In an effort led by Republicans, 44 former state Attorney Generals signed a petition of July 13, 2007 addressed to the Chairs of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees asking for a full review of the investigation, prosecution, sentencing, and detention of former Democratic Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. Siegelman was convicted of re-appointing healthcare executive Richard Scrushy to a hospital board in exchange for a $500,000 donation to a lottery campaign. The government sought 30 years but, on conviction, he was sentenced to 7 years 4 months. Despite not being a flight risk and having substantial grounds for appeal, he was immediately remanded into custody by Judge Mark Fuller a former member of the Alabama’s GOP Executive Committee (who did not recuse himself despite the fact that he publicly claimed Siegleman had a grudge against him).
There is more than a hint that the prosecution was politically motivated. Although two career prosecutors decided that the Siegelman case did not warrant being pursued, it was due to pressure from higher level political appointees. The government coached its star witness Nick Bailey (a con currently doing time), allowed him to testify to matters it knew to be false, and improperly kept from the defense Bailey’s notes which proved this.
In addition, a lawyer Dana Jill Simpson working on Republican Bob Riley’s gubernatorial campaign submitted an affidavit describing a 2002 conference call in which a top GOP strategist Bill Canary who ran the Riley campaign said Karl Rove had promised him that the Department of Justice would go after Siegelman. In the event, an investigation was begun by US Attorney Leura Canary, Bill Canary’s wife. She recused herself only after objections were raised by Siegelman’s attorneys. The case was taken over by Acting US Attorney Louis V. Franklin who claimed he decided "independently" to pursue an investigation which had already been going on for months.
The conservative 11th Circuit Court of Appeals demanded in September and again in November 2007 that Judge Fuller give a more detailed explanation why Siegelman was not freed on bond pending appeal. To date Fuller has essentially blown them off insisting, despite the Circuit Court’s pretty evident telegraphing to the contrary, that an appeal would be unlikely to succeed. On March 27, 2008, the 11th Circuit did indeed order Siegelman freed pending appeal. On the same day, the House Judiciary Committee announced its intention to call Siegelman to testify on his case.
A May 11, 2008 Washington Post story reported that the Justice Department’s Office of Special Counsel opened an investigation into a possible political motivation for the Siegelman prosecution but that it was closed down on October 11, 2007 by the OSC’s controversial head Scott Bloch.
On May 22, 2008, the House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed Rove for a July 10, 2008 appearance to discuss his involvement in the Siegelman case. At the same time, the House Judiciary Committee released a May 5, 2008 letter from the Department of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) which stated that it too was looking into political motivations for the Siegelman and other prosecutions.
A November 14, 2008 Time story reports that documents furnished by a whistleblower who worked in the Montgomery, Alabama office, Tamarah Grimes, show that the original prosecutor Leura Canary who recused herself because of her husband’s political connections continued to monitor the case on a day to day basis and gave the Siegelman prosecutors advice in emails which they, in fact, followed. In addition, Grimes alleged that some of the jurors sent messages (including some from a juror who apparently had a crush on one of the prosecutors) to the prosecution team through US Marshals. A subsequent report by the DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility dismissed this claim even though its investigators never contacted any of the jurors or US Marshals reportedly involved.
I never thought that any case could top Moussaoui’s (item 274) in its epic bungling by both the judge and prosecution but I have to say the Siegelman case has them beat. I can not conceive of a more gratuitously political prosecution conducted by a bigger bunch of political hacks and criminal incompetents presided over by a judge who could hardly have been less effective if he had been in a coma. This is a travesty of justice that even a Banana Republics would not lay claim to.