No Comment — June 1, 2007, 5:23 pm

U.S. Attorneys Scandal—Birmingham

Some months ago one of my Alabama relations mentioned that she had been tracking the prosecution of Governor Don Siegelman, a Democrat. “There’s something awfully fishy about this whole prosecution. It just doesn’t smell right. It smells like politics.” Don Siegelman is scheduled to be sentenced on June 26, and as his hearing approaches, the stench surrounding the whole case is beginning to rise and engulf the U.S. attorney’s office.

Today, The New York Times’s Edmund Andrews takes an in-depth look at the Siegelman prosecution, and it reveals that the suspicions targeting the U.S. attorney fit a familiar pattern. At the center is an affidavit which exposes a Republican political cabal aimed at using the machinery of prosecution to bring down the Democratic governor as the first step in an effort to retake the Statehouse in Montgomery for the GOP.

Now they have an affidavit from a lawyer who says she heard a top Republican operative in Alabama boast in 2002 that the United States attorneys in Alabama would “take care” of Mr. Siegelman. The operative, William Canary, is married to the United States attorney in Montgomery, Leura G. Canary. Mr. Canary, who heads the Business Council of Alabama, was an informal adviser to Bob Riley, a Republican, who defeated Mr. Siegelman in 2002. Earlier, Mr. Canary worked in the White House under President Bush’s father and has close ties to Karl Rove, Mr. Bush’s top political strategist.

In the affidavit, the lawyer, Jill Simpson, said Mr. Canary’s remark was made in a conference call with her and Rob Riley, Governor Riley’s son and campaign manager. Ms. Simpson said Mr. Canary assured the younger Mr. Riley that “his girls would take care of” Mr. Siegelman before he had a chance to run for the governor’s seat in 2006 and identified “his girls” as Leura Canary and Alice Martin, the United States attorney in Birmingham.

Neither Ms. Martin nor her office have offered much by way of retort to these explosive accusations, and, of course, they stack up perfectly against a pattern which has now been demonstrated all across the country – the prosecution by Steven Biskupic in Milwaukee of a key Wisconsin civil servant, which also had the subtext of attempting to bring down a Democratic governor, for instance. That case also produced a conviction, but was unanimously reversed by the Seventh Circuit, with its prominent Reaganite chief judge calling the whole case “preposterous.” And as the facts of the case were spelled out, any reader wonders not just how a jury could convict, but how and why a prosecutor would bring such a charge.

Ms. Martin’s handling of the case was a cakewalk no doubt, because in these days just about anyone is prepared to accept the suggestion that a politician is corrupt. Indeed, it’s the conventional wisdom. The presumption of innocence is a quaint notion which has never, practically speaking, had much effect in our courts. To the contrary, it is quite overwhelmed by confidence in the impartiality and integrity of the federal prosecutor. Or at least it was.

The other really troubling aspect of the Siegelman case is the nature of the corruption that Ms. Martin claims the governor committed. He’s not accused of pocketing a single penny. Instead, the accusation against him is that he steered donors to pay down the debts of an organization that lobbied for a state lottery. If this is corruption, then it’s exactly the sort of corruption that Karl Rove is engaged in virtually every day, with total impunity from the Department of Justice. But Ms. Martin is seeking thirty years as a prison term for Siegelman – a sentencing request which only serves to confirm suspicions that she has used the case for partisan political purposes. As Joshua Micah Marshall points out, Siegelman’s offense (if it is an offense) is a bare peccadillo in comparison with what Duke Cunningham did (which was essentially to sell his vote and power as a senior member of Congress for fixed cash payments), but Cunningham got eight years. Ah, but we forget. There is a clear distinction to be drawn between these two public servants – Siegelman is a Democrat, and Cunningham is a Republican. Obviously the sentencing guidelines used by the Department of Justice now sport two columns: the first headed “R,” and the second “D and other.”

In the end, however, it’s completely clear that the Siegelman case is about corruption. It’s just unclear that Siegelman is the corrupt party. That charge may come better to rest ultimately in the U.S. attorney’s office.

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Six Questions October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm

The APA Grapples with Its Torture Demons: Six Questions for Nathaniel Raymond

Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.

No Comment, Six Questions June 4, 2014, 8:00 am

Uncovering the Cover Ups: Death Camp in Delta

Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp

From the June 2014 issue

The Guantánamo “Suicides,” Revisited

A missing document suggests a possible CIA cover-up

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

March 2015

A Sage in Harlem

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Man Stopped

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Spy Who Fired Me

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Giving Up the Ghost

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Invisible and Insidious

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
No Slant to the Sun·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“She didn’t speak the language, beyond “¿cuánto?” and “demasiado,” but that didn’t stop her. She wanted things. She wanted life, new experiences, a change in the routine.”
Photograph © Stuart Franklin/Magnum Photos
[Browsings]
Burn After Reading·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

William Powell published The Anarchist Cookbook in 1971. He spent the next four decades fighting to take it out of print.
“The book has hovered like an awkward question on the rim of my consciousness for years.”
© JP Laffont/Sygma/Corbis
Article
The Fourth Branch·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Both the United States and the Soviet Union saw student politics as a proxy battleground for their rivalry.”
Photograph © Gerald R. Brimacombe/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
Article
The Spy Who Fired Me·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“In industry after industry, this data collection is part of an expensive, high-tech effort to squeeze every last drop of productivity from corporate workforces.”
Illustration by John Ritter
Article
Invisible and Insidious·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Wherever we are, radiation finds and damages us, at best imperceptibly.”
Photograph © 2011 Massimo Mastrorillo and Donald Weber/VII

Number of U.S. congressional districts in which trade with China has produced more jobs than it has cost:

1

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.”

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Driving Mr. Albert

By

He could be one of a million beach-bound, black-socked Florida retirees, not the man who, by some odd happenstance of life, possesses the brain of Albert Einstein — literally cut it out of the dead scientist's head.

Subscribe Today