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The Supreme Court has just handed down an order vacating the conviction of former Alabama Governor Don E. Siegelman for honest-services fraud and referring the case for review by the Eleventh Circuit in light of its ruling in Skilling v. United States. (PDF) This decision does not necessarily mark the end of Siegelman’s ordeal. The Supreme Court split on the constitutionality of the honest-services fraud statute under which Siegelman was convicted, on evidence subsequently revealed to have been improperly coerced. Three justices felt the entire statute was unconstitutional and should fall. The remaining six attempted to salvage something from it but also expressed concern about the way the Justice Department was interpreting and applying the statute, and insisted that it be considerably narrowed. With this decision, the ball is back in the Justice Department’s court. It should take full measure of the Skilling decision and abandon the case against Siegelman, which is probably the single most abusive use of the honest-services fraud statute yet—surely more abusive than that of the Skilling case itself. But we’re dealing with a Justice Department that never admits a lapse in judgment, much less abuse of prosecutorial discretion—both of which were in ready supply in this highest profile political prosecution in recent American history. So it will be up to the Eleventh Circuit to apply the Skilling ruling, and then perhaps the case will make a return trip to the High Court if it reinstates any aspect of the Siegelman conviction.
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.
I sat in a taxi with Emma and her son, Stak, all three bodies muscled into the rear seat, and the boy checked the driver’s I.D. and immediately began to speak to the man in an unrecognizable language.
I conferred quietly with Emma, who said he was studying Pashto, privately, in his spare time. Afghani, she said, to enlighten me further.
Number of cows electrocuted by a faulty milking machine in Maidstone, England, last March:
Entomologists working in Iran and Turkey learned that a rare species of solitary bee builds brood chambers of brightly colored flower petals.
The Finnish postal service announced it will begin mowing lawns on Tuesdays.
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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.'”