Shackled Siegelman Typifies White House ‘Human Rights’ Charade

Federal authorities continued this month their remarkably harsh, unjust treatment of the nation’s most famous political prisoner.

The U.S. legal jihad against former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman persists even as the Obama administration separately cites “human rights” as the rationale for new U.S. sanctions, bombing, revolutions, and other interventions overseas.

Authorities shackled Siegelman during his Dec. 15 court appearance in the state capital of Montgomery. They denied his request for release on bond during appeal and reportedly kept him in solitary confinement over the holidays for two weeks, preventing family visits. Reputedly cramped in a tiny cell without a change of clothes or access to counsel, Siegelman was in a county jail with bright lights shining in his cell 24-hours-a-day while he awaited his federal appellate hearing Jan. 13.

Jan. 2 Update: Family members unable to learn his whereabouts in recent days suspect it may be because he was in the process of being transferred to a federal prison in Oakdale, LA.

The Obama administration’s hypocrisy is thus displayed as it continues Bush-Clinton policies of citing “human rights” abuses elsewhere around the world to achieve controversial policy goals. Many of these human rights campaigns are highly selective against political targets of the United States and not allies. Like the now-proven-false claim that Iraq's soldiers were killing Kuwaiti babies in their incubators two decades ago and thus justifying Operation Desert Storm, more recent human rights allegations against targeted regimes may be a pretext to foment revolutions, covert paramilitary actions, and propaganda campaigns on multiple continents.

With that context, the Justice Integrity Project today updates our long-running coverage of the Siegelman case to survey recent court and commentary developments.

John FarmerSeveral legal experts have recently published powerful analyses documenting the injustice of Siegelman’s imprisonment for 1999 fund-raising of a kind not treated as criminal when performed by other politicians, including President Obama.

Most significantly, Rutgers Law School professor John J. Farmer published on Dec. 24 an oped on, Alabama's biggest news site, Here's why President Obama should pardon Don Siegelman. Farmer, shown above, was dean of the school from 2009 until last July. A Republican, he is a former New Jersey attorney general, senior counsel for the 9/11 Commission, and acting governor of New Jersey.

Farmer has been part of a bipartisan, unprecedented petition to the U.S. Supreme Court by 113 former attorneys general from 40-plus states arguing that Siegelman's actions were not a crime. The court rejected Siegelman's request for a new trial.

Farmer has supervised a student-led research project at Rutgers documenting the injustice. Farmer has earned a bipartisan reputation locally in New Jersey as a straight-shooter and is a columnist for the Newark Star-Ledger, the state's major newspaper.

Separately, the non-partisan DC-based Project on Government Oversight (POGO) published this month another important column attacking the fairness of the current administration. POGO researcher Adam Zagorin wrote Justice Department Downplays Evidence of Politics in Probe of Governor. In 2007, Zagorin published in Time Magazine one the first exposés on the sordid basis of the Siegelman prosecution. 

"New evidence," Zagorin wrote this month, indicates "that Department of Justice prosecutors, who are supposed to ignore politics, were thinking and acting in partisan terms when they probed the governor’s administration. The same evidence illustrates a systemic problem at the Justice Department: When the Department investigates allegations of misconduct by its own prosecutors, it typically avoids transparency or public accountability.

Last June, Pace University Law School professor Bennett Gershman authored Cruel Justice: The Case of Don Siegelman, a column for the Huffington Post decrying the prosecution. Gershman is a former New York prosecutor who authored the unique scholarly work Prosecutorial Misconduct.

Most vividly, film maker Steve Wimberly unveiled last month a powerful 12-minute video, Killing Atticus Finch. It illustrated how legal experts from across the country such as Gershman have rallied to Siegelman's defense. Former Arizona Attorney Gen. Grant Woods, co-chair of that year's presidential campaign of GOP presidential nominee John McCain (R-AZ), is among those quoted.

The trailer is linked here on in an effort to raise $15,000 to continue the project. Atticus Finch is a fictional character in Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird and a 1962 film starring Gregory Peck. The setting was a small town in Alabama during the segregation era. Finch was a lawyer who humanely represented despised black defendants threatened with being railroaded in a criminal trial.

Barack ObamaBy contrast, the judges presiding over Siegelman's case have given scant indication of operating in a just, humane manner.

Nor has Obama, his Justice Department, and his Bureau of Prisons.

A White House photo from September shows the president speaking with Iraq's newly installed Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

Some might argue that the president has so many duties that he merely lets the justice system run its course and thus has scant role in Siegelman’s ordeal. 

Not so. Our more than five years of reporting on the case indicates many ways in which Obama and his close advisors have tipped the justice scales against Siegelman. Most obviously, Obama has not used his presidential pardon power under the Constitution, or similar clemency measures.

Elena KaganAmong the administration's aggressive tactics have been fighting all of Siegelman’s appeals, including well-merited ones to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Obama's close friend Elena Kagan, shown in a file photo, signed a major brief against Siegelman as Solicitor General in late 2009 before she became Obama's first nominee to the Supreme Court. Kagan, an ambitious and well-connected Harvard Law-credentialed legal scholar, thus paved the way for her Senate confirmation with just token opposition from Siegelman's longtime Republican antagonists and their Senate allies.

Partisan opposition to Siegelman is longstanding among Alabama's now-powerful GOP judicial and political elite. The investigation of Siegelman began in 1999 under orders of Alabama's Republican Attorney Gen. William Pryor, now a judge on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals that supervises federal appeals from Alabama, Georgia and Florida. This probe was at the beginning of Siegelman's 1999-2003 term when the former lieutenant governor was Alabama's most popular and otherwise prominent Democrat.

More currently, the roll call of Obama administration opportunists and cover-up artists goes far beyond Kagan:

Leura CanaryObama retained in office for more than two years the notorious Bush-appointed Republican federal prosecutor Leura Canary, shown in an official photo.

In 2011, the president then named as her successor George Beck, who had let Canary's team terribly mistreat his client, Nick Bailey, the chief witness against Siegelman. The Justice Department interrogated Bailey up to 70 times before Siegelman’s 2006 trial on corruption charges. Few of those interrogations were disclosed to the defense, as required by law. The Senate confirmed Beck on a voice vote without even holding a hearing.

We reported Beck's disgraceful conduct and conflict of interest in his region's biggest case in our four-part series in 2011, beginning with Part I: Senate Must Grill Tainted Alabama DOJ Nominee. Among other Obama decision-making derelictions:

The president's close friend and Attorney General Eric Holder presided over the scorched-earth firing in 2009 of Justice Department whistleblower Tamarah Grimes, who has unsuccessfully sought to present sworn evidence Eric Holderagainst Leura Canary.

In an act of striking cruelty and retribution, Holder and his minions cut off the health benefits of Grimes, a career paralegal with a disabled child. The actions were not out of character for Holder, whose public image as a civil rights advocate coincides with credentials established during the Clinton administration as a cover-up artist. He helped squash news of unflattering situations and personally approved the presidential pardon for Clinton mega-contributor Marc Rich.

Under the supervision of the Obama Justice Department, Canary's team meanwhile argued during a re-sentencing proceeding for a 20-year sentence for Siegelman -- even though the re-sentencing was supposed to reduce his sentence because some charges were ruled invalid.

Then the Obama-Holder team oversaw a whitewashed internal probe by Justice Department special prosecutor Nora Dannehy of Bush-era political prosecutions.

She failed to examine key witnesses in the Siegelman case such as Leura Canary, Grimes or anyone else.

Instead, Dannehy's internal probe focused almost exclusively on the Justice Department's Bush-era firing of New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias for political purposes, as reported in our New Questions Raised About Prosecutor Who Cleared Bush Officials in U.S. Attorney Firings. Dannehy, who relentlessly and unfairly prosecuted a Republican businessman named Charles Spadoni, found no reason to sanction anyone in the Justice Department or elsewhere for their official misconduct.

Dannehy's whitewash for the Justice Department paralleled its investigation of potential criminal offenses in CIA torture and evidence destruction by Dannehy's Connecticut-based DOJ colleague, John Durham, who found no reason to prosecute any government officials either.

Curiously, Durham, like Dannehy, had been appointed to investigate federal misconduct when a federal appeals court had already found, little known to the public, that both Dannehy and Durham had illegally suppressed evidence in the Spadoni case. Furthermore, Dannehy's husband received a major federal appointment in the then-burgeoning homeland security sector.

We broke that story in the Nieman Watchdog web magazine run by Harvard University for journalists. It portrayed a familiar pattern in Washington whereby investigators operate with hidden incentives, thereby compromising the accountability process.

Summing up the Siegelman case, Obama and his top appointees have thwarted fact-finding investigations by the Justice Department, Congress and the defense. Also, they have allowed the Bureau of Prisons and U.S. Marshal’s service repeatedly to inflict unnecessary indignities on him paralleled elsewhere. There has been no investigation or sanction.

Their conduct has had the result, if not intention, of inflicting additional pain, punishment and public shaming upon Siegelman, once so popular his region that he was regarded as a potential presidential contender.  

The Justice Integrity Project, among others, has repeatedly documented these matters in columns too numerous to re-cite. Details can be found by using the search engine at the top of this page, and via the links in this column's appendix. Notably, a number of the Alabama-based whistleblowers and news commentators favorable to Siegelman have suffered extreme financial hardship, often via job loss, litigation, and arrest under dubious circumstances.

The perceived retribution against whistleblowers is also part of the Obama-Holder justice legacy. It creates a special responsibility for out-of-state commentators. We must keep shining a light on what might seem like stale news. Not so. These developments are here, now, and ever-present danger to metastasize elsewhere throughout the nation. 

The Big Picture

Before addressing recent developments in the Siegelman prosecution, several general points are worth making.

  • First, most of the Justice Department's work is necessary and reasonably non-controversial. The matters addressed here are a small minority of cases, albeit ones that are especially revealing and otherwise important.
  • Second, the Obama administration's shortcomings in human rights are not intended to equate them with those of more oppressive governments worldwide, but instead to add perspective to the rhetoric sometimes used to justify new foreign affairs interventions on human rights grounds. 
  • Finally, our focus on Siegelman is not to suggest that he deserves special treatment. That's not the purpose of describing his discomfort and indignity in his courtroom shackling. Instead, his experience -- as he himself has argued many times in letters to his supporters from his prison at Oakdale -- merely illustrates the widespread and unnecessary injustices that pervade the law enforcement and prison systems.

We have reported on other such political prosecutions targeting victims that unfair hurt largely unknown individuals, their families, and communities. Among the particularly disturbing cases recently coming to our attention have been the heavy punishment and lack of appellate bonds for "The IPR 6." These are six mostly black software engineers from Colorado convicted of financial fraud. Their case has aroused effective community support, as we reported in A Just Cause' Provides National Model For Grassroots Legal Reform, but no relief so far from the courts.

Abraham Bolden book cover, The Echo from Dealey PlazaAnother shocking case was the 1964 frame-up on federal bribery charges of Abraham Bolden, the nation's first African-American assigned to Secret Service protection of a president.

As recounted by Bolden's memoir, The Echo from Dealey Plaza and confirmed elsewhere, the pioneering Secret Service officer received a seven-year prison term after he sought to alert the Warren Commission to systemic breakdowns that had occurred in Secret Service protection of President John F. Kennedy before the assassination.

Bolden's two trials and sentence were marred by monumental injustice that included recantation by the major prosecution witness, a Fifth Amendment claim by the prosecutor after being accused of suborning perjury, and then solitary confinement and forced drugging of the defendant.

Bolden's federal trial judge, a native of Alabama born in 1896, at one point actually instructed Bolden's trial jury that it was obligated to find him guilty. Trial transcripts were mysteriously lost, helping thwart his appellate actions, including a request for a new judge.

Bolden, though ailing, is still alive in Chicago and deserves a pardon at least as much as Siegelman.

That's not likely, however, unless the public understands that gross injustice can occur in ways that few bystanders have time or incentive to explore when the vast majority of law enforcement news, including on disputed matters, is generated by the government's public relations apparatus.

Regular readers here know that we have reported extensively why President Kennedy's assassination and botched murder investigation remain especially important to anyone's understanding of current affairs, including the reluctance of the White House, Justice Department, Congress and the courts to exercise their oversight powers on sensitive matters.

It would be difficult to imagine a matter more worthy of concern than the facts behind the history-changing murder of President Kennedy in broad daylight. Yet a major report by the Washington Post Dec. 28 on the history of the Secret Service and its lapses contained not a word about the massive failures during the JFK assassination. This is a standard omission by the nation's media despite many recent news reports about security violations at the White House that understandably create fears that the current president and staff might be attacked again.

But we return below to a narrower focus on the Siegelman case, albeit one of the greatest criminal justice travesties of our time. 

The oppressive details of this prosecution are far too many to mention here even in summary.

But it is worth noting again for new readers that we have often reported how the Bush administration created at vast expense a special task force located at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base to investigate and imprison Siegelman. The task force was led by an Air Force Reserves officer with a joint appointment to the Justice Department. The paramilitary aspect to the prosecution -- particularly witness interrogations at the base to shape the prosecution story -- is almost always omitted from standards news coverage of the case.

Moreover, Alabama's Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller, trial judge for Siegelman, secretly controlled as its largest stockholder Doss Aviation, an Air Force contractor operating from Maxwell-Gunter and globally. Doss received $300 million in Bush contracts without the defendants' knowledge.

This Month’s News

For today's update, let’s start with the official proceedings in court this month.

U.S. District Judge Clay LandU.S. District Judge Clay D. Land, a Republican appointed by President George W. Bush in 2001, denied on Dec. 19 Siegelman’s request for release on bond pending his request for a new trial on for 2006 corruption convictions.

This month, U.S. District Judge Clay D. Land, a Republican appointed by President George W. Bush in 2001, denied on Dec. 19 Siegelman's request for release on bond.

The circuit court assigned Land the case because it has temporarily suspended Fuller from his duties following his arrest on a wife-beating charge in August.

Fuller's wife had been his court bailiff during the Siegelman trial, and like Fuller had been married to someone else at the time. Divorce actions from their then-spouses some two years ago indicated they had been having an affair -- adding yet another irregularity to the proceedings.

In a 31-page decision, Land ruled in essence this month that Siegelman should remain imprisoned because fellow judges have rejected most of his previous appeals to the Eleventh Circuit. Land thus reasoned that the defendant seems unlikely to prevail on his current arguments, which are scheduled to be heard Jan. 13 in Atlanta by the appellate court.

This is how rubber-stamp justice works.

As an alternative, Land could easily have allowed Siegelman bond and perhaps even to gather the evidence that the defendants have repeatedly sought as their Constitutional right since before their 2006 trial. Land himself noted that the government has put Siegelman in a "Catch-22" situation. It controls the evidence he needs to prove unfairness, and has received judicial approvals to refuse him pre-trial and post-trial discovery regarding that evidence.

One key mystery is whether Canary in fact recused from the prosecution because of her financial conflict, or whether she continued in charge, as claimed by the whistleblower Grimes, shown at right. The Justice Department has Tamarah Grimesfailed for more than eight years to comply with defense requests for the paperwork on the recusal, much less cooperate otherwise in fact-finding to resolve the matter.

The mystery's solution is directly relevant to Siegelman's pending appeal:

Siegelman's arguments are that the district court erred: (1) in denying him a new trial based on Canary's participation the prosecution after she purportedly disqualified herself from the case due to a conflict of interest involving the Republican campaign work of her husband, William Canary; (2) when it denied Siegelman discovery requests in support of his motion for new trial, which sought evidence regarding the prosecutor’s conflict of interest; and (3) by enhancing his sentence based on conduct not directly related to his convictions.

Legal blogger Roger Shuler has covered the recusal issue for years. Last week, he published this update to his hundreds of columns: Courts continue to deny discovery on Leura Canary's 'recusal,' pointing to a cover-up in Siegelman case.

Shuler argues that six federal judges have now refused Siegelman's request on the recusal issue, thereby pointing to "a cover-up of criminal behavior that, if fully exposed, could rock our democracy." Shuler has paid a steep price for such writing. In prior restraint of highly dubious legality, a state judge jailed Shuler from October 2013 to the following March to restrain the writer from commentaries that had led to a libel suit. Upon release, Shuler and his wife promptly lost their home in a bankruptcy foreclosure, and have since departed from Alabama.

In 2006, Siegelman's trial judge Mark Fuller imposed a 78-month jail term. The primary reason was because Siegelman had  reappointed the wealthy Republican Alabama businessman Richard Scrushy to an unpaid state regulatory board in 1999 after Scrushy contributed up to $500,000 to a campaign Siegelman supported to create a state lottery.

Bush and Obama Justice Department officials have fought hard to keep Siegelman imprisoned despite evidence of official misconduct by prosecutors, agents, and judges.

CBS “60 Minutes,” for example, broadcast a hard-hitting exposé nearly five years ago, Did Ex-Alabama Governor Get A Raw Deal? The show helped make the prosecution notorious as a global symbol of human rights abuses within the United States. Siegelman is shown in a file photo from the show.

Siegelman supporters appeared en masse in court for his hearing this month while abiding by the defendant's  request not to antagonize the judge by any improper displays.

News reports indicated that the former governor, a tall and traditionally lean fitness buff, seemed about twenty pounds underweight during his court appearance.

Troubling to supporters were the special indignities placed upon the defendant, such as handcuffs and shackles preventing him from taking notes in court, and solitary confinement in Montgomery’s county jail, limiting his outreach. Siegelman’s imprisonment has been in Louisiana’s federal prison at Oakdale despite family requests that he be held closer to home.

In 2009, we began documenting on the Huffington Post's front page gross irregularities by Siegelman's trial judge Fuller. Siegelman Deserves New Trial Because of Judge’s ‘Grudge’, Evidence Shows showed that Fuller had been a longstanding political opponent of Siegelman who “hated” the defendant because of the judge’s own corruption.

Mark Fuller Phil FlemingAs part of the reprisal, Fuller commanded that Siegelman be hauled from the court in shackles, denied appeal bond customary for white-collar offenses, and be placed in solitary confinement and shunted around the prison system, thus limiting contact with family and the news media.

Fuller, rarely photographed aside from his recent mug shots and other portrayals related to his arrest, invited photographer Phil Fleming to take the portrait at right just minutes after Siegelman's conviction in June 2006. Fleming has told me that he urged the seemingly celebratory judge to suppress his smile for purposes of the photo.

Adding further to Siegelman's ordeal is that the defendant’s daughter and chief public advocate, Dana Siegelman, has been recovering from the serious injuries sustained this fall from an unknown hit-and-run driver who smashed her while she was bicycling home from work. Shown below in a file photo, she is currently using a wheelchair.

The defendant had told supporters that his journey from Louisiana for the hearing in Montgomery included a roundabout 10-hour bus trip and seven-hour plane trip, all while confined to at times painful shackles. 

Dana Siegelman

Siegelman and his supporters had been hopeful that Land's order for the defendant to appear in court might be a sign that the judge might order release on appeal bond, pending an appellate decision that might take more than a year after arguments next month.

Siegelman was reportedly warehoused in a tiny cell in Montgomery County's jail, kept in isolation without a change of clothes and unable to see his family.

Also, jailhouse rules more stringent than in the federal prison at Oakdale restricted Siegelman from contacting his attorney, Obama's first White House Counsel Gregory Craig, a prominent private practitioner in Washington. Craig is handling the case pro bono because Siegelman, his family, and supporters are tapped out of funds after many years of fund-raising for legal costs via the site Craig has known Siegelman since the late 1960s.

In general, authorities maintain they impose standard practices in such matters. Even so, those standard practices raise the question of fairness and effectiveness. Thus, Siegelman's ordeal has significance far beyond his personal circumstances.

Summing Up

The Siegelman prosecution is a sample of the life of a defendant. Two of Siegelman's colleagues were acquitted at trial but suffered enormous litigation expenses in a prosecution that has cost taxpayers many millions of dollars. The prosecution was housed at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, and as an example of its open-checkbook dimension the government hired a paralegal at a cost of $500,000 to keep track of prosecution evidence, according to papers arising from the Justice Department's firing of Tamarah Grimes for protesting such excesses.

Co-defendant Richard Scrushy served a seven-year sentence despite weak and disputed evidence from Nick Bailey that Scrushy ever intended that his donation to the lottery fund was to secure a regulatory board seat that Scrushy, a Republican, had held under three previous Republican governors with no inquiry into Scrushy's donations directly to the candidates' campaigns.

The gist is that authorities from jailers to judges to the White House have spent millions of taxpayer dollars on their jihad to ruin the life and family of a white former governor who is well-known internationally as a political prisoner.

The implications are great for those with lesser credentials, clout, or access to the media. Two million American men and women are now behind bars – by far the highest rate in the world.

Thus, the true importance of this saga goes far beyond the suffering of the Siegelman family or even the broader concerns of ex-governor's  constituents as they saw their state transformed in little over a decade into essentially one-party rule that stifled debate on disfavored policies, including Siegelman's advocacy for education funding.

Let's remember that other prisoners and civil litigants operate under the same court system. This could mean you, even if you have nothing to do with Alabama, politics, or policy issues.

Barack ObamaAlso acting as a rubber-stamp for abuses are elected leaders such as Obama, who is entrusted with war-making and information-management powers also.

We can briefly review that track record: To fulfill an aggressively interventionist foreign policy agenda, Obama and his team repeatedly cite human rights abuses elsewhere around the world to initiate deadly economic sanctions, drones, and other warlike actions the American public might not otherwise support. These include covert CIA paramilitary and propaganda initiatives.

Why has President Obama gone along with this? It’s a long story, which we explore in the next part of our series.

As a preview, the late White House correspondent Helen Thomas drew on nearly 70 years experience in covering the White House beginning in 1943 to share with me her general impression of today's leaders as we sat side-by-side at dinner Dec. 7, 2012 at the National Press Club in the country's capital.

“As for Obama," recalled Thomas, "I think he’s weak. He has no courage.”

"We need," Thomas continued, "a stand-up guy to do what’s right for the country.”


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Related News Coverage

Siegelman Case News Killing Atticus Finch, Steve Wimberly (shown at left), Nov. 13, 2014. Steve Wimberly is the writer, director, and producer of the powerful video clip shown above. Editor's Note: This trailer for a projected documentary on the Siegelman case succeeds a KickStarter campaign that closed without reaching its $125,000 goal by the standard deadline of one month. 

Wikipedia, Atticus Finch is a fictional character of Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird. Atticus is a lawyer and resident of the fictional Maycomb County, Alabama, and the father of Jeremy "Jem" Finch and Jean Louise "Scout" Finch. Lee based the character on her own father, Amasa Coleman Lee, an Alabama lawyer who, like Atticus Finch, represented black defendants in a highly publicized criminal trial. Book Magazine's list The 100 Best Characters in Fiction Since 1900 lists Finch as the 7th best fictional character of 20th century literature. In 2003, Atticus Finch, as portrayed by Gregory Peck in the 1962 film adaptation, was voted by the American Film Institute to be the greatest hero in American film.

Montgomery Advertiser, Don Siegelman denied motion for release from prison, Brian Lyman, Dec. 18, 2014. A federal judge Thursday denied former Gov. Don Siegelman release from prison while an appeal of his 2006 conviction on corruption charges goes forward. In a 30-page decision, U.S. District Judge Clay Land, shown in a file photo, wrote that while he believed the record contained evidence that might support the former governor's allegations of prosecutorial misconduct, previous rulings by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals made it unlikely that Siegelman's motion for a new trial would succeed., Clemency for former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman overwhelmingly favored by readers, Jim Stinson, Dec. 19, 2014. When it comes to former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman and his transgressions, readers U.S. District Judge Clay Landare in a forgiving mood. By a margin of almost 50 points, readers believe Siegelman should have his sentence commuted. The readers' poll found 70.8 percent, or 897 respondents, believe Siegelman should get a commutation., Obama refuses to pardon Siegelman for acts less egregious than the president's, John Farmer, Dec. 24, 2014. John J. Farmer, Rutgers Law School, shown in a photo at left, is a professor of law at John FarmerRutgers University, and a former attorney general for the state of New Jersey. President Obama has acted like every one of his predecessors in rewarding his biggest political contributors. But if this time-honored tradition of appointing ambassadors and other officials based largely on political support is so obviously permissible, the question that should trouble the president's conscience is why, if he is willing to make such appointments, he is also content to leave people like [former Alabama Gov.] Don Siegelman in prison. A bipartisan and nonpartisan group of over 100 former state attorneys general -- myself among them -- participated as friends of the court in an unsuccessful effort to persuade the federal appeals court and U.S. Supreme Court to reverse Siegelman's conviction. More recently, as Dean of the Rutgers School of Law, I worked with law students from the Constitutional Litigation Clinic to look at every federal official corruption prosecution over the prior decade. The students' conclusion, as stated nearly two years ago in a Jan. 7, 2013, letter to Obama and the pardon attorney seeking a commutation of Siegelman's sentence, was stark:  "the Siegelman conviction is readily distinguishable from every other contemporaneous corruption prosecution .... 'No charges have been brought against a politician where the quid pro quo is as far attenuated as in the present case.'"

Huffington Post, Cruel Justice: The Case of Don Siegelman, Bennett L. Gershman, June 3, 2014. Of all the egregious instances of misconduct by the Bush administration's Department of Justice -- its ruthless pursuit of voting rights cases and government corruption cases against Democrats and firing U.S. attorneys who resisted -- no case epitomizes the abusive, vindictive, and politically-driven agenda as much as the prosecution of Don Siegelman. In 2002, Siegelman, a Democrat, was governor of the blood-red state of Alabama and was predicted to win re-election. But according to sworn and strongly-corroborated testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, Alabama's top Republican operative Bill Canary contacted Karl Rove and instigated the Justice Department's prosecution of Siegelman. Rove contacted the Public Integrity Section, and Canary declared confidentially that "his girls would take care of Siegelman." When asked who "his girls" were, Canary replied Alice Martin, the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, and Leura Canary, the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama. Leura Canary, by the way, is Bill Canary's wife.

Legal Schnauzer, Courts continue to deny discovery on Leura Canary's 'recusal,' pointing to a cover-up in Siegelman case, Roger Shuler, Dec. 22, 2014. The primary thrust of last week's Don Siegelman story, on the surface, was whether the former Alabama governor would be released from federal prison, pending an appeal before the U.S. Eleventh Circuit in January. New judge Clay Land, on the case in the wake of the Mark Fuller wife-beating scandal, denied Siegelman's request for release -- and that was at the heart of almost all news coverage.

Beneath the surface, and somewhat buried in Land's 31-page opinion, was an issue that is much darker and potentially explosive. In fact, it points to a cover-up of criminal behavior that, if fully exposed, could rock our democracy. We're talking about discovery, specifically an inquiry into the supposed recusal of Leura Canary, the U.S. attorney over the Middle District of Alabama, where the Siegelman case was held. On page 3 of his order, Land states that discovery on the Canary recusal is one of three issues Siegelman raises on appeal -- then the judge waits until the final four pages to address it, stating that "the Court leaves the most difficult issue for last." Siegelman presented evidence that Leura Canary had a financial interest in his case. Thanks to whistleblower Tamarah Grimes, he presented evidence that Canary did not abide by her announced recusal. Part of Siegelman's case before Land was a request to conduct formal discovery on the issue of Canary and her failure to fully recuse. By my unofficial count, Land became the sixth judge to deny such discovery., Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman could soon be released from prison, Jim Stinson, Dec. 15, 2014. Looking thin and dressed in a reddish jumpsuit with a chain around his waist, former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman appeared on Monday in U.S. District Court in Montgomery, asking for temporary release from prison as he awaits a new appeal. Siegelman, a Democrat, was convicted by a federal court in 2006 on bribery, conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges in connection for appointing former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy to a place on a health planning board in return for a $500,000 donation to the governor's campaign for a statewide lottery. Scrushy also served prison time for the scheme, but was released in 2012. Siegelman is serving a 78-month term. Of that, he has served more than 35 months. As the appeal makes it way through federal court, Siegelman would like to be released temporarily while awaiting the appellate case resolution.

Project on Government Oversight (POGO), Justice Department Downplays Evidence of Politics in Probe of Governor, Adam Zagorin, Dec. 11, 2014. New evidence related to one of the most controversial public corruption cases in recent years, the 2006 conviction of Alabama’s former Democratic Governor, Don Siegelman, indicates that Department of Justice prosecutors were thinking and acting in partisan terms when they probed the governor’s administration. The same evidence illustrates a systemic problem at the Justice Department: When the Department investigates allegations of misconduct by its own prosecutors, it typically avoids transparency or public accountability. As a result, the public can be left with a question: Is the Justice Department whitewashing prosecutorial abuse?

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. These are the opinions of Missouri attorney Paul B. Weeks, who is speaking out publicly for the first time since his effort in 2003 to obtain the impeachment of U.S. District Judge Mark E. Fuller of Montgomery on Doss Aviation-related allegations.

CBS 60 MinutesDid Ex-Alabama Governor Get A Raw Deal? Scott Pelley, Feb. 24, 2008. 

George BeckJustice Integrity Project, Part I: Senate Must Grill Tainted Alabama DOJ Nominee, Andrew Kreig, April 5, 2011. President Obama ended more than two years of high-profile White House indecision March 31 by naming the prominent Alabama attorney George L. Beck as his nominee to become U.S. attorney for the state’s Montgomery-based middle district. Despite an impressive career overall, Beck (shown at left) is a horrible choice because he was a compliant defense attorney in the notorious prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman’s, the state’s leading Democrat.

Justice Integrity Project, Part II: Bailey-Beck Siegelman Frame-up, Andrew Kreig, April 6, 2011. Two videos, one from June 2007 and another just seven months later in 2008, illustrate why George Beck is such a bad choice as the Obama nominee to run Alabama’s troubled middle district office in the state capital of Montgomery. 

Other Cases

Nieman Watchdog, New Questions Raised About Prosecutor Who Cleared Bush Officials in U.S. Attorney Firings, Andrew Kreig, July 25, 2010. Four days before Nora Dannehy was appointed to investigate the Bush administration’s U.S. attorney firing scandal, a team of lawyers she led was found to have illegally suppressed evidence in a major political corruption case. Andrew Kreig writes that this previously unreported fact calls her entire investigation into question as well as that of a similar investigation by her colleague John Durham of DOJ and CIA decision-making involving torture.

IPR 6Justice Integrity Project, 'A Just Cause' Provides National Model For Grassroots Legal Reform, Andrew Kreig, Sept. 4, 2014. A Colorado-based legal reform group provides an effective model for other groups nationally. The group A Just Cause began by advocating for six software engineers (shown at left). Most are African-American veterans serving remarkably long prison terms without appeal bond for their disputed convictions on corruption charges. The prosecution was based on a bankruptcy, normally a civil matter, arising from their demonstrable efforts to create software serving law enforcement agencies. We at the Justice Integrity Project became impressed with A Just Cause's leaders -- volunteers from the defendants' church and family circles -- and their reform efforts by meeting them in the nation’s capital this summer, reading their materials, and being hosted on their radio show.

Washington Post, Critical decisions after 9/11 led to slow, steady decline in quality for Secret Service, Carol D. Leonnig, Dec. 28, 2014. Recent security lapses can be traced to growing post-9/11 demands, combined with tight budgets and the loss of experience -- leaving a weakened agency.