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Siegelman Sentenced; Riley Rushes to Washington

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United States District Court Judge Mark Fuller has sentenced former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman to a term of over seven years in prison and a fine of $50,000. The sentence was imposed this evening in the Montgomery federal courthouse.

In the final session of the proceedings, prosecutors insisted that Siegelman’s term be increased because of his exemplary record as a prosecutor and the fact that he aggressively enforced the law as the state’s attorney general. Yes, you read that correctly. Like a great many scenes from this case, this falls into the not-to-be-believed category, but catch it here in the AP wire account:

But chief prosecutor Louis Franklin said Siegelman deserves a harsh sentence partly because of his tough stance against crime.

Judge Fuller, a lifelong Republican Party activist who participated in two bitterly fought election campaigns against Siegelman and then rejected motions for his recusal, decried Siegelman’s refusal to admit his guilt, implying that his continuing protestations of innocence damaged the reputation of his court for justice. Let us consider the exemplary wisdom and fairness of Judge Fuller:

“I am convinced the conduct Gov. Siegelman engaged in damaged the public’s confidence in the government of this state,” Fuller said.

And the Birmingham News notes that Fuller resolved to lengthen Siegelman’s sentence on the basis of charges brought against him of which he was acquitted. As the condemned man in Kafka’s “Penal Colony” reminds us: we are all guilty in the eyes of the judge; innocence is an illusion.

Fuller decided that charges on which Siegelman was acquitted at trial could be used in considering his sentence. Prosecutors had argued that, even though a jury did not find him guilty, there still was evidence of some wrongdoing.

Meanwhile, sources in the Cullman County GOP tell me that Alabama Republican Governor Bob Riley, whose election campaign against Siegelman precipitated the criminal investigation and prosecution of Siegelman, was summoned urgently to Washington, DC. He was to have addressed a dinner at the Dodge House Restaurant in Hanceville (famous for its all-you-can-eat prime rib buffet on Fridays). Riley told disappointed organizers of the Cullman function that he will meet with Bush Administration officials to discuss damage control relating to the Siegelman case. “The sentence will come down today, and they’re very concerned about all the questions about the role Karl Rove played in this prosecution,” the source said.

But why the worry? Aren’t all these concerns paranoid delusions?

Hardly. In fact, the White House has given strict instructions to avoid all questioning concerning the Siegelman case – which explains why Karl Rove’s fake answer was supplanted with a “no comment.” Isn’t it strange that Louis Franklin, the man supposedly in charge of the case, makes aggressive statements about Rove’s non-involvement – covering matters as to which he obviously has no personal knowledge – whereas Rove himself and the White House maintain an increasingly nervous silence? Telling facts, I’d say.

And consider further the White House’s invocation of Executive Privilege in a desperate last-step measure to block production of documents to Congressional oversight committees which might well have shed more light on the White House’s dealings with federal prosecutors in Alabama concerning the Siegelman prosecution. Instead, White House counsel Fred Fielding delivered a response to Congress today to which he appended a memorandum from Paul Clement, the Solicitor General, supporting the White House in its efforts to stonewall Congress. But the Clement memo disclosed for the first time that the White House indeed is withholding a large volume of documents which establish exactly what the White House has, up to this point, feverishly denied: that Karl Rove and others directed a scheme to fire a large group of U.S. attorneys who had been handling criminal cases against Republicans, or who had refused to bring cases against Democrats, and to replace them with political lackeys. In the words of Clement’s memorandum:

Among other things, these communications discuss the wisdom of such a proposal [the firing of U.S. attorneys in order to further political prosecutions], specific U.S. Attorneys who could be removed, potential replacement candidates, and possible responses to congressional and media inquiries about the dismissals.

This memo provides confirmation of a pattern of conduct identical to the vendetta against Don Siegelman that emerges from this case.

As the sentencing phase is now complete, we have further powerful evidence that the accusations raised in Dana Jill Simpson’s affidavit are correct. Simpson, you will recall, is the Republican attorney from Sand Mountain who worked on Riley’s 2002 campaign against Siegelman and overheard discussion of the plot involving Karl Rove to “take care of” Siegelman. Others in that conspiracy were William Canary (a close personal friend of Rove’s) and his wife, Leura Canary, the U.S. Attorney in Montgomery who actually commenced and oversaw the prosecution. It’s impossible to watch the conduct of the prosecution in the sentencing phase, as well as the highly irregular conduct of the federal judge who presided over it, and not think that something is extremely remiss in the entire process.

With the sentence delivered, Siegelman’s battle for justice and vindication will begin in earnest. But the essential next step will be a Congressional probe into Karl Rove’s dealings with the Department of Justice and the Montgomery and Birmingham U.S. attorney’s offices that produced this farce of a prosecution.

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