions being reversed on appeal. Some of those convictions, I remind you, involve the NOPD in some very controversial shootings.
Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues
Huffington Post, Supreme Court Finds Dick Cheney's Secret Service Agents Immune From Free Speech Lawsuit, Mike Sacks, June 4, 2012. Secret Service agents who arrested a man after he disparaged and then touched Dick Cheney cannot be sued for violating the man's free speech rights, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday morning. When then-Vice President Cheney visited a Colorado mall in 2006, Secret Service agent Dan Doyle overheard Steven Howards say that he was "going to ask [the vice president] how many kids he's killed today." Howards then got in line to meet Cheney and, when he reached the vice president, told him that his "policies in Iraq are disgusting." As Cheney moved along, Howards touched him on the shoulder, prompting the supervising Secret Service agent, Gus Reichle, to accost and arrest Howards for assault. After the charges were dismissed, Howards sued the agents, claiming they arrested him in retaliation for exercising his First Amendment right to criticize Cheney. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit ruled in Howards' favor.
Boston Phoenix, Freedom Watch: DOMA bites the dust, Harvey Silverglate, June 4 2012. The unanimous opinion of a panel of the First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, striking down Congress' shameful "Defense of Marriage Act," may at first appear breathtaking. However, as some have noted, the scope of the decision is actually quite narrow ("painstakingly narrow," Matthew R. Segal, the new Legal Director of the ACLU of Massachusetts put it). The three judges did not directly address Congress' 1993 apparently homophobic motives for decreeing that federal programs and benefits accorded married couples would apply only to "a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife." Instead, the court examined Congress' stated justification for enacting DOMA, most prominently "defending and nurturing the institution of traditional, heterosexual marriage." It concluded that DOMA did not, in fact, have any impact on traditional marriages -- your gay marriage, in other words, does not dilute or diminish my straight marriage.
Today, much more than when we first covered this story as young Washington Post reporters, an abundant record provides unambiguous answers and evidence about Watergate and its meaning. This record has expanded continuously over the decades with the transcription of hundreds of hours of Nixon’s secret tapes, adding detail and context to the hearings in the Senate and House of Representatives; the trials and guilty pleas of some 40 Nixon aides and associates who went to jail; and the memoirs of Nixon and his deputies. Such documentation makes it possible to trace the president’s personal dominance over a massive campaign of political espionage, sabotage and other illegal activities against his real or perceived opponents....The Watergate that we wrote about in The Washington Post from 1972 to 1974 is not Watergate as we know it today. It was only a glimpse into something far worse. By the time he was forced to resign, Nixon had turned his White House, to a remarkable extent, into a criminal enterprise.
Northern Mississippi Commentor, Judge Wingate recounts the history of the Paul Minor prosecution, Tom Freeland, June 4, 2012. In federal district court in Jackson, Judge Henry Wingate is presiding over U.S.F.&G. v. the People’s Bank, a civil case arising out of the Paul Minor prosecution. Judge Wingate has taken the opportunity of motions by the People’s Bank side that he recuse himself and a motion by U.S.F.&G. to disqualify Oliver Diaz as counsel for Paul Minor to set down his view of the facts in the Minor case(s). The opinion is essentially a brief for the prosecution. As one might guess from this description, he denies recusal and grants disqualification. It’s possible to hold in ones mind the separate thoughts that there is something really wrong with secret loans (not required to be repaid) to judges guaranteed by a lawyer whose cases the judge decides and that the way these prosecutions went down looks quite political. This all began in 1998, when Paul Minor, representing the People’s Bank, sued U.S.F.&G. for failing an alleged duty to defend to other lawsuits.
Voting Procedures, Fraud, Rights
Bloomberg News, Voting-Rights Surprise At High Court May Foreshadow Health Care, Greg Stohr, June 7, 2012. When U.S. Supreme Court justices picked apart the government’s arguments in defense of President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul, they buoyed the hopes of the law’s opponents that it would be ruled unconstitutional. A 2009 challenge to the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act offers a cautionary note. Skeptical questions from Chief Justice John Roberts, seen here, and Justice Anthony Kennedy, during arguments in March, suggested they may cast pivotal votes against the health law, Obama’s signature domestic achievement. In both cases, the justices repeatedly interrupted as the administration made its case. They injected comments and posed questions that pointed toward a court-ordered upheaval. “It sounded like the justices were going to blow away Section 5,” recalled Theodore Olson, who was the top Supreme Court lawyer for President George W. Bush, referring to the part of the Voting Rights Act that requires some states to get federal clearance before changing their rules. Two months later, the court left the law intact on an 8-1 vote. The justices struck a compromise that let them avoid a direct ruling on the constitutional challenge to the measure. As the high court prepares to rule by the end of this month on health care, the voting rights case underscores the hazard of predicting the outcome of Supreme Court cases.
Washington Post, Restrictive voting laws tied up in court, Krissah Thompson, June 6, 2012. Stricter ID laws and other controversial voting restrictions, passed this year by several Republican-controlled legislatures, are hitting legal roadblocks that could keep many of the measures from taking effect before the November elections. Curbs on early voting, new ID requirements and last-minute efforts to rid voter lists of noncitizens have been met with vigorous opposition from the Justice Department and civil rights groups, and in some cases, the provisions have been blocked by federal or state judges.
Associated Press from Houston Chronicle, Texas aggressively purges voter registration files, June 4, 2012. More than 1.5 million Texans could be removed from the state's list of registered voters if they fail to vote or update their records in consecutive federal elections under an aggressive policy to keep files current. One in 10 voters has already their registration suspended under the scheme, and for people under 30, the number doubles to one in five, the Houston Chronicle reported Monday.
International Business Times via OpEd News, In Defiance Of US Justice Department, Florida To Continue Voter Purge, Ashley Portero, June 2, 2012. Florida state officials will continue their quest to purge purportedly ineligible people from voter-registration rolls, a representative of Secretary of State Ken Detzner said Saturday, in defiance of objections from the U.S. Justice Department and county officials who say the policy violates two federal voting laws. On Thursday, T. Christian Herren Jr., the head of the Justice Department's voting section, said the effort to remove voters appears to violate the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which outlaws discriminatory voting practices that disenfranchise minorities. On a list of almost 2,700 voters the state suspects are non-citizens, blacks and Latinos were disproportionately represented, according to an analysis by the Miami Herald, which concluded Democratic and independent voters are the most likely to be targeted. Florida state officials will continue their quest to purge purportedly ineligible people from voter-registration rolls, a representative of Secretary of State Ken Detzner said Saturday, in defiance of objections from the U.S. Justice Department and county officials who say the policy violates two federal voting laws.
Wisconsin Citizens Media Coop via News from Underground, Meet Command Central, the People in Charge of Wisconsin Voting Machines, Barbara With, Marianne M. Moonhouse and John Washburn, May 22, 2012. Forty-six Wisconsin counties and 3,000 voting machines are being controlled by a two-person company operating out of a strip mall in Minnesota. Command Central is one of Wisconsin’s leading vendors of voting machines and election supplies. They are distributors for Dominion Voting Systems, a privately-owned electronic voting equipment company. Founded in Canada in 2002, Dominion is now based in Denver, CO, since their acquisitions of Premier Election Solutions, from Election Systems & Software (ES&S), and Sequoia Voting Systems. Command Central deals directly with Wisconsin county and municipal clerks and is closely involved in their selection of voting machines, ballots, and other election supplies. Command Central does all the maintenance on the voting machines and provides tech support throughout the year, with a special “hot line” should clerks need help with glitches, etc., on election day. In June 2011, the Wisconsin County Clerks Association held their annual summer conference in Ladysmith.