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Another Conflicted Prosecutor in the Siegelman Case


In its (as usual) tortured reporting on the Siegelman case, today’s Birmingham News unwittingly opens the door on another chapter in this saga. Here’s the key passage:

During the hearing, Davis also mentioned a recent Time magazine story that says investigators were told in 2002 about illegal campaign contributions to Republicans Jeff Sessions and Bill Pryor, but chose not to pursue the allegations. Davis called it proof of “selectiveness” on whom to prosecute.

But Julia Weller, a former assistant U.S. attorney who worked on the case then, said they found no “quid pro quo,” or evidence to show the Republicans knew about the alleged donations or did anything in exchange for them. “We did follow up on it,” Weller said.

So here’s another prosecutor produced, deus ex machina, to establish the bona fides of the work of Leura Canary’s shop in Montgomery. The News as usual only barely hints at the allegations which were raised in Adam Zagorin’s article in Time, which detailed Lanny Young’s allegations of bribery and money laundering against Senator Jeff Sessions and then-Attorney General William Pryor. But note who steps forward to bat them down? Julia Weller.

Note how the Birmingham News tells you nothing about Ms. Weller or who she is. Ms. Weller is now an administrative law judge, appointment courtesy of Attorney General Troy King, who found a spot for her when she left the U.S. Attorney’s office “to spend more time with her family,” the exact same explanation given by Karl Rove and Alberto Gonzales for their departures. Before that she was brought into the U.S. Attorney’s office by Leura Canary as Canary’s first assistant, and Canary put her in charge of the Siegelman case, where one of her responsibilities included dealing with the Lanny Young statements.

Weller and Canary were college friends and are said by mutual acquaintances to have had a deep and long personal friendship, which explains why Canary brought Weller aboard when she became U.S. Attorney and why she gave Weller the top staff position in her office, and why she put Weller in charge of the highest profile and most sensitive case. That’s enough to raise eyebrows already. (Of course, Leura Canary “recused herself,” the News would say).

But that barely scratches the surface. Weller and Canary were linked by other things, starting with Alabama Republican politics. Both had husbands who were deeply involved in Alabama G.O.P. politics: Bill Canary, who heads the Business Council of Alabama, is a close friend of Karl Rove’s and was involved deeply in advising and managing political campaigns. And among Canary’s key clients were Jefferson Beauregard Sessions and William Pryor (indeed, let’s not forget who managed Pryor’s 1998 campaign: Karl Rove).

Weller is married to a well-known Montgomery tax attorney named Christopher William Weller at the law firm of Capell & Howard. Her husband was described to me by several Montgomery lawyers as “William Pryor’s closest confidant and advisor.” Said one, “Bill Pryor doesn’t make a move without consulting Weller. They’re soulmates, and Weller is his attorney.” Indeed, Weller loudly touts his connections to Pryor on the firm’s bio web page. Apparently Weller is tight with Jeff Sessions as well, which is unsurprising since Sessions was Pryor’s mentor and booster, and the two have had a closely-aligned career trajectory.

Other members of the Montgomery legal community tell me that Weller is not only known for his relationship with Pryor and Sessions, but also with Karl Rove. Said one: “I’ve heard that Rove uses Capell & Howard’s conference rooms when he spends some time in Montgomery, which makes sense, since they’ve been close with the Pryor and Sessions campaigns and he’s played a role in them.”

Now let’s go back and plug in this information. The “former prosecutor” who is trotted out to tell us that Leura Canary’s shop handled proper procedures in looking into the allegations against Pryor and Sessions is the wife of Pryor’s attorney and a key figure in the Pryor and Sessions campaigns. So how, from the simple perspective of prosecutorial ethics—which are very clear on this point—does she even come to be involved in the matter?

This is further extremely strong evidence of gross impropriety in the way the Montgomery U.S. Attorney’s office operates generally, and particularly of its politically motivated prosecution of former Governor Siegelman.

As usual, the most important facts in an account in the Birmingham News are the ones they don’t report.

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