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Prosecutorial Obstruction of Justice in the Siegelman Case

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A retired senior Justice Department career prosecutor writes that, with the disclosure that the two most senior career prosecutors on the Siegelman case believed there was no basis to bring criminal charges against the former Alabama governor, the riddle surrounding Leura Canary’s decision to withhold roughly 600 pages of documents relating to the case from Congressional scrutiny comes a bit closer to solution. “Franklin would have been required to put together a pros[ecution] memo justifying why he thought a case could be made. At best this case was extremely weak and invited the appearance of selective prosecution, since it focused on a practice that is absolutely ubiquitous in the political world—appointing major donors to honorary positions—and is rarely if ever prosecuted. And in the Siegelman case, there was the added obstacle that there is really no basis to say that Siegelman secured any personal gain from the donation, which is usually the evil we’re going after.”

“In this case, the two most experienced career prosecutors on the case thought there was no basis. You can bet that the professional staff at the Organized Crime and Racketeering Section put a lot of hostile questions to Franklin, and some of them recorded in emails. If they failed to do that, they wouldn’t have been doing their job. And all of this would provide first-hand evidence that the decision was politically dictated and against the advice of the professional staff, which is almost certainly the case.”

Just think about the history of the responses out of Montgomery. Every week or so another one of their claims has fallen as a rank falsehood. And in the face of these disclosures, they become only more adamant about refusing to turn over the documents at the heart of the case. To make an obvious point, they wouldn’t do this if the documents backed them up. You can count on it that they’d be spouting forth documents before the Judiciary Committee. But that certainly isn’t so. There are some things that the prosecutors on the case are desperate to keep covered up.

My correspondent also asks: “Why isn’t the conduct of the Montgomery U.S. Attorney’s Office obstruction of justice? It sure looks like it. Congress has constitutional responsibility to provide oversight of their doings. The claim that prosecutors are immune from oversight and scrutiny is arrogant. It demonstrates a contemptuous attitude toward Congress.” He cites to 18 U.S.C. sec. 1512, suggests that Congress muster some backbone in their query, and start the process of holding Franklin, Canary, and the others involved in this abuse to account for their obstruction of the pending probe. Sounds like good advice for Representative Conyers and his colleagues, from a career Justice Department man eager to see the process of a clean-up underway.

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