The Riley Affidavits
Rob Riley said he was going to produce affidavits to counter Jill Simpson's contention that the Don Siegelman prosecution was politically motivated. And by golly, Riley came through--sort of.
He produced an affidavit for today's U.S. House Judiciary Committee hearing, and so did retired Alabama Supreme Court Justice Terry Butts and Birmingham attorney Matthew Lembke.
Riley was true to his word, but did the affidavits effectively counter Simpson's sworn testimony? That might be another matter. As we noted in our previous post, Rep. Artur Davis (D-AL) did not seem to be swayed.
So what to make of the Riley affidavits, which can be read here?
I'm hardly an expert, but I have encountered more affidavits than I ever dreamed I'd have any reason to see in the past few years. So here is one layman's thoughts:
* All three affidavits have a fair amount of what I would call "hedge" language in them--
"I have no memory of being on a phone call . . ."
"I do not believe a phone call occurred . . ."
"I do not believe that I have ever met or spoken with Judge Mark Fuller . . ."
". . . nor do I recall, any conference call occurring with Ms. Simpson . . . "
"As I recall, none of us were ever outside each other's presence on that day . . . "
"Again, I neither recall any such call, nor do I believe any such call/conversation . . . ever took place."
"I do not recall the phone call that Ms. Simpson claims took place between her . . . "
"I do not believe that I was out of Justice Butts' and Rob Riley's presence for 11 consecutive minutes . . . "
I suspect students learn this kind of language on the first day of law school. It's a good way to convey a message without risking a false statement under oath. Doesn't mean there is anything improper with the affidavits. But I suspect most reasonably objective laypeople would find Simpson's language more definitive and convincing than that in the Riley affidavits.
* Riley is not so "hedgey" on certain matters:
"I have never been told by Mr. Butts, or anyone else, that Mr. Butts spoke with Mr. Siegelman on November 18, 2002, and convinced Mr. Siegelman to concede . . ."
"I have never requested Karl Rove's (Mr. Rove's) assistance to 'speed up' checks for any of Ms. Simpson's clients, or his assistance on any other federal matter . . . "
* Perhaps the most interesting definitive statements come from Butts and Lembke, both about Bill Canary. Both state clearly that Canary was not with them at Rob Riley's office on the date of the alleged conference call. Perhaps the most famous line of Simpson's affidavit was Canary's statement that "his girls" were going to "take care of" Siegelman. So do Butts and Lembke score major points with their sworn statements that Canary was not present with them on the date in question? Well, I'm not sure. Perhaps someone with technical knowledge about conference calls could answer that question. Would Canary have to be present with Riley & Co. in order to be on a conference call? Could he be at another location and still take part in the conference call, as Simpson says? Has Simpson ever stated that all of the other parties on the call were in one location?
* Maybe the most interesting line from the affidavits is this from Butts: "While there is much that can be said about that trial, I continue to believe that both Richard Scrushy and Don Siegelman were erroneously convicted and that their respective convictions should be reversed on appeal for many trial errors." Hmmm, would be interesting to hear a former Supreme Court justice elaborate on the errors that he feels were made in the trial.
Politics and a Prosecution
Former U.S. attorney Doug Jones testified today that there is no question in his mind that the Siegelman prosecution was "driven by politics."
Glynn Wilson, of Locust Fork World News & Journal, has this report on today's hearing. Jones, who now practices law in Birmingham, said the Siegelman case was part of a "disturbing trend" of selective prosecutions on the part of the Bush Justice Department.
Jones, who began representing Siegelman in 2003, testified that he was assured in spring 2004 that Siegelman would not be charged in the federal investigation. Then in summer 2004, he was told that a meeting was held in Washington and a top-to-bottom review of the Siegelman cases was ordered, with Siegelman "all of a sudden" being indicted in November 2004, one month after another case against the former governor was dropped "with prejudice" in Birmingham.
A Matter of Justice
A leading national association of advocacy groups has issued a statement concerning improper conduct by three federal judges in connection with the Siegelman case. Scott Horton, of Harper's, notes that the Alliance for Justice has particularly harsh words for U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller, the subject of a scathing affidavit that came to light recently from Missouri attorney Paul Benton Weeks.
Judges William Pryor and Noel Hillman also receive criticism from AFJ. The complete statement is available here.