I was rereading one of my recent posts the other day, and I realized that 60 Minutes, the Alabama Republican Party, and your humble blogger all got something wrong about the Don Siegelman story.
And I, of all people, should have known better.
It started when 60 Minutes' Scott Pelley said Siegelman had been convicted of charges related to bribery. The Alabama Republican Party harrumphed and issued a statement that 60 Minutes had gotten it wrong--that Siegelman also was convicted of obstruction of justice. That prompted me to harrumph and write a post saying that obstruction of justice is a "piggyback" charge that requires the presence of another crime. Like conspiracy, it cannot stand on its own and must be found in connection with a related crime. Therefore, I said with indignation, Pelley's statement that Siegelman was convicted of "charges related to bribery" was correct.
Turns out all three of us had it wrong.
Siegelman was convicted of one count of bribery and one count of obstruction of justice. But by far, the stickiest charge against him was honest-services mail fraud. He was convicted of four counts of honest-services mail fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit honest-services mail fraud.
The final score? Five of the seven counts for which Siegelman was convicted were related to honest-services mail fraud. (In all, the former governor was convicted on seven counts and acquitted on 26 counts--not a particularly strong showing for the prosecution.)
Just how important was honest-services mail fraud in the Siegelman case? It made up roughly two-thirds of the charges against him. And yet 60 Minutes and the Alabama Republican Party never mentioned it, and yours truly completely forgot about it. Duh.
No wonder we call it the "forgotten charge." But folks who care about justice, both in general and in the Siegelman case specifically, should not forget about the forgotten charge. And I sure as heck shouldn't forget about it.
Why? Because I've been a victim of it.
I've had a number of folks ask me, "Why do you write so much about the Siegelman case on your blog? Why don't you just jump straight into your own story of corruption?"
Well, there are two main reasons for that. One, evidence clearly shows that many of the same characters who play leading roles in the Siegelman story--Alice Martin, Bob Riley, Bill Canary, Leura Canary, Dax Swatek--also have connections to my story.
The primary connector? Alabama Republican consultant Dax Swatek, whose father Bill Swatek filed the bogus lawsuit against me that started our Legal Schnauzer tale. As we've noted before, Dax Swatek has close ties to Bill Canary, who is married to Leura Canary, who started the prosecution of Siegelman and . . . well, you get the picture.
The second reason? I know what real honest-services mail fraud is all about. I've been on the receiving end of it, and I've studied it extensively. On a personal level, I can tell you it's not much fun to be the victim of honest-services mail fraud. It pretty much ruins your faith in our system of government--or at least the people who are running it.
A transcript of the Siegelman trial is not available (although his lawyers say it is on the horizon), so I can't say for sure that Don Siegelman was innocent of the mail fraud charges against him. But I strongly suspect the case was flimsy.
(Honest-services mail fraud also was a key charge in the Paul Minor case in Mississippi, and that's a key reason I have written so much about that case. I have seen that transcript, and there is no question the three defendants in the Minor case did not commit mail fraud--or bribery or any of the other crimes they were charged with. But in Karl Rove's America, all three defendants are in federal prison. That's another story that deserves 60 Minutes attention. In fact, here's an idea: Since we no longer have 60 Minutes II, let's encourage the network to start a version devoted entirely to corruption in federal courts, state courts, and the U.S. Justice Department under George W. Bush. There would be no shortage of stories to cover.)
There is nothing flimsy about the honest-services mail fraud I've seen committed by Shelby County judges J. Michael Joiner, G. Dan Reeves, and others in our Alabama state "justice system." But they are Republicans, members of the "home team" that U.S. attorney Alice Martin endeavors to protect.
If you really want to understand the Siegelman case, I encourage you to learn about honest-services mail fraud. It's the charge upon which his conviction is overwhelmingly based.
As a public service, we offer this tidy little post as a place to learn about this key charge. We call the post "Mail Fraud: A Primer."
You will find there are several benefits to reading this post. One, you can dazzle your friends with your knowledge of honest-services mail fraud. Trust me, it will make you the "life of the party" at your next outing. Two, it will help you get to the core of the Siegelman and Minor cases. And three, it will have you prepared when we show you what a real case of honest-services mail fraud looks like--and how a U.S. attorney tries her darnedest to cover it up.