No Comment — July 21, 2009, 11:17 am

Sexual Blackmail in the Siegelman Case?

We can now add sexual blackmail to the long list of misconduct charges lodged against the federal prosecutors who led a vendetta-like case against former Alabama Governor Don E. Siegelman. In an affidavit filed in support of Siegelman’s request for a new trial, a prominent Alabama businessman, Stan Pate, describes how federal prosecutors and investigators threatened to disclose innuendo about the sexuality of a key witness, former Siegelman aide Nick Bailey. The feds hinted about disclosing an improper liaison between him and the former governor to secure his cooperation. No evidence of these questions or of Bailey’s answers appeared in reports prepared by the feds and turned over in discovery. The case therefore adds to a growing mound of credible allegations that public integrity prosecutors violated the law by suppressing exculpatory evidence and engaged in unethical and possibly illegal conduct in pursuit of their claims.

In a declaration filed in federal court, Pate states:

Nick was told that the government was working to prevent the publicizing of an alleged sexual relationship between Nick and Don Siegelman. Nick also told me that one of the agents working the Siegelman/Scrushy prosecution asked him whether he had ever taken illegal drugs with Governor Siegelman or had a sexual relationship with him. These comments had a dramatic effect on Nick, and, in my observation, added significantly to the pressure he felt to go along with whatever the prosecutors wanted him to say.

These developments are discussed in an article in the Huffington Post by attorney-journalist Andrew Kreig published this morning.

As misconduct allegations against the prosecution team continue to mount and are now increasingly corroborated by a key source inside the prosecution team, whistleblower Tamarah Grimes, no sign of action by the main Justice Department in Washington can be detected. When Grimes was fired last month, Justice figures provided conflicting explanations of the reasons for her termination. All of the explanations were, however, clearly linked to her whistleblower activities–raising questions about the Justice Department’s compliance with whistleblower protection legislation. In response to inquiries, the Justice Department insisted that it “takes seriously its obligation under the whistleblower law” and did not violate the law, without offering any further explanation.

Moreover, Leura Canary, the U.S. attorney in Montgomery, remains in office after Alabama Republican senators Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby derailed the Obama administration’s efforts to put a successor in place by lodging objections. While Sessions and Shelby both deny they’re trying to keep Canary in office, the consequence of their serial objections, for which they offer no public explanation, is just that. Both show remarkable concern about the prospect of Canary’s removal and replacement by a new prosecutor unconnected to them. What has Jeff Sessions so bothered? I have a hunch.

Time’s Adam Zagorin reported in 2007 that a key witness in the Siegelman investigation offered evidence implicating Sessions in bribery allegations far more substantial than those raised against Siegelman. The prosecutor handling the matter quickly scurried to sweep these allegations under the carpet. I then disclosed that the prosecutor handling the matter was the wife of Sessions’s attorney, a fact that under applicable Justice ethics standards required her withdrawal from the matter. It appears that the Justice Department has never investigated or acted on any of this evidence of prosecutorial misconduct involving Sessions. While the statute of limitations may now shield Sessions from criminal charges, a new U.S. attorney in Montgomery may very well feel compelled to examine the gross and ongoing ethics lapses within the office.

Canary, who oversaw the prosecution of Siegelman even as she purported to have recused herself from the case, is the wife of William Canary, a leading Alabama G.O.P. campaign advisor and close friend of Karl Rove.

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Ashley arrived for her prenatal appointment at Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Rapid City, South Dakota, wearing a black zip-up hoodie and Converse sneakers.1 To explain her absence from work that morning — a Tuesday in April 2015 — she had told a co-worker that she was having “female issues.” She was twenty-five years old and eight weeks pregnant. She had been separated from her husband, with whom she had a five-year-old son, for the better part of a year. The guy who’d gotten her pregnant was someone she’d met at the gym, and he’d made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Ashley found herself hoping that the doctor would discover some kind of fetal defect, so that her decision would be easier. She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. “Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.”

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Ashley arrived for her prenatal appointment at Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Rapid City, South Dakota, wearing a black zip-up hoodie and Converse sneakers.1 To explain her absence from work that morning — a Tuesday in April 2015 — she had told a co-worker that she was having “female issues.” She was twenty-five years old and eight weeks pregnant. She had been separated from her husband, with whom she had a five-year-old son, for the better part of a year. The guy who’d gotten her pregnant was someone she’d met at the gym, and he’d made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Ashley found herself hoping that the doctor would discover some kind of fetal defect, so that her decision would be easier. She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. “Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.”

In the exam room, she perched on the table with her feet crossed at the ankles, her blond hair brushing the back of her pink hospital gown. “I don’t know what’s available for me here,” she told her doctor, Katherine Degen, who sat facing her on a stool. “I figured nothing.”

 Some names and identifying details have been changed. 

“Big, fat zero, unfortunately,” Degen said, making a 0 with her fingers. The last doctor who provided abortions in Rapid City retired in 1986, three years before Ashley was born.

The baby was due in November, when Ashley, who was a nurse, hoped to be enrolled in a graduate program to become a nurse practitioner. Getting pregnant as a teenager had forced her to put that dream on hold, but she had thought that she was finally ready; she had even submitted her application shortly before the March 15 deadline. For the first time in her adult life, Ashley felt as if her plans were coming together. Then she missed her period.

It would be too difficult to attend school as a single mother of two, Ashley knew. She had made an appointment for three weeks from now at the nearest abortion clinic, in Billings, Montana, 318 miles away. But just a week and a half ago, her husband had said he wanted to get back together and offered to raise the child as his own. Was it a sign that she was meant to continue the pregnancy? As a rule, Ashley approached her problems with resolve. She was capable and tough; she liked shooting guns and lifting weights. She kept track of her stats and checked off her goals as she achieved them one by one. Yet the dilemma before her had shaken her confidence. She leaned back and turned to watch the ultrasound screen. The black-and-white image danced. A sharp, fast thumping emerged from the machine. As Degen removed the wand, Ashley wiped the corner of her eye.

Artwork by Imre Kinszki © Imre Kinszki Estate
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Ashley arrived for her prenatal appointment at Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Rapid City, South Dakota, wearing a black zip-up hoodie and Converse sneakers.1 To explain her absence from work that morning — a Tuesday in April 2015 — she had told a co-worker that she was having “female issues.” She was twenty-five years old and eight weeks pregnant. She had been separated from her husband, with whom she had a five-year-old son, for the better part of a year. The guy who’d gotten her pregnant was someone she’d met at the gym, and he’d made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Ashley found herself hoping that the doctor would discover some kind of fetal defect, so that her decision would be easier. She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. “Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.”

In the exam room, she perched on the table with her feet crossed at the ankles, her blond hair brushing the back of her pink hospital gown. “I don’t know what’s available for me here,” she told her doctor, Katherine Degen, who sat facing her on a stool. “I figured nothing.”

 Some names and identifying details have been changed. 

“Big, fat zero, unfortunately,” Degen said, making a 0 with her fingers. The last doctor who provided abortions in Rapid City retired in 1986, three years before Ashley was born.

The baby was due in November, when Ashley, who was a nurse, hoped to be enrolled in a graduate program to become a nurse practitioner. Getting pregnant as a teenager had forced her to put that dream on hold, but she had thought that she was finally ready; she had even submitted her application shortly before the March 15 deadline. For the first time in her adult life, Ashley felt as if her plans were coming together. Then she missed her period.

It would be too difficult to attend school as a single mother of two, Ashley knew. She had made an appointment for three weeks from now at the nearest abortion clinic, in Billings, Montana, 318 miles away. But just a week and a half ago, her husband had said he wanted to get back together and offered to raise the child as his own. Was it a sign that she was meant to continue the pregnancy? As a rule, Ashley approached her problems with resolve. She was capable and tough; she liked shooting guns and lifting weights. She kept track of her stats and checked off her goals as she achieved them one by one. Yet the dilemma before her had shaken her confidence. She leaned back and turned to watch the ultrasound screen. The black-and-white image danced. A sharp, fast thumping emerged from the machine. As Degen removed the wand, Ashley wiped the corner of her eye.

Photograph (detail) by Balazs Gardi
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"She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. 'Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.'"
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