Editor's Note: Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman (1999-2003), now imprisoned in Louisiana, sent the Justice Integrity Project the guest column below that opposes the jailing of Alabama reporter/blogger Roger Shuler on contempt of court charges arising out of a defamation suit in Shelby County. Since 2007, Shuler has been in the national forefront in documenting corruption in Alabama's court system. He was arrested at his home Oct. 23, and his shown at right in his mug shot with his face puffy after what he described as a beating and MACE attack by deputy sheriffs during the arrest. Without a lawyer, he remains jailed without bond for failing to spike columns alleging that Robert Riley, the son of two-term GOP ex-governor Bob Riley, had an affair with a lobbyist. The younger Riley and the lobbyist denied Shuler allegations in libel suits in July that Shuler recently reported. The judge, specially brought out from retirement to handle this case, sealed the court record to prevent other reporting. Alabama's major consortium of newspapers editorialized Nov. 8 -- in We must dare to defend Roger Shuler's rights, too -- that the judge's actions appeared to be illegal.
Beginning in 1999, Republicans sought to imprison Siegelman, the state's leading Democrat. The Justice Integrity Project, Shuler, fellow Alabama journalist Glynn Wilson, and many other critics have described the prosecution as unwarranted. The corruption behind the Siegelman prosecution played a major role in this editor's new book, Presidential Puppetry , which documents similar political intrigues nationally. The two photos below of Siegelman are from a 2008 CBS 60 Minutes broadcast that documented gross irregularities in his prosecution. Separately, Fox Business News host Neil Cavuto interviewed on Nov. 7 Siegelman's new attorney, Gregory Craig, the first White House counsel in the Obama Administration. Craig described Siegelman's final appeal in the courts. The former governor continues a 78-month sentence on corruption charges stemming from 1999 actions that did not constitute a crime, according to an unprecedented -- but unsuccessful -- "friend of the court" filing to the U.S. Supreme Court by 113 former state attorneys general from more than 40 states.
By Don Siegelman
Roger Shuler has written time and time again exposing Rob Riley, the former governor's son's insidious and sinister connections to money making schemes. Rob Riley, as Shuler told the story, was one of the powers behind the scenes working with Karl Rove and my prosecutor's husband.
It was Rob Riley who confidentially confessed to a Republican insider, Dana Jill Simpson, to their manipulation of the Department of Justice to secure an indictment against me so his father could win his race against me for governor. "It was Rob Riley," according to Ms. Simpson, "who arranged for Siegelman and Scrushy to get a 'hanging judge.'"
It was Shuler who explained why it was so important to Rob Riley to damage my re-election chances, not only for his father to win but also so that Rob Riley could make millions off a conviction of my co-defendant, Richard Scrushy.
Shuler exposed the fact that Rob Riley had weaseled his way into a group of lawyers who were suing Richard Scrushy and his company, HealthSouth. If Scrushy could be convicted criminally it would make the civil case against Scrushy and HealthSouth much more vulnerable and make the civil case more profitable.
It was important to his father's election that I be damaged by the prosecution and it was imperative that we be convicted so the Rileys could profit from Rob's suit against Scrushy and HealthSouth.
Now that Rob Riley has set his sights on running Congress, Shuler would not let up or shut up. Even though he and his wife were themselves personally in jeopardy, Roger was not intimidated by Rob Riley's threats of suing Roger. Riley upped the ante by having Roger Shuler arrested and jailed.
I call on my friends to send the Roger and Carol Shuler money for their legal defense and support. Roger is a courageous journalist with deep-seated beliefs in freedom of the press and freedom of speech. It is our time to show that we too have the same commitment to the First Amendment and human rights.
People with means like George Soros and Michael Moore, please dig deep to help this embattled family.
The rest of us, all of us, please do whatever you can to provide financial support. Also give spiritual support by writing letters to the editor of the Shelby County News.
Let them hear from you until Roger is freed and these charges are dropped.
Do this for Roger and Carol, do it for the First Amendment, do it for yourself and your family. They have been the advocates for justice. It's time for us to be their advocates.
Editor's Note: The plaintiffs in the libel case have confined their statements to legal filings, which deny Shuler's allegations of an affair and an abortion. Available major filings from the sealed case are linked below. An important comment forum on the column above is available on OpEd News, which republished the column and features dialogs between readers. Also, Alabama Media Group, a consortium of mainstream Alabama newspapers, published an opinion column, We must dare to defend Roger Shuler's rights, too, which has a reader comment section.
Siegelman's recent filing renewed his argument that U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller of Montgomery erred by failing to allow evidence on whether a biased prosecutor had actually recused as claimed. Leura Canary, shown at right in a file photo, was the Bush Administration's U.S. attorney for Alabama's middle district from 2001 to mid-2010 (after being continued by the Obama administration). Also, she was married to Business Council of Alabama President William Canary, a friend of Karl Rove and the campaign manager for Siegelman's 2002 GOP rival Bob Riley. Siegelman's appeal to the federal appeals court in Atlanta additionally claims that Fuller wrongly increased Siegelman's prison time by citing allegations that failed to win conviction in the 2006 jury trial. Siegelman's prosecution is one of the nation's most controversial of the decade.
Fox Business News Host and Vice President Neil Cavuto interviewed Gregory Craig, Don Siegelman's lawyer on Nov 7. Siegelman's children, Dana and Joseph Siegelman, commented to supporters before the show:
"This is the first time he (Craig) will have appeared publicly regarding Dad's case. Neil Cavuto, Vice President of Fox Business, is one of the many prominent Republicans who have recognized the injustice of Dad's trial and sought to have it corrected. Greg Craig is leading our last charge in the courts, and we'll be discussing this final effort tonight. Thank you so much for your support!"
Fox Business News, Former Ala. Gov. Don Siegelman seeks appeal of bribery conviction, Neil Cavuto, Nov. 7, 2013. Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman’s attorney Gregory Craig on efforts to overturn Gov. Siegelman’s conviction on bribery charge.
In related news, longtime Siegelman supporter Pam Miles wrote on her "That's Politics" listserve the following appeal on Nov. 10. Miles, a resident of Madison in Alabama, began her newsletter more than a decade ago to provide news coverage of the unrelenting pressure from authorities to find grounds to imprison the state's leading Democrat. With the state's print media increasingly hostile to Siegelman, Shuler began his blog in 2007 to report irregularities in the case. The commentary by Pam Miles was:
After serving over 25 years as an elected official for the state of Alabama, Former Governor Don Siegelman is not allowed to receive any retirement from the state. To add to the injustice his wife, Lori, had to pay back the Social Security benefits he received when he was released to work on an appeal. She has also had to pay other debts incurred over the years as the three trials dragged on and little to no income coming in. It takes 19 hours, round trip for her to visit Don in federal prison in Louisiana.
After his conviction in 2006, his license to practice law was revoked and his ability to earn money was reduced, even as legal bills climbed into the millions of dollars. Don’s crime was that he was a Democrat in the state of Alabama. He has five and a half more years to go on the sentence. Five and one half years is a long, long time. It takes 19 hours, round-trip for Lori Siegelman to visit her husband in federal prison in Louisiana.
Please help Lori as she struggles to keep body and soul together while he’s gone. His legal fund cannot be used to pay the mortgage, insurance, taxes, worn-out heating/cooling systems, a bad roof, lawn maintenance, and the never-ending jobs that need to be done around a house. Of course, Don has nothing to contribute. Please send any amount you can to:
Lori Allen Siegelman
P.O. Box 430116
Birmingham, AL 35243
Legal Filings in Riley v. Shuler and Duke v. Shuler
Riley -- Order on Injunction, 10/4/13
Riley -- Petition for Contempt, 10/4/13
Riley -- Motion to Seal, 7/23/13
Riley -- Proposed Order on Contempt, 10/7/13
Riley -- Order on Contempt, 10/7/13
Riley -- Shuler Motion to Quash, filed 10/16
News Coverage of Shuler Case and Jailing
Justice Integrity Project, Alabama Kangaroo Court Parades Liberal Commentator in Chains, Continues Indefinite Jailing, Andrew Kreig, Nov. 15, 2013. Alabama authorities paraded a shackled liberal pundit into court, where he was denounced Nov. 14 for recent news coverage about his jailing. The defendant was Roger Shuler, a 56-year-old commentator jailed on contempt of court charges Oct. 23 for publishing columns about a politically powerful GOP attorney. Shuler reports on Deep South legal affairs via several nationally prominent blog sites such as his own Legal Schnauzer. Salon, OpEd News, and FireDogLake frequently reprint the stories. Shuler specializes in political muckraking about scandals in the Deep South legal community. The reports often focus on claims that ordinary litigants are being unfairly treated in the courts. Also, he writes about financial corruption involving taxpayer dollars, illicit sex among conspirators and their minions, and cover-up to uphold family values image necessary for election success. Most but far from all of the wrongdoers in his columns are Republicans.
Justice Integrity Project, Corruption-Fighting Reporter Arrested, Beaten, Jailed In Alabama As Deputies Seek Wife's Arrest, Andrew Kreig, Oct. 25, 2013. The prominent investigative blogger Roger Shuler was arrested and beaten by Shelby County sheriff's deputies at his Alabama garage upon returning home Oct. 23. Shuler faces a resisting arrest charge stemming from his refusal to obey a judge's order to stop writing adversely about Robert Riley Jr., a well-connected attorney who is part of Alabama's most prominent political family.
Al.com, We must dare to defend Roger Shuler's rights, too, Mike Marshall, Nov. 8, 2013. Mike Marshall is director of statewide commentary the Alabama Media Group. Roger Shuler might be a wingnut conspiracy theorist and a crackpot. He might unfairly besmirch conservative Alabama politicians with little or no evidence to back up outlandish accusations. But he is certainly an American. As such, he certainly has a constitutional right to free speech, and that right certainly has been trampled by a judge in an Alabama circuit court.
It is hard to feel sorry for Shuler: Earlier this year, he began writing about Rob Riley on his political blog Legal Schnauzer, accusing the attorney of scandalous behavior in his personal life. Riley, son of former Gov. Bob Riley, sued Shuler, asking a Shelby County judge for an injunction to stop Shuler from making such attacks. Shuler failed to show up for the hearing, then ignored a judge's order to make a court appearance. He even threw the court's papers out of his car window as he cursed the officers who were trying to serve them.
But Judge Neilson violated Shuler's right to free speech when he ordered him not to publish anything further about Riley. The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently ruled that you cannot muzzle an American citizen; you cannot prohibit libels anticipated in the future, an excess known as "prior restraint."
HuffPost Live! Roger Shuler: Journalist Beaten & Arrested, Interview of Carol Shuler and Andrew Kreig by Freedom Watch Zone host Alyona Minkovski, right, Nov. 1, 2013. Alyona looks at the week in political activism, including the story of an investigative journalist who was beaten & arrested by police for his writing, Anonymous' Million Mask March & more! The prominent investigative blogger Roger Shuler was arrested and beaten by Shelby County sheriff's deputies in his Alabama garage upon returning home the evening of Oct. 23.
Legal Schnauzer, PayPal Donations Support the Continuing Fight for Justice in the Legal Schnauzer First Amendment Case, Carol Shuler, Nov. 6, 2013. Since Roger's brutal beating and unlawful arrest on Oct 23, we have been gratified by the chorus of folks we've heard from who wanted to help us and offered to lend their support in a variety of ways in our fight for justice. Many of those people have chosen to support this fight by way of the Legal Schnauzer PayPal donation button, which can be found in the upper right-hand corner of the blog.
Legal Schnauzer, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press Writes Letter to Court in Support of Legal Schnauzer, Carol Shuler, Nov. 7, 2013. This is Carol, Roger's wife. So many organizations have stepped forward to lend their support to Legal Schnauzer's ongoing fight for justice against this travesty against our constitutional rights and civil liberties.
Legal Schnauzer, American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama Intervenes in Legal Schnauzer First Amendment Case, Carol Shuler, Nov. 5, 2013. We have been heartened by the loud outcry of concerned citizens all over the world regarding Roger Shuler's brutal beating and unlawful arrest on Oct. 23. People everywhere, including scores of media outlets, have stepped forward to help shine a spotlight on this outrageous display of police brutality, as well as, suppression of free speech and freedom of the press. Our civil liberties are under assault and people are saying, "Enough!" Thanks to this outpouring of effort by so many, the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama has graciously agreed to step in and lend their assistance by filing motions in Roger's case. These motions were filed on Nov. 1.
Liberland, We Address Why Roger Shuler Was Allegedly Beaten And Then Arrested And Jailed, Alan Colmes, Nov. 1, 2013. Roger Shuler is a journalist who worked for a daily newspaper for years and most recently has been blogging at legalschnauzer. He was recently jailed and not given a trial date or any other indication that he’ll be released any time soon. Journalist Andrew Kreig spoke to me on radio Thursday night about the case.
Legal Schnauzer, Improper Actions Of Prosecutor And District Judge Are Focus Of New Appeal In Don Siegelman Case, Roger Shuler, Aug. 26, 2013. There is something fundamentally wrong with our judiciary when this nation can readily justify sending men and women into war zones claiming for reasons to provide others their freedoms and rights, yet here, especially within our own state that many have been, are consciously being denied those same freedoms and rights.