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In a bizarre twist in an increasingly inexplicable case, prosecutors in proceedings in Montgomery today argued to federal district court judge Mark Fuller that former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman should be sentenced to thirty years in prison on account of accusations they presented to the jury, and the jury rejected. Even more remarkably, Fuller appears prepared to accept these arguments. In a sign of the fairness of treatment that has characterized the entire proceeding, the judge granted the prosecutors two full days to present them, and Siegelman one day to respond. Repeatedly the prosecutors claimed that Siegelman “lined his pockets” and claimed that he was the “nexus of a pay to play” system. The problem with this is that no evidence of personal benefit to Siegelman was ever offered.
Moreover, now the nation’s leading authority under the Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) has weighed in. Unable to build a direct corruption case, prosecutors relied on a much abused statute designed to help prosecutors battling organized crime in bringing a case. Professor G. Robert Blakey, a former prosecutor and now a law professor who advised Congress in enacting RICO called the entire case against Siegelman a “garbage can” and “a joke.” The New York Times reports:
The shakiness of the federal case against Mr. Siegelman had forced prosecutors to “adopt the garbage-can theory of RICO,” said G. Robert Blakey, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame and former prosecutor, referring to the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act. Professor Blakey suggested that the charges against Mr. Siegelman had been indiscriminate from the outset.
“It’s a joke,” Professor Blakey said. “A guy walks in, gives a contribution, and gets an appointment? Until Congress reforms this, this is the system we live under. They are criminalizing this contribution.” Furthermore, Mr. Blakey derided the prosecutors’ racketeering case against Mr. Siegelman. “It’s the worst-drafted RICO I’ve ever seen,” said the professor, whose career at the Justice Department began in 1960. “You find as much trash as you can, then you dump it in.”
The prosecution against Siegelman was commenced by U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama Leura Canary, the wife of a prominent Republican campaign manager and organizer, William Canary. It was brought before Judge Fuller, a lifelong Republican political activist, in an act of judicial forum shopping after a prior charge was dismissed with prejudice with another federal judge. The prior judge had suggested prosecutorial misconduct in the bringing of the charges.
The most recent bombshell in the case was a sworn affidavit submitted by a Republican attorney, who disclosed that the entire prosecution was a vendetta organized by William Canary in conjunction with Karl Rove. Canary is quoted as stating that “his girls” would go after Siegelman. Leura Canary nominally dropped out of managing the prosecution after her conflict was raised by Siegelman’s counsel. Lead federal prosecutor Louis Franklin claims that he has managed the case alone following Canary’s recusal, but his claims are contradicted even by his own statements, which openly acknowledge guidance in the case from the Washington-based Public Integrity Unit of the Department of Justice – a group now at the center of a maelstrom of controversy surrounding politically corrupted prosecutions. Moreover, notwithstanding her purported recusal, Canary continued to be involved in the case. She has even continued to give comments about the case to the news media, including yesterday to the Los Angeles Times, conduct which cannot be reconciled with her claims to be uninvolved in it.
It is extremely noteworthy that the Department of Justice refused to comply with a FOIA request seeking documents concerning the initiation of Siegelman case. The reasons for its stonewalling grow more obvious with every passing day, and add to the suspicions of politically motivated corruption in the prosecution. Six attorneys general from around the country have now expressed their concern about irregularities and misconduct in the Siegelman prosecution. Several of them have suggested that Congressional oversight committees conduct a probe of the circumstances of the prosecution, and place those who have conducted the prosecution under oath after the issuance of cautions and document preservation letters. That is the most likely next phase of the case.
More from Scott Horton:
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Chances that a deep breath inhaled today will contain a molecule from Julius Caesar’s dying breath:
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“American politics has often been an arena for angry minds.”