The House Judiciary Committee and its staff are continuing their preparations for hearings looking into serious irregularities surrounding the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don E. Siegelman, now imprisoned in Texas. As hearings loom ever more likely in Washington, the anxiety level in the U.S. Attorney’s Office run by Mrs. William Canary seems to be reaching the breaking point. Is a mild sedative in order?
How else to explain the latest bizarre eruption in the Courtroom of Judge Mark Everett Fuller? At a hearing to sentence former Siegelman aide Nick Bailey, who cooperated with the prosecution and who the prosecution wanted to let off without time, Judge Fuller disagreed, insisting that Bailey serve time. Then Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Feaga offered this, as reported by the Associated Press:
Former Gov. Don Siegelman and ex-HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy are “reaching out from their jail cells” in an attempt to sway events linked to their case in a way that could be obstruction of justice, a federal prosecutor told a judge Wednesday. Speaking during a hearing for former Siegelman aide Nick Bailey, Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Feaga said Siegelman and Scrushy had been doing things from behind bars to “manipulate events”–acts that could be considered a crime.
Of course, Feaga did not tell the court what he thought was being done that constituted obstruction. Maybe there really is something. But it’s hard to imagine what two men sitting in prison cells 600 miles from their friends and family might be doing that constitutes a “manipulation of events.” Of course, we know from the sentencing phase that the prosecutors were infuriated that Siegelman and Scrushy continued to protest their innocence—the prosecutors insisted that they be forced to serve extra time for that insolence. This reflects a pretty perverted understanding of justice.
But here I think we’re talking about something else. Might they actually be cooperating with the House Judiciary Committee and its investigation? I’d guess the answer to that question is yes, though that’s just conjecture. If it was so, that could be provoking a severe anxiety attack among Mrs. William Canary and her loyal team.
Alberto Gonzales is gone, but Committee Chair John Conyers, who appeared with me on DemocracyNow! yesterday, made clear that his departure is not going to stop the press for investigation into politically corrupted prosecutions for one second. Indeed, Rep. Artur Davis, himself a former Middle District prosecutor, is adamant that an independent investigation get to the bottom of things. I suspect that Davis has his own connections and friends deep inside the Montgomery U.S. Attorney’s office and he knows a whiff of sulfur when he smells it. Indeed, that push is garnering bipartisan support at this point. It will move forward. And there will be a parallel investigation on the Senate side. Together, most likely, with the appointment of a special prosecutor to look into matters like the exceedingly strange prosecution of Governor Siegelman.
The fundamental question is whether Feaga’s bosses who directed this prosecution were out after justice in the first place. The evidence is now mounting, and it all suggests very strongly that their agenda had nothing to do with justice. Here is what strikes me as a more plausible, and perfectly Rovian scenario:
eliminate the state’s most popular Democratic politician;
associate Richard Scrushy, who had drawn the rage of a large part of the citizenry of Alabama over the HealthSouth scandal, with the Democrats (of course, Scrushy was a Republican and he backed Siegelman’s rival). This is a process which con artists refer to as the “misdirection” and it works just as effectively in politics as out on the Bowery; and
pull the investigatory resources that would have been looking into the Abramoff scandal and its Alabama leads off and away from prominent Alabama Republicans, and direct them to Democrats instead.
And that, in fact, is exactly what happened. Half the people in Alabama already recognize that this was a politically motivated prosecution. When the facts are fully laid out, most of the rest will open their eyes as well. In any event, an independent inquiry is necessary to set the record straight.
The circumstances here suggest that the Middle District of Alabama U.S. Attorney’s office pressed its prosecution of the Siegelman case in the media from the start, in violation of clear ethics guidelines. When Siegelman and Scrushy made decisions not to testify, a prosecutor went before media cameras suggesting that they should infer guilt from this—again in violation of clear ethical guidelines. The office issued a series of statements concerning the case which contained seriously misleading or simply false statements, including the suggestion that all essential decisions in the case were made by Mr. Franklin. It failed to take reasonable steps to investigate the Simpson affidavit, sweeping it aside with false statements. These are not the acts of people who have a professional commitment to justice. And now we’re one month past the deadline for compliance with the Judiciary Committee’s request for documents, and the Montgomery U.S. Attorney’s office has yet to comply. These are classic acts of obstruction of justice. So if Mr. Feaga wants to start an obstruction inquiry, he won’t have very far to go.