Your Guide to the Aug. 3 Sentencing of the Century

Mark FullerAn Alabama federal judge is scheduled Aug. 3 to resentence the state's former governor, Don Siegelman, on corruption charges. Thus, the nation's most notorious frame-up of the decade has now become the Sentencing of the Century, at least so far.

Tragically, higher courts and the Justice Department have left Siegelman's convictions largely intact instead of granting a new trial. Among the many compelling reasons for a new trial is the failure of the trial judge, Mark E. Fuller, right, to recuse for his mind-boggling behavior and appearance of bias. The Justice Department's Washington headquarters has encouraged this outrage for many years, and covered up all wrongdoing.

The level of DOJ arrogance and lawlessness in the Siegelman case suggests that it is reasonable to fear repetition at courthouses elsewhere. Indeed, this case's irregularities are far from unprecedented. They are simply higher-profile than most in terms of numbers of whistleblowers ignored, and in direct impact on public policies covering the full range of government via removal of the opposition party's leader.

Update: A lawyer for Siegelman will ask his judge to impose probation or some type of alternative sentence. See details below.

Last week, our Justice Integrity Project announced that we were undertaking a reduced publication schedule in order to complete a major research project. We kept the announcement deliberately obscure in order to avoid distractions. But I'll share for those following the Siegelman case that the project documents how the perpetrators of Alabama-style federal court justice have used it as a lab to transform civic life elsewhere, not just one state. In my view, this fosters a dangerous new order nationally that curtails fair elections, watchdog institutions, an independent news media, and other independent voices. More on that to come.

Most helpful for now as we chart the disastrous course of the courts is to suggest a court-watchers' guide to understanding the Siegelman proceedings later this week, which begin at 9 a.m. (Central Daylight Time). For such an occasion, the most relevant developments should be scrutinized.That way, the malefactors are ultimately held to account.

Below also are several of the powerful comments made during recent days in Alabama. Most important is a formal statement by Montgomery-based U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson. He invoked his recent experience in presiding over a disastrous federal corruption prosecution against gambling entrepreneurs to urge better Supreme Court guidance on what constitutes quid pro quo in bribery cases. This is also one of the many irregularities in Siegelman's prosecution on corruption charges.


Court-Watcher's Guide

Don Siegelman

 

What's in the pre-sentence report by the U.S. Probation Office? A good reporter can obtain at least parts of the report, which is usually the most thorough description of the case.

What are the sentencing guidelines applicable for this case? These guidelines provide a range of sentences for a relevant crime, and a judge must state reasons for a departure above or below the guidelines.

What sentence is recommended by the Justice Department? In 2007, Fuller ordered a seven-year term. But a federal appeals court vacated two counts. The Obama DOJ thereupon requested in June 2009 an astonishing increase of the original sentence to 20 years instead of a reduction. What is the DOJ's current recommendation after years of more revelations and whitewash about its behavior? The DOJ may keep a low-profile at the sentencing. It has nearly completed its dirty work in this case, and its Montgomery office is now being run by U.S. Attorney George Beck, who disgraced himself as a defense attorney during the prosecution. So, the DOJ wheels are already in motion without more of a public profile.

What will Siegelman say? Will he admit guilt in hope of wringing mercy from the stone-hearted judge? Most lawyers counsel that posture. But Siegelman has legitimate reason to believe the judge was part of the frame-up conspiracy and was amply rewarded with hundreds of millions of dollars in no-bid contracts to a federal contracting company, Doss Aviation, Inc., that the judge secretly controlled as by far its largest shareholder. Whatever decision Siegelman makes, you can be sure he will be quaking inside at his momentous choice. It could mean the rest of his life in prison if he antagonizes a judge who hates him. Or, he could be giving up a last real chance to say what's on his mind before he is taken away.

How will the judge respond to statements in court? The more arrogant judges increasingly take the position that defendants who plead not guilty and otherwise defend themselves deserve extraordinary punishment for failure to show remorse. Thus, the Democratic judge for former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, a Republican, imposed in 2010 a four-year sentence that was far above sentencing guidelines. Shockingly, the judge cited as his rationale that Kerik pled not guilty to corruption charges and sought to articulate that view in ways far less visible and direct than Siegelman's. I covered the Kerik sentencing, and documented why Kerik had good reason to test the evidence and procedures before the judge forced a guilty plea by throwing Kerik into solitary confinement without bond pretrial and threatening to dismiss Kerik's lawyers unless he pled guilty immediately. Kerik, one of the most honored policemen for bravery in New York City's history, confided to me later that he was so frightened at what the judge might do that the sentencing hearing passed as a blur to him. At left is a photo of Kerik and his wife, Hala, taken by their friend Maxine Susseles. This was just after the sentencing in White Plains, NY, and before Kerik's report date two months later to the federal correctional institute in Cumberland, Maryland, where he remains.

Hala and Bernard KerikWill the judge recommend a harsh and distant facility? Judges have vast discretionary power to make life miserable for prisoners and pretend that any harshness is the fault of the Bureau of Prisons. In the 1970s, former GOP Nixon Administration Attorney General John Mitchell served relatively easy time at a federal correctional facility located on Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery. By most reasonable standards, Siegelman's actions were at worst far less venal than Mitchell's and involved lesser responsibilities. But legal logic can justify any result, and Siegelman could be headed to oppressive conditions far from Alabama. A judge can affect that kind of decision one way or another behind the scenes.

Will the judge order immediate incarceration? White-collar defendants typically receive at least a brief delay in sentence after a hearing to put their family affairs in order. In 2007,  Fuller unexpectedly denied this routine procedure to Siegelman and his co-defendant Richard Scrushy. They were hauled away immediately in chains to begin their terms, with Siegelman put in solitary confinement that kept him away from family, friends and the media. He was released on bond in March 2008 following a nationwide outcry over his case arising from a February 24, 2008 CBS 60 Minutes report. Did Ex-Alabama Governor Get A Raw Deal? showed how the Bush administration had framed him as his state's leading Democrat.

Most have forgotten that history now that the Democrats hold many of the top jobs at the Justice Department. But those of both parties should recall that what happened to Siegelman and Kerik can happen -- and has happened -- to many others, as such authors as Harvey Silverglate have documented in his landmark 2009 book, Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent.

Barack ObamaWill President Obama take seriously a pardon request? Most of Siegelman's legal challenges have come to an end aside from, at last report, the DOJ's still-pending and otherwise disgraceful delay since 2006 in responding to his Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. He deserves evidence on a vital point: whether former Middle District U.S. Attorney Leura Canary in fact recused herself, as she claimed, because of the clear conflict of husband, Business Council of Alabama CEO William Canary. A nationally prominent Republican and longtime friend of Karl Rove, Canary led opposition to Siegelman's re-election after his first term,1999 to 2003. Regardless of that government-orchestrated "Hide and Seek" FOIA proceeding from a supposedly transparent Obama administration, the Siegelman case is approaching the closure of pending litigation that is required for a president to consider a presidential. Dana Siegelman, the defendant's daughter, launched a campaign July 30 to keep her father's supporters united for further actions, such as a pardon campaign. It merits support.

Beyond these recommendations of mine, several commentaries from Alabama deserve attention. In U.S. Judge Releases a Timely Opinion That Shows Siegelman Defendants Were Unlawfully Convicted, Legal Schnauzer blogger Roger Shuler analyzed Thompson's criticism of the murky legal standard quid pro quo (the Latin term for "what for what," used in law to denote the exchange of one valuable thing for another).

Using the concept, prosecutors failed to win jury convictions during two major trials of gambling defendants accused of corrupting legislators. This not only wasted an estimated $35 million in taxpayer legal costs, as computed below, but illustrated similar problems to the Siegelman prosecution. The difference, of course, was that Fuller made so many pro-prosecution rulings on vital issues as to virtually ensure a few convictions from the 34 felony charges originally filed.

Only after Siegelman's 2006 trial was it revealed that Siegelman had appointed a state prosecutor in 2002 to investigate allegations Fuller conspired to defraud Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA) of $330,000, and that Fuller "hated" Siegelman for that, according to sworn testimony by longtime Republican Dana Jill Simpson.

Also, she provided sworn evidence -- apparently never investigated by anyone but bloggers -- that Fuller has become rich from his long-secret holdings. Doss Aviation trains Air Force pilots and refuels Air Force planes around the world.

An Air Force reserve colonel helped lead the Siegelman prosecution, which the Justice Department headquartered at the same Air Force base that had imprisoned Mitchell. The Republican investigation of Siegelman began shortly after he took office as governor in 1999, initiated by then state Attorney Gen. William Pryor, who now sits on the majority Republican federal appeals court in Atlanta that oversees Siegelman's appeals from Fuller's decisions. For the Bush administration to locate a civil prosecution team at a military base in order to target a state's top Democrat on dubious charges resembles a para-military coup. Was it, or was it simply insensitive? At some point perception becomes reality.

That's especially so after we documented that an important factor in the case was a bidding war between Airbus and Boeing over a $35 billion federal contract to construct a next-generation of Air Force tankers. Airbus planned to build an assembly factory in Alabama if it won the contract. Behind the Airbus bid were Siegelman's gubernatorial rival, Bob Riley, many Republican insiders and European political leaders and financiers at the highest levels.

The military base HQ was one indication that the Siegelman prosecution was no ordinary case. Another is the flagrant disregard by the Justice Department and courts in applying clear-cut law on the law of recusal, which places the burden on a judge to inform litigants if an appearance of bias might occur. Instead, Fuller, the courts and the DOJ have argued that litigants in this case should have unearthed the secretive judge's finances before trial. Further, authorities argued that no independent fair person would think there might be an appearance of bias. Fuller has denied bias, and the appellate court appointed a very wealthy Democratic judge to issue an opinion, which was (not surprisingly) that a judge's wealth does not equate to bias.

Meanwhile, the now-craven leadership of RSA, the state employees' pension fund whose leader once dared criticize Fuller in 2002 for the attempted fraud, has since hired Leura Canary to join RSA's executive leadership. Appointing one of the nation's most disgraced public officials and political hit artists to such a job should worry any government pension-contributor, and not simply in Alabama. It helps illustrate a nationwide trend to foster partisan political control over all segments of society, especially where big dollars are involved.

Another blogger, who operates under the pseudonym "Alabama Wants Democrats," has reported Fuller's Doss holdings as being worth between $6 million and $100 million, according to financial disclosure reports. Fuller reportedly sold his interests late last year for an undisclosed sum in advance of a divorce action this year by his wife, Lisa Fuller, who claimed the judge was involved in an affair and implied he was misusing drugs.The blogger, who uses only a pseudonym for fear of reprisal, continued:

It seems that, if the United States Congress and the Judicial Council of the Eleventh Circuit haven’t had enough of Mark Fuller, his wife, Lisa Boyd Fuller, has. In April, she filed for divorce after 30 years of marriage. While Mark Fuller’s lawyers promptly got the divorce file sealed, what emerged before then was serious enough to merit the investigation of any federal judge. Discovery requests served on Mark Fuller covered such judicially unbecoming topics as prescription drug addiction, driving under the influence, an extramarital affair with a Court employee whom he supervises, and domestic violence.

Normally, such accusations are best viewed with a gimlet eye in a divorce case. But Ms. Fuller’s lawyers have listed the pharmacies whose records they want to subpoena, and the very number of different pharmacies sends up Limbaugh-like addiction warnings. There’s every reason to believe Ms. Fuller will settle the divorce case for a large chunk of Mark Fuller’s wealth before lots of judicial mud is made public, and it’s hard to blame her. But that doesn’t mean she can’t -- or shouldn’t -- be interviewed, and subpoenaed if necessary, by Congressional investigators.

As regular readers of my posts know, I always strive to provide them with some positive action to take. In this case, that action involves getting Congressional investigators talking to Lisa Fuller, and otherwise looking into Mark Fuller, and the Siegelman case generally. If this is going to happen, we are going to have to be the squeaky wheel that demands its grease.

Our project is among those who have reported that the judge's affair was with a longtime federal courtroom clerk whom he supervised and who was married until her husband obtained a divorce last fall. To provide special consideration for Fuller in violation of normal open court procedures, Alabama Circuit Court 15 Judge Anita Kelly has sealed the court file over the objection of Fuller's wife and reporters, including Shuler and the Justice Integrity Project. Kelly also has failed to respond to our request for a hearing to advocate open records under relevant Alabama law.

In 2010, Bill Barnes, the Democratic primary winner and nominee for the U.S. Senate in Alabama, tried to obtain answers from both the White House and Justice Department about the Siegelman case as well as about health issues for Alabama residents related to clean-up of BP's Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf that year. Our project reported extensively on his unsuccessful efforts to receive the even courtesy of a reply from the Obama White House, DOJ or EPA.

Barnes lost his campaign against the overwhelmingly better financed incumbent senator, Richard Shelby. Barnes, at right, later shared with me his view that national Democrats are too timid in fighting for basic human rights in states such as Alabama that they perceive as under GOP domination.

Another factor is that national Democrats have relied extensively for political and legal information on such dubious sources as former Democratic Congressman Artur Davis, a friend of President Obama since their law schools. In late 2007, Davis dropped his support of Siegelman's fight for justice. Clearly, Davis hoped to win GOP support for his own political career in Alabama, including a gubernatorial run in 2010. Instead, the Davis career imploded because of revulsion by his base against him on that and similar issues. Yet the national media continue to quote him as a political savant.

I concur with Barnes but believe the forces in play are far more decisive than simple two-party politics. A more important thread of bipartisan big dollars involving the oil and military sectors permeates the Siegelman case in the background. Fuller's Air Force training and refueling company was and is obviously well-connected to key decision-makers. We can make an educated guess also that Doss Aviation has not been buying fuel for the Air Force at a corner gas station.

Robert BauerWeighing many of these factors are such high-level Washington players as Robert Bauer, shown at left in a file photo via Wikipedia. He is general counsel to the Democratic National Committee in addition to his work as a partner at Perkins Coie and as general counsel to Obama for America and for the Obama re-election committee. This summer he has been challenging Republican strategist Karl Rove over the legality of Rove's Crossroads GPS fund-raising apparatus. Rove, hitting back hard at Bauer, said the Crossroads organization he co-founded meets all relevant criteria to retain tax-exempt status because it functions much like liberal groups with that status.

The Crossroads dispute has its roots in the Siegelman struggle in ways too complicated to describe here, especially since neither Rove nor Bauer want to draw that connection because of different tactical reasons.

Roger ShulerCutting through this is Shuler, shown at right. His blogsite recently reported on a sex scandal purported to involve the recent married Rove.

Shuler also sent a message to the nationwide list-serve operated by fellow Alabama resident Pam Miles. She started her list initially for hundreds of Alabama residents who wanted news of the Siegelman prosecution that is ignored or otherwise suppressed by the state's major newspapers. They are each under chain management, primarily Newhouse, and these days are highly deferential to business leadership in Alabama that has consolidated political and financial power. The Pam Miles list now has a nationwide reach of up to 30,000 (including estimates of bloggers who reprint significant columns).

Shuler, a former reporter for the state's largest newspaper, the Birmingham News, posted this comment:

I've spent four years on my blog, Legal Schnauzer, showing that our state and federal courts are a joke. Now, we have Myron Thompson essentially agreeing with me, and I admire his courage for speaking the truth where most other judges will not.

Thompson writes in respectful language, but in so many words, he is saying that courts have done a miserable job of defining and applying the law, causing innocent people to go to prison for "crimes" that are concocted from the bench by frauds like Mark Fuller.

Authorities have scheduled the Siegelman sentencing for a Friday, doubtless in the tradition of news managers in government who pick Fridays to deliver bad news for the public in expectation that the story will disappear over the weekend, never to be revived.

Siegelman may be going away on Friday. But the story of his frame-up will long remain with us, much like the Dreyfus case in France a century ago.

 

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Pre-Sentence Message from Don Siegelman to Supporters (July 30, 2012)

Dear ________,

This may be my last chance to email you for some time. I am going back before U.S. District Court Judge Mark Fuller to be re-sentenced this Friday, August the 3rd at 9:00 AM (CST) at the federal courthouse in Montgomery.

Your friendship and support throughout this incredibly long, painful, and costly ordeal has meant so much to my family and me.

This battle for justice within the court system comes to a close. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear my last appeal even though 113 former state Attorneys General and many of the nation's top Constitutional Law Professors joined in my appeal saying that the law is so unclear that any contributor and candidate is "at risk of being indicted and convicted..."

I served nine awful months in federal prison, thirty days in total isolation in solitary confinement, three weeks in a maximum-security prison side-by-side with hardened criminals. Every step of this fight for justice over the past nine years has been devastating to my family and me.

I have lost my livelihood, most of my assets, and my freedom.

I am now a “felon” and have lost my right to vote and run for public office. I can no longer practice law. Regardless, I remain committed to our system of justice; flawed though it may be, it is still one of the best. It is up to us to make it better.

Thank you for your encouragement, which keeps my spirit strong. Please continue to keep in touch with my family as this journey for justice continues.

May God bless you and your family.

Sincerely,

Don Siegelman
Governor of Alabama, 1999-2003
www.DonSiegelman.org


Background


Who's Who? Chart Prepared by Siegelman Supporters

Siegelman Case Relationship Chart

Related News Coverage

Update:

Birmingham News, Lawyer: Don't send Don Siegelman back to prison, Kim Chandler, Aug.1, 2012. A lawyer for former Gov. Don Siegelman will ask a judge Friday not to send the former governor back to prison, but instead to impose probation or some type of alternative sentence. "Returning Governor Siegelman to prison is not necessary and would serve no stated penological purpose," lawyer Susan James wrote in a sentencing memo filed in court. Siegelman, 66, is scheduled to be resentenced Friday after a long appellate battle to overturn his 2006 conviction on bribery charges. The appellate courts eventually tossed out two of the honest services fraud charges against Siegelman, but the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case. A federal jury in 2006 convicted Siegelman of selling a seat on a hospital regulatory board to former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy. Siegelman served nine months of an 88-month sentence before being released to continue his appeal. Scrushy, who was not released, has completed his sentence and is living at home in Texas. Prosecutors want Siegelman's original 88-month sentence to stand, according to James' memo. But James argued a "substantial reduction" is warranted and urged the court to give the governor a lengthy probation or an alternative sentencing plan such as intermittent confinement coupled with community service. James said that the good that Siegelman accomplished should be weighed against his alleged crime. "If there ever was a case where one's life works should be measured against the purported harm he did to the state it is clear that further incarceration is not necessary," she wrote. James noted Siegelman's lengthy career of public service and pointed out that he did not personally profit from his crime. "Don Siegelman has never committed a crime of violence. Instead he devoted his career to trying to protect the citizens of Alabama from violent and dangerous offenders. Further, he did everything possible to try to improve things for Alabama citizens," James wrote.

Milton McGregorLegal Schnauzer, U.S. Judge Releases a Timely Opinion That Shows Siegelman Defendants Were Unlawfully Convicted, Roger Shuler, July 27, 2012. A federal judge in Alabama released an opinion this week that adds to the mountain of evidence showing defendants in the Don Siegelman case were unlawfully convicted, based on murky law and improper jury instructions. U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson is intimately familiar with public-corruption cases; he oversaw the trial and re-trial in the Alabama bingo case that resulted in zero convictions. In fact, Thompson's opinion, dated July 24, 2012, was issued in his role as the judge in United States v. Milton E. McGregor, et al, as the bingo case is officially known after a lead defendant, at left. But Thompson's words have implications that go way beyond bingo issues -- and way beyond Alabama, for that matter. For one, Thompson shows that the U.S. Supreme Court and Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals have failed miserably in their duty to ensure that the law is applied consistently. Two, Thompson shows that Siegelman and co-defendant Richard Scrushy were convicted of phantom "crimes." Three, Thompson proposes a jury instruction that should clarify the law for judges, prosecutors, defendants, and the public. Meanwhile, lives are being ruined because of incompetence in the federal judiciary regarding public-corruption cases--and Thompson's opinion comes at a critical time. Siegelman is set to be re-sentenced in Montgomery on August 3. With clearly compromised trial judge and Bush appointee Mark Fuller still at the controls, the former Democratic governor almost certainly is headed back to prison. Scrushy, meanwhile, has completed his sentence and was released from federal custody this week.

Associated Press / Montgomery Advertiser, Alabama gambling trial judge wants bribery clarity, Phillip Rawls, July 26, 2012. The judge who presided over Alabama's two gambling corruption trials said the U.S. Supreme Court needs to clear up when a campaign contribution constitutes a bribe. U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson issued an opinion saying that even though the trials ended with total acquittals for the eight defendants, he wanted to "highlight a murky field of federal law." He wrote that there is "considerable confusion" about how federal corruption laws apply to campaign contributions, and a precise definition of bribery would help.

Alabama Wants Democrats, The Case for Impeaching Federal Judge Mark Fuller, Publius IX, July 26, 2012. At every turn of [Former Alabama Gov. Don] Siegelman’s trial, Fuller improperly ruled against Siegelman and co-defendant Richard Scrushy, and for the prosecution. He failed to take action when the Government failed to disclose evidence favorable to Siegelman. He  silenced Siegelman’s attorneys from making relevant and legal arguments to the jury. He let charges go to the jury which were later ruled improper by the U.S. Supreme Court. Not only that, Fuller failed to notify defense attorneys that a female juror, by the name of Katie Langer, had been passing notes through Judge Fuller’s bailiff, asking if the FBI agent sitting at the prosecution table was single. I can’t imagine how her not wanting Mr. Potential FBI Dream Date to be angry about an acquittal could have influenced her vote on the jury. Fuller’s conduct in the trial (I have only named a handful of his pro-Government rulings) gave Siegelman’s attorneys lots of ammunition in his partially-successful appeal, and is doubtless going to provide them more fodder in the “§ 2255 proceeding” that is likely going to be filed, now that the direct appeals are playing out.

But what do those violations of Siegelman’s rights have to do with the hypothetical case I described in the first paragraphs? Fuller was for years, including during the Siegelman trial, a principal of Doss Aviation, Inc.; some reports made him a 43% owner. He was listed on corporate reports as the company’s CEO, even after becoming a federal judge. In his 2010 financial disclosure form as a federal judge, Fuller valued his interest in Doss at between $5,000,000 and $25,000,000; with an additional $500,000 to $1,000,000 in the affiliated Doss of Alabama, Inc. That’s enough coin to get even Mitt Romney’s attention. Doss Aviation is extremely, if not exclusively, dependent on government contracts, many of them no-bid, that can disappear if the Air Force -- or the administration in power -- decides it isn’t happy with, say, the rulings of a leading shareholder. The conflict of interest is obvious to even a layman. Despite this, Fuller has, throughout his career as a federal judge, regularly decided cases involving the Air Force.

WBRC-TV, Don Siegelman apologizes to Ala. in Fox Business Network interview, Staff report, July 27, 2012. Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman apologized to Alabama for his bribery conviction in an interview with Neil Cavuto on Fox Business Network last night. "I would like to apologize to the people of Alabama for the embarrassment that this has caused them, and of course to my family. This process has been going on for a long time and has been both personally and financially devastating," he said in the beginning of the interview. Siegelman faces a re-sentencing in a week, on August 3. He told Cavuto it's a frightening prospect to think about going back to federal prison. The former governor also said he and Richard Scrushy, also convicted on bribery charges, never had a conversation about a bribe. Siegelman agreed with Cavuto that federal bribery laws are still unclear and contends that anyone contributing to the presidential campaign and given an ambassadorship could also be prosecuted.

Judy WhiteOpEd News, Happy Father's Day! and the Justice Department's War On Families, Joan Brunwasser, June 16, 2012. My guest is Judy White, right, whose husband, Gary, has been incarcerated since September, 2010 [as an outgrowth of the Siegelman case]. Welcome back to OpEdNews, Judy. What's on your mind today? Based on many shocking and hurtful experiences during the past twenty-one months, Gary and I have come to understand that our federal government is aggressively anti-family. And terribly dishonest. But I suppose that with the widespread government corruption and unlimited resources -- meaning our tax dollars and the complicity of the media -- they can mislead, misinform, and manipulate public opinion however it suits their purposes, while prisoners and their families are left to suffer. At Memphis's satellite camp in Millington, Tennessee, the prison employees really don't seem to like for the prisoners to have their family members visit, despite all the published propaganda claiming -- falsely -- an understanding of the importance of maintaining family ties. Could it be they don't want our eyes and ears?

Associated Press, Siegelman backers seek pardon for ex-Ala governor, Bob Johnson, June 18, 2012. Some backers of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman want President Barack Obama to grant a pardon that would prevent the ex-Democratic officeholder from returning to prison for his 2006 bribery conviction. Siegelman is out of prison on an appeal bond. But the U.S. Supreme Court this month rejected his latest appeal, and he may soon face a new sentencing by U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller of Montgomery. Indicted in 2005 and tried the next year, Siegelman was convicted of selling a seat on a hospital regulatory board to former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy in exchange for $500,000 in donations to Siegelman's 1999 campaign to legalize a state lottery, which failed. Former Democratic Party executive committee member Pam Miles of Huntsville is now encouraging supporters to write Obama and urge the president to pardon Siegelman. She operates an internet e-mail network for Siegelman's backers. Miles says followers are pursuing all avenues to prove Siegelman's innocence. Miles says she "can't bear the thought' of Siegelman returning to prison. "We can't forget about Don," Miles said. Miles and other Siegelman supporters sent a Father's Day message to Obama asking the president to pardon Siegelman. "Right now his only hope seems to be a presidential pardon. Please do the right thing and pardon this innocent man. Happy Father's Day," the letter to Obama said. Siegelman declined to comment concerning the effort to obtain a pardon.

Don Siegelman FamilyHuffington Post, Corruption, Bribery and the "Quid Pro Quo" Conundrum, Bennett L. Gershman, June 13, 2012. A prosecutor's charging power is the most dangerous power of all, because it can be used by prosecutors to target for prosecution almost anyone a prosecutor wants to get. Indeed, a Congressional Committee investigating allegations of selective prosecution by the Bush administration's Justice Department heard abundant testimony supporting that claim by Governor Siegelman -- that he was the most powerful Democrat in Alabama, that state Republicans desperately wanted to take him down, and according to a former U.S. Attorney in Alabama, federal prosecutors knew the case was weak but went on a "fishing expedition" to "find anything they could find against [Siegelman]."

Legal Schnauzer, Biased "Reporting," Not Technology, Led to the Steep Decline of The Birmingham News, Roger Shuler, May 25, 2012. Why would anyone subscribe to a "daily" newspaper that comes out three days a week? Do the News, Times, and P-R have futures as strictly digital news organizations? The Advance Media spin machine is playing this as a reaction to changing technology. But I would submit it's more about bias, backward thinking, and old-fashioned incompetence. You might call yesterday's announcement Don Siegelman's Revenge. Throughout the 2000s, one of our nation's most important stories was the decay of the U.S. Justice Department under George W. Bush. It was a coast-to-coast story, but several of its most compelling chapters unfolded in Alabama, led by the prosecution of Siegelman, a popular former Democratic governor, and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy.  Coverage in the Advance Media newspapers consisted mostly of cheerleading pieces for Bush-era prosecutors Alice Martin and Leura Canary. The papers made almost no serious effort to address compelling evidence that the cases were driven for political reasons by Bush strategist Karl Rove and his associates.

Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Montgomery circuit court seals file in U.S. district judge's divorce proceedings, Amanda Simmons, May 29, 2012. Three journalists requested access to the sealed file of an Alabama-based federal judge's divorce proceedings wrought with accusations of domestic violence, drug abuse and the judge's alleged affair with his court bailiff. The journalists and other legal watchers have expressed concern that the court quietly sealed the records without taking the standard procedural steps. Citing security reasons, U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller of Montgomery, Ala., moved to seal the file of his divorce proceedings on April 20 despite his wife's objections. Without providing an explanation, a judge in the domestic relations division of Montgomery County Circuit Court granted the request on May 15.  Last week, Andrew Kreig, director of the Justice Integrity Project in Washington, D.C.; Bob Martin, editor and publisher of The Montgomery Independent and The Millbrook Independent in Alabama; and Roger Shuler, online content provider of the Alabama-based website Legal Schnauzer, submitted their request for public access.

Eric HolderLegal Schnauzer, Justice Department Continues to Play Hide and Seek with Siegelman Documents, Roger Shuler, Sept. 26, 2011. The decision to prosecute Siegelman and Scrushy for "crimes" that do not exist under the law rests with the Bush administration. But the decision to stonewall on DOJ records now rests with the Obama administration. [[Don Siegelman, above left with family; Obama Attorney General Eric Holder is at right.]

Huffington Post, Siegelman Deserves New Trial Because of Judge’s ‘Grudge’, Evidence Shows, Andrew Kreig, May 15, 2009. The Alabama federal judge who presided over the 2006 corruption trial of the state's former governor holds a grudge against the defendant for helping to expose the judge's own alleged corruption six years ago. Former Gov. Don Siegelman therefore deserves a new trial with an unbiased judge ─ not one whose privately owned company, Doss Aviation, has been enriched by the Bush administration's award of $300 million in contracts since 2006, making the judge millions in non-judicial income.

Al.com, The transcript: Jill Simpson's House Judiciary interview, Bob Sims, Oct. 10, 2007. A Rainsville lawyer told congressional lawyers last month that former Gov. Don Siegelman dropped his contest of the 2002 election results after Alabama Republicans promised to end the federal investigation of him. The statement by Simpson, included in a transcript of her Sept. 14 testimony, is a significant addition to statements she made in a May affidavit that was used to call for a congressional investigation of Siegelman's prosecution. In the affidavit, she said Siegelman dropped his challenge of results showing Gov. Bob Riley had won the election because he learned there were photos of one of his supporters planting Riley campaign signs at a Klan rally in northeast Alabama. You can read the transcript of her testimony by clicking on this link here.

 

Alabama Bingo Case Federal Fiasco

WHNT-TV NEWS 19 of Huntsville, Alabama, The jury has announced verdicts in the state bingo trial, March 7, 2012. The jury found all defendants NOT guilty of all charges. The defendants are Milton McGregor, lobbyist Tom Coker, former State Senator Larry Means, Senator Jim Preuitt, Senator Harri Anne Smith and Jay Walker. All are now cleared.

Florence Times-Daily (Alabama), Millions lost in Alabama gambling trial, Mike Goens, March 11, 2012. Did the guilty get away with it or did another political witch hunt blow up in the faces of those with an agenda? Either way, between 35 million and 40 million of our tax dollars walked out the door Wednesday with the remaining six defendants in a federal gambling corruption trial. All six, as well as fellow defendants who were acquitted in 2011 during the first trial, were found not guilty Wednesday. By the way, some estimate as much as $50 million was spent on investigating and prosecuting the defendants, which included a casino owner, former and current state legislators, lobbyists and others. In trying to answer the question posed above, it seems logical this case is another example of a political witch hunt gone bad....You know, $35 million could pay for a nice prison in a state so financially strapped that many convicts will likely be released early because it cannot afford to house them. Imagine that, building a new prison for real criminals instead of wasting money on a political agenda. Don’t underestimate the financial losses and attacks on personal reputations that defendants suffered in this case. The government doesn’t have to worry about those individuals. Prosecutors can go on to the next case without any financial obligation. It’s unfair at best.

Justice Integrity Project, Inside Story on DoD's $35 Billion Boeing Air Force Tanker Deal, Andrew Kreig, Feb. 25, 2011. The Department of Defense Thursday announced its choice of Boeing for a $35 billion contract to build the Air Force’s next generation of mid-air refueling tankers. Boeing’s selection, subject to any challenge by the losing bidder EADS, could end a decade-long, scandal-ridden process that became one of the controversial and important in modern U.S. procurement history. The Justice Integrity Project has tracked the proceeding closely for a year and a half after learning from reliable sources details about industrial espionage and skullduggery in the contract battle. This went far beyond even the scandals showcased in Senate oversight hearings led by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). Those scandals sent a Boeing executive and former Air Force procurement officer to prison on bribery charges and led to DoD revocation in 2005 of the initial award to Boeing.

 

 

Editor's Postscript: A Justice Department spokeswoman declined comment on the bingo prosecution costs, saying the DOJ doesn't have an estimated cost of the investigation and prosecution. Judge Fuller also has repeatedly declined comment to the Justice Integrity Project. The project is a non-partisan legal reform group that operates independently from defendants, their supporters or any politically active entity. More specifically, the project has never received funding from Siegelman, his lawyers or other supporters, and has published this column without advance input from any of them.