Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Siegelman Appeal

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by Glynn Wilson

It comes as no great shock that the United States Supreme Court refused to wade into the case of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman and his co-defendant, HealthSouth founder Richard Scrushy.

The high court is made up of a majority of activist conservative justices appointed by Republican presidents, and there are no big precedents to be decided one way or the other by hearing the case.

The mass public long ago stopped paying attention to this story anyway, since perhaps the worst president in history, at least in my lifetime, George W. Bush, is long gone from the White House. And everybody, including the Obama White House and the mainstream media in this country, would like to put those horrible years behind us and concentrate on trying to save what’s left of this experiment in democracy.

It seemed to come as a shock to some of Siegelman’s more ardent supporters who have followed the case largely on a few advocacy blogs and a manual e-mail list, where the news broke in the form of an AP brief, perhaps written by one of the reporters who was out to get Siegelman from the outset?

Here’s the AP brief in its entirety. This shows the AP didn’t consider the news even big enough to write a full story on it. If the Supreme Court had agreed to hear the case, now that would have been big news.

The Supreme Court will not take another look at the bribery conviction of former Ala. Gov. Don Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy.

The high court on Monday turned away the two men’s appeals. Siegelman was convicted of selling a seat on a hospital regulatory board to Scrushy in exchange for $500,000 in donations to Siegelman’s 1999 campaign to establish a state lottery.

Siegelman’s lawyers wanted to argue that campaign donations can’t be bribes unless there’s a clear agreement between the donor and the politician, and that there was no such agreement in Siegelman’s case. Siegelman has been free on bond while appealing his conviction, while the courts refused to free Scrushy.

The appeals were turned away without comment.

That’s it? Wow.

Now maybe the public, perhaps including Siegelman’s attorneys, might begin to realize they are not being served very well by the traditional press in this state or country. The question is: will they get in the game to help us build the alternative?

In an e-mail statement sent out to his supporters, Siegelman said:

“My heart is broken. Not for me, but for my family and friends who have stood by me during this struggle. I am eternally grateful for the work of my attorney Sam Heldman. I am indebted to the 113 state Attorneys General of both political parties who supported my case. And I am thankful for the law professors from around the nation who actively supported my appeal. I pray that something positive will come of this in our future.”

In recent days, it has come to light that the Chief U.S. District Judge in Montgomery who oversaw the ill-conceived political prosecution brought by the Bush Justice Department is going through a divorce. Allegations are being made about drug use, infidelity and abuse of office by Mark E. Fuller, a Bush appointee, that would be making national headlines if he was a Democrat operating on the national stage instead of the cloistered little world of Montgomery, Alabama, where remnants of the Wallace spoils system are still predominant.

I worked this story hard for five long years to try and bring the facts to light in this case — not as an advocate blogger for Don Siegelman but as an American journalist concerned about the increasingly political nature of our justice system. It is fully expected that the executive and legislative branches of government in this country are bound to be polluted by partisan politics. But the third branch of government, the judicial branch, is supposed to at least try to remain above the partisan fray.

I’m afraid we lost that in the Bush years, when Bush, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney and the rest ran the country like a Wallace spoils system, rewarding political allies and trying to destroy political enemies at all costs — the good of the country be damned.

Now some of Siegelman’s allies want to blame this on President Obama, but I must ask this important question. If this case was not about Don Siegelman, as he said many times in public, but about the integrity of our justice system in this country, then what possible good would it do to vote President Obama out and Massachusetts Mormon Mitt Romney in?

Let’s concede the argument that this administration has not done everything right, especially in ridding our federal bureaucracy of all the Cheney hires in every federal agency, most especially the Justice Department. Maybe Attorney General Eric Holder should have resigned two years ago.

But both Holder and the president listened to former Congressman Artur Davis when he whispered in their ear about Siegelman at the White House Christmas Party in 2008, and at that time, Davis was an influential Democrat and a Harvard cohort of Obama’s, so what did people expect to happen?

After his failed bid to be Alabama’s first African-American governor, Davis has shown that he lacks the character for public office and is now a legal flack for a lobbying outfit in Washington who keeps popping up in the blogosphere to keep his name out there for a possible future run for public office — as a Republican.

We long ago stopped linking to or commenting on these silly stories, written by people who are desperate for some Web traffic and to make a name for themselves as bloggers.

As far as I’m concerned, we have far bigger problems to deal with than Davis’s ego, Fuller’s personal problems or Obama’s shortcomings. If by some accident of timing on the economy or computer theft we get another Republican president in the White House in 2012, we might as well kiss this experiment in democracy goodbye.

So let me make a suggestion based on a line in a movie that has been making the rounds on cable for the past month or two. In Master and Commander: The Other Side of the World, Russell Crowe plays a British Naval commander who asked his close friend, a doctor and naturalist who appears to be based on the character of Charles Darwin, to choose between two weevils at the captain’s table. When forced to choose, the doctor picks the larger of the two weevils which appears to “have the advantage both in length and breadth.”

“Aha!” the captain shouts, bringing his fist down on the table. “I have you. Don’t you know, good doctor, that in all things, one must choose the lesser of two weevils?”

If you really think Obama is evil — either because he is black, a Democrat, you don’t believe he is a citizen or a Christian, or you don’t think he’s done enough to ferret out the Bushies from the federal bureaucracy — try considering the alternative.

During the presidential campaign of 2012, Romney has not proposed a single policy change from the way Bush ran the country into the ground. Do you really think it’s in your best interest — or that of the country — to go back to a Republican spoils system and laissez faire economic policies and more deregulation and tax cuts for the rich? Can’t we at least hold out a little hope that given a second term, President Obama might find it in him to succeed on many fronts where many other presidents have failed?

If you don’t believe that, you might as well sign onto the Internet and join the doomsday conspiracists who say the world is going to end in December, 2012, anyway. If Romney is elected president, it might as well be the end of the world as we know it. This country’s democracy will be through and we might as well go back and set up a monarchy. This would no doubt please one third of the country who are obsessed with celebrity news and determined to put the church back in charge of government.

Sorry, but I for one will fight this with every breath it takes.

If that means Don Siegelman will have to serve the remainder of his sentence in prison, I hate it for him. He doesn’t deserve it. What he was convicted of was no crime. It was a political prosecution.

But I think if it comes right down to it, even he would admit there are larger issues at stake here.

Right now, the federal agencies, also staffed with some Cheney hires, are considering oil and gas fracking in our national forests in Alabama.

When he was Secretary of State and Lieutenant Governor, Mr. Siegelman stood up for the environment of this state far more than any politician before him or since. The Alabama Democratic Party now has not one word to say about this proposal, and there is no other candidate on the horizon around here who the people might turn to for real help on these types of issues.

I wish we could turn back the clock to 2002, the year Bob Riley stole the election from Siegelman, and get the press in this country to do the right thing and cover the news in the interest of the people instead of the corporations. But the fact is, we can’t. We can’t go back. We must deal with the now.

Siegelman still has a couple of legal avenues left to go through in the courts. Maybe if the news”papers” in this state — or even a few national papers or television news shows — would bring the hammer down on Fuller, perhaps he would recuse himself from presiding in Siegelman’s re-sentencing.

In the absence of that, there’s not much we can do from here except to keep working our asses off to build an alternative press structure on the Web in this state and country. There is no doubt that the press let us all down in so many ways during the Bush years, from the New York Times coverage of WMDs and the run up to war in Iraq to the pandering to the Republicans on issues like gay marriage, a total distraction from anything concerning salient public policy issues concerning the general welfare and governance.

When the people finally get ready to drop their subscriptions to these dying papers and stop sharing their pathetic links on Facebook, and when the Democrats, urban progressive beer drinkers, unions, trial lawyers and environmentalists get ready to form a working coalition to fund the alternative, independent Web Press and bring about lasting cultural change in this country, then we might have some real hope.

As long as people continue to cling to the old ways, change is going to be considered the enemy, not our friend. Do you want to see a better world in your lifetime? This is what it’s going to take to stop this fake tea party once and for all.

© 2012, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

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