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The Court of Appeals in Atlanta today upheld most of the convictions delivered against former Governor Don Siegelman, rejecting only two of the counts. In particular, the Court sustained charges that Siegelman behaved corruptly when, after a foundation received a contribution from insurance executive Richard Scrushy, he appointed Scrushy to a regulatory board. The Court found that the jury in the case was within its rights when it found that Siegelman’s appointment was a quid pro quo in exchange for the contribution to the foundation.
The Court also concluded that there was no clear evidence that Judge Mark Everett Fuller, in sentencing Siegelman, retaliated against Siegelman for arguing that the prosecution was politically motivated. They overturned two of Siegelman’s convictions and are therefore sending the matter back to Judge Fuller for resentencing.
There are two points to consider. First, nearly all the disclosures that undermined confidence in the fairness of the Siegelman trial occurred after the trial record was closed–and none of these disclosures were examined by the Court of Appeals. Even though the appeals court looked into jury misconduct, it did not have before it the much more powerful evidence of misconduct that a whistleblowing member of the prosecution team subsequently disclosed to the Justice Department—because the Bush Justice Department, in violation of its plain ethical duties, chose to keep all of that secret. So although an appeal has been taken and resolved, not one of the truly significant issues with the Siegelman case was ever briefed or argued. That remains for the future.
Second, the opinion in this case was rendered “per curiam.” That’s often the approach taken by judges when they don’t want to own up to their own writing. In my opinion none of the judges would want to own up to being the author of this opinion, with its technically well-justified but nevertheless obviously unjust conclusions. This was a panel consisting entirely of Republican judges, and two of the three had an active record of political engagement in G.O.P. causes. They were a distinctly hostile audience for Governor Siegelman, and many passages of the opinion, to my eyes, reflect this.
The Siegelman case has already left much of the nation convinced that federal prosecutors bring corruption cases as a matter of political gamesmanship–not out of concern for law enforcement. I doubt this decision will do much to change that perception.
More from Scott Horton:
Conversation — March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm
Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.
Freddie Gray’s relatives arrived for the trial in the afternoon, after the prep-school kids had left. By their dress, they seemed to have just gotten off work in the medical and clerical fields. The family did not appear at ease in the courtroom. They winced and dropped their heads as William Porter and his fellow officer Zachary Novak testified to opening the doors of their police van last April and finding Freddie paralyzed, unresponsive, with mucus pooling at his mouth and nose. Four women and one man mournfully listened as the officers described needing to get gloves before they could touch him.
The first of six Baltimore police officers to be brought before the court for their treatment of Freddie Gray, a black twenty-five-year-old whose death in their custody was the immediate cause of the city’s uprising last spring, William Porter is young, black, and on trial. Here in this courtroom, in this city, in this nation, race and the future seem so intertwined as to be the same thing.
Number of Turkish college students detained in the last year for requesting Kurdish-language classes:
Turkey was funding a search for Suleiman the Magnificent’s heart.
A former prison in Philadelphia that has served as a horror-movie set was being prepared as a detention center for protesters arrested at the upcoming Democratic National Convention, and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump fired his campaign manager.
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“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”