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There is a case south of the Mason-Dixon line that resembles the Thompson case in some respects, except that the prosecutorial misconduct appears if anything more serious and more pervasive. In fact, the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman looks like the material for a novel by Dickens’s friend Wilkie Collins, something on the order of The Lady in White: it involves dark, carefully contrived conspiracies which knit together a number of state’s Republican political bigwigs, Karl Rove (who of course achieved a political rebirth of sorts by managing elections in Alabama in which he worked with just the crew involved in the Siegelman conspiracy), and various Department of Justice officials.
Added to all this the unmistakable signs of judicial forum shopping. The case was first brought before a judge in Northern Alabama, who threw it out, raising a number of issues yet unanswered. The prosecutors responded to this rebuff by fishing for a judge more to their liking, and on their next try they landed a federal judge with deep roots in Alabama Republican politics, a relatively shallow judicial résumé and a more-than-indulgent attitude towards the prosecutors.
And a still unrebutted sworn declaration by a Republican attorney firmly links Karl Rove to the whole grand design – as its ringmaster.
As in the Thompson case, this one went to trial on bizarrely thin evidence and “come-again” accusations, and it produced a conviction. The core allegation is that HealthSouth Corp. executive Richard Scrushy was appointed to the Alabama Certificate of Need Board, which governs hospital expansions, and that in exchange for this appointment he gave a donation to the Alabama Education Foundation, an organization then promoting the use of the lottery to raise money for educational expenses in the Heart of Dixie. There is no allegation that the appointment was anything other than a public service position, and in fact HealthSouth Corp. had no interests before it. Moreover, Scrushy, a fixture in the state’s healthcare system, had previously been appointed to the same board by three governors. Similarly, there was no benefit to Siegelman or to his election efforts. You might say that Scrushy was supporting Siegelman’s favorite charity, of course. Still, you’d be right to demand to know just exactly how this is “corrupt.” It’s the same sort of hysterical overreaching that marked the Thompson case, not the sort of calm assessment that would be made by a balanced, fair federal prosecutor.
There was also essentially unrefuted evidence of serious misconduct by the jury involving the circulation of improper emails reflecting predeliberation and contamination of the case with outside manipulation. For another federal judge, this evidence might well have resulted in a decision to throw the verdict out. But not the judge sitting in the Siegelman case. These and other remarkable issues with the Siegelman case are spread out in an op-ed published yesterday in the Montgomery Advertiser by Julian McPhillips, a former Scrushy lawyer. I’ve taken some time to look at them and found that every one of Mr. McPhillips’s allegations is accurate. Taken together, they convert this case into a three-alarm fire.
Moreover, let’s compare the allegations against Siegelman with Abramoff’s funneling of millions in campaign contributions from Native American tribes in Mississippi into the political coffers of Siegelman’s opponent – Alabama Governor Bob Riley – going on at just this time. In exchange, Riley was expected to intervene to shut down the gambling aspirations of some of his own Alabama constituents. And Riley did just as he was bade to do. Now that’s corruption. And what did the U.S. Attorney in Montgomery, who brought the case against Siegelman, do about that? Well, she seems to have actually been a potential actor in connection with the corruption, having secured appointment to a licensing board which would control the question. And her tight links to Siegelman’s political nemesis, Riley, are uncontested. She is in fact the wife of one of Karl Rove’s bosom buddies, a leading mover in the Alabama GOP, William Canary.
Prosecutors handling the Siegelman case sought a thirty-year sentence for Siegelman, arguing that it was “part of a systematic and pervasive corruption” of public office. As things stand right now, Siegelman has been convicted, but the far more potent evidence of systematic and pervasive corruption points to the conduct of the justice officials handling this case. It’s about time to start a serious investigation of this whole prosecution, from the beginning.
And no, there isn’t a person in the country who would have any confidence in the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility to do that job. It requires a special prosecutor of unquestioned integrity and independence with no attachments to Karl Rove, Alberto Gonzales or Alabama Republican politics. I have two trustworthy Republicans in mind for the job: David Iglesias of New Mexico and John McKay of Seattle.
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp
From the June 2014 issue
For the past three years my dosimeter had sat silently on a narrow shelf just inside the door of a house in Tokyo, upticking its final digit every twenty-four hours by one or two, the increase never failing — for radiation is the ruthless companion of time. Wherever we are, radiation finds and damages us, at best imperceptibly. During those three years, my American neighbors had lost sight of the accident at Fukushima. In March 2011, a tsunami had killed hundreds, or thousands; yes, they remembered that. Several also recollected the earthquake that caused it, but as for the hydrogen explosion and containment breach at Nuclear Plant No. 1, that must have been fixed by now — for its effluents no longer shone forth from our national news. Meanwhile, my dosimeter increased its figure, one or two digits per day, more or less as it would have in San Francisco — well, a trifle more, actually. And in Tokyo, as in San Francisco, people went about their business, except on Friday nights, when the stretch between the Kasumigaseki and Kokkai-Gijido-mae subway stations — half a dozen blocks of sidewalk, which commenced at an antinuclear tent that had already been on this spot for more than 900 days and ended at the prime minister’s lair — became a dim and feeble carnival of pamphleteers and Fukushima refugees peddling handicrafts.
One Friday evening, the refugees’ half of the sidewalk was demarcated by police barriers, and a line of officers slouched at ease in the street, some with yellow bullhorns hanging from their necks. At the very end of the street, where the National Diet glowed white and strange behind other buildings, a policeman set up a microphone, then deployed a small video camera in the direction of the muscular young people in drums against fascists jackets who now, at six-thirty sharp, began chanting: “We don’t need nuclear energy! Stop nuclear power plants! Stop them, stop them, stop them! No restart! No restart!” The police assumed a stiffer stance; the drumming and chanting were almost uncomfortably loud. Commuters hurried past along the open space between the police and the protesters, staring straight ahead, covering their ears. Finally, a fellow in a shabby sweater appeared, and murmured along with the chants as he rounded the corner. He was the only one who seemed to sympathize; few others reacted at all.
Number of U.S. congressional districts in which trade with China has produced more jobs than it has cost:
Young bilingual children who learned one language first are likelier than monolingual children and bilingual children who learned languages simultaneously to say that a dog adopted by owls will hoot.
An Oklahoma legislative committee voted to defund Advanced Placement U.S. History courses, accusing the curriculum of portraying the United States as “a nation of oppressors and exploiters.”
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