Today was a news double-header for former Alabama Governor Don E. Siegelman. In an order issued by the Court of Appeals in Atlanta, Siegelman’s request to be set free pending his appeal was granted. The court noting that it had reviewed the decision of District Court Judge Mark Fuller for “clear error” and had considered legal issues de novo stated that:
Siegelman has satisfied the criteria set out in the statute and has specifically met his burden of showing that his appeal raises substantial questions of law or fact.
Meanwhile in Washington, the House Judiciary Committee made clear that it was far from finished with its probe into allegations of prosecutorial misconduct in the Siegelman case.
Committee investigators express concern about the Justice Department’s continuous obstruction of efforts to investigate political influence in the Siegelman case and a group of others in which prosecutors have adopted unprecedented theories in an effort to take down prominent Democrats. In the Siegelman case, Justice Department officials have refused to provide evidence under oath, claiming privilege, they have answered written queries with misleading and openly false statements, and they have refused to turn over documents requested by the Committee. Attorney General Mukasey has been repeatedly asked by members of both the House and the Senate Judiciary Committee to examine the extraordinary evidence of misconduct by the U.S. Attorney’s offices in Montgomery and Birmingham, and he has declined to do so. The Justice Department’s stonewalling has thus been complete, top to bottom, and in view of the Justice Department’s refusal to engage in basic self-policing, Congressional oversight is urgently needed. The Judiciary Committee has now concluded that it has no alternative but to require that Siegelman appear before it. The Judiciary Committee has received tens of thousands of appeals from citizens around the country demanding that it take action to hold the Justice Department to account for its misconduct–much of this occurring after CBS News’s 60 Minutes and MSNBC’s Dan Abrams ran a series of exposes revealing extremely troubling misconduct in the course of the prosecution.
Here is the Associated Press’s account:
The House Judiciary Committee has asked the Justice Department to temporarily release former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman from prison to testify before Congress in early May about possible political influence over his prosecution.
A spokeswoman for the committee said Thursday that Siegelman, who is serving more than seven years in a Louisiana prison, would travel to Washington under guard of the U.S. Marshals Service. She said Committee Chairman John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat, wants to hear directly from Siegelman because lawmakers are having trouble getting information elsewhere, including from the Justice Department.
The AP also reported that Attorney General Michael Mukasey had indicated he would seek to block the Judiciary Committee’s efforts to have Siegelman testify. That was consistent with prior Justice Department decisions aimed at gagging Siegelman and preventing disclosure of Justice Department misconduct in his case. Mukasey’s opposition was mooted when the Court of Appeals directed his release.
I will be on MSNBC’s Verdict with Dan Abrams tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, 8:00 Central, 6:00 Pacific time to discuss the decision in the Siegelman case and the coming round of Congressional hearings on political prosecutions.