his colleague Sonny Reagan had been placed on administrative leave, Alabama Acting Attorney General Van Davis used some curious language, the kind that points to criminal activity.
Davis said Reagan had "undisclosed communications with individuals affiliated with people indicted or under investigation by a Lee County Special Grand Jury."
As if that language weren't strong enough, Davis then dropped this bomb: "Reagan also took other action to impede or obstruct the investigation.”
That is the kind of language often seen in criminal statutes. And it raises this question: Will Reagan, and perhaps the individuals with whom he communicated, eventually face obstruction of justice and related charges?
Like more than half of the states, Alabama has a broad criminal statute that covers obstruction of justice. The crime in Alabama is called "Obstructing Governmental Operations," and it can be found at Code of Alabama 13A-10-2. Here is how it reads:
Obstructing governmental operations.
(a) A person commits the crime of obstructing governmental operations if, by means of intimidation, physical force or interference or by any other independently unlawful act, he:
(1) Intentionally obstructs, impairs or hinders the administration of law or other governmental function; or
(2) Intentionally prevents a public servant from performing a governmental function.
(b) This section does not apply to the obstruction, impairment or hindrance of the making of an arrest.
(c) Obstructing governmental operations is a Class A misdemeanor.
Obstruction of justice, in the sense normally considered by the public, is a federal offense covered under 18 U.S. Code 1501-1508. The most broad form of the offense is found in the omnibus statute at 18 U.S. Code 1503.
Our research indicates obstruction charges often are brought along with related charges, such as perjury, subornation of perjury, conspiracy, and racketeering.
Those last two charges might be the most worrisome ones for Reagan and the individuals with whom he communicated. By definition, conspiracy and racketeering can involve multiple defendants and possible federal jurisdiction.
Racketeering generally is covered under the federal RICO statutes, and violation of a state statute can be a predicate offense for launching a RICO case. For now, it is too early to say that the Reagan case might get that serious. It probably will depend on what Davis meant when he said, "Reagan also took other action to impede or obstruct the investigation.”
At a minimum, the Reagan case is an embarrassment for the AG's office and it calls into question Reagan's fitness for practicing law. At a maximum, it could lead to a wide-ranging criminal investigation, threatening powerful conservative figures with federal charges and possible prison time.