Explosive New Story Lends Credence to Siegelman Appeal

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New Reporting May Show Bush Was ‘In the Loop’

Glynn Wilson
Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman in front of the federal courthouse in Montgomery, with Sephira Bailey Shuttlesworth, wife of Birmingham Civil Rights icon Fred Shuttlesworth, in the background.

by Glynn Wilson

Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman and HealthSouth founder Richard Scrushy will get another day in court Dec. 9 in Atlanta, when a three-judge appeals court panel will hear oral arguments in a rare hearing that is likely to result in the case being thrown out, perhaps by Christmas.

We are working on a longer news feature about the case as an advance on the hearing, and will go into some detail about the arguments before the court.

But an explosive new story in Time magazine confirms what we have been reporting all along, and reveals critical and startling new evidence about the political, unethical, and, if true, illegal activities on the part of the Bush-appointed U.S. attorneys and career prosecutors in Montgomery.

The Time lede:

Next month in Atlanta, a federal court will hear the high-profile appeal of former Alabama governor Don E. Siegelman, whose conviction on corruption charges in 2006 became one of the most publicly debated cases to emerge from eight years of controversy at the Bush Justice Department. Now new documents highlight alleged misconduct by the Bush-appointed U.S. attorney and other prosecutors in the case, including what appears to be extensive and unusual contact between the prosecution and the jury.

What the article details are e-mail exchanges between U.S. Attorney Leura G. Canary and the prosecution team instructing them on how to conduct the case, after she allegedly recused herself in that now-famous press release printed in Alabama’s Newhouse newspapers. We have reported before that there was no real evidence or document proving she did recuse herself, no formal recusal motion in the case file.

And from what Time is reporting from a new whistle-blower to emerge and a new letter from John Conyers, the Michigan Democrat who chairs the powerful House Judiciary Committee, it seems there is a faction in Washington who are planning on probing the “dark side” of the Bush administration after the president leaves office. Other stories of late have hinted that there are some in the Obama camp who might be looking to “turn the other cheek” and not look back at Bush and Karl Rove.

“My understanding is that the focus is first on personnel. Once they’re picked, there will be a turn to dealing with the policy issues,” said Scott Horton, a New York attorney who is following the stories and who covered the Siegelman case on his “No Comment” blog on the Harper‘s magazine Website, now largely dormant.

“The policy is neither ‘turn the other cheek’ nor to launch something that looks like a retaliatory vendetta,” he said. “There are pending investigations that will run their course, and there may be a number of new ones. And you can count on it that Alice (Martin) and Leura (Canary) are being encouraged not to let the door hit them on the way out.”

It is clear from the Time story that Conyers is still intent on continuing the probe of former White House aides Harriet E. Miers and Rove in relation to the U.S. attorneys-firing scandal, which tangentially includes the Siegelman case.

But other stories, including one from the Washington Post and another from the New York Times hint at a different story.

And now there is some indication that our push to place George W. Bush himself in the loop in the Siegelman case may be getting some traction.

In the New York Times story, according to Horton, “Savage has learned what I have learned in recent days, namely, the White House is eager to secure recognition of its ability to block disclosure of its dealings with the Justice Department after January 20.”

Horton says the White House is concerned about the U.S. Attorney’s probe.

“As the Inspector General noted, the White House’s refusal to cooperate and turn over documents blocked the conclusion of the Justice Department’s internal probe,” he said.

“But of greater interest,” he said, “is the suggestion now openly aired that the White House is particularly concerned about documents and evidence linking it to the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don E. Siegelman. I am told that this involves former White House counsel Harriet Miers, former senior political advisor Karl Rove, and President Bush, himself.”

He asks: “What you may wonder was the President of the United States doing meddling in the prosecution of a Southern governor? That is a very good question. Some significant news on this front will break shortly. Stay tuned.”

The Time story quotes new documents furnished by Department of Justice staffer Tamarah T. Grimes, a legal aide who worked in the Montgomery office where Siegelman was prosecuted, including Canary e-mails, written long after her alleged recusal, offering legal advice to prosecutors working the case.

This burnishes what we have reported before and earlier evidence provided by GOP whistle-blower Jill Simpson about the political nature of the Bush Justice Department’s prosecution of Siegelman, after he announced his run against Republican Governor Bob Riley in the 2006 race. As everyone well knows by now who has followed this story, Canary is the wife of Bill Canary, the head of the Conservative Business Council of Alabama, who worked with Riley and Rove and the Bushes in the past.

In one of Canary’s emails, supposedly dated September 19, 2005, she forwards prosecutors a three-page Siegelman commentary and highlights a single passage showing the results of a poll reporting that 67 percent of Alabamians believed the investigation was politically motivated. She suggests that might be grounds for not letting him discuss the court in the media.

But the fact is, the mainstream newspapers and TV news stations in Alabama were reporting nothing suggesting the case was political, other than reports practially making fun of Siegelman for suggesting it. The masses in Alabama got the message from independent journalists publishing mainly on the Web, including this site and Harper‘s magazine’s site, as well as e-mail lists such as the one operated by Pam Miles out of Madison, Alabama.

Prosecutors in the case seem to have followed Canary’s advice, according to Time. A few months later they petitioned the court to prevent Siegelman from arguing that politics had any bearing on the case against him. After trial, they persuaded the judge to use Siegelman’s public statements about political bias — like the one Canary had flagged in her e-mail — as grounds for increasing his prison sentence. The judge’s action is now one target of next month’s appeal.

In his letter to U.S. Attorney Michael Mukasey last week, Conyers wrote: “A recused United States Attorney should not be providing factual information … to the team working on the case…”

The article also provides more evidence of juror and prosecution-team misconduct in passing around e-mails during the trial, a story we reported last year that should have been grounds for a mistrial — in any honest court.

There’s more juice in the Time story, but that should be enough to convince the naysayers — and the appeals court judges — that the case should at least be sent back to Montgomery for a real investigation of juror and prosecutor misconduct and a consideration for a mistrial on those grounds alone.

We will go into more detail soon on the other four reasons the court is likely to toss the case.

Time: More Allegations of Misconduct in Alabama Governor Case

© 2008 – 2016, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

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