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Monday, March 31, 2008

The Schnauzer Greaseball Awards

In the wake of Don Siegelman's release from federal prison, a couple of entities have earned our first annual Legal Schnauzer Greaseball Awards. For short, we call our awards "The Greasies."

The first "Greasy" goes, not surprisingly, to The Birmingham News for its Sunday editorial on the Siegelman case. Get a load of this paragraph:

In our view, Siegelman's actions leading to this case didn't serve the taxpayers' interests at all, and his justifications of those actions reflect a terribly cynical and sad view of political service. His actions as part of this criminal case haven't always reflected well on him, either.

The News is so full of feces with this it's hard to know where to start. But let's take a crack at it:

* What actions didn't serve the taxpayer's well? We're talking about a criminal case here. Any policy or administrative differences the News' honchos might have had with Siegelman are irrelevant. The whole point of the editorial is to comment on the latest activity in the criminal case. And the key fact is this: Six of the seven counts for which Siegelman was convicted involved a transaction with former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy. The seventh count was for obstruction of justice, which is a "piggyback" charge dependant on other charges. Therefore, the conviction was based totally on the Siegelman/Scrushy transaction. All of the "actions" the News seems to be referring to--the warehouse stuff, the landfill stuff, the motorcycle stuff--were rejected by the jury. So what was wrong with the Siegelman/Scrushy transaction? Under the law--and the News never seems to find the time to mention what the law on bribery and honest-services mail fraud actually says--not a thing. Scrushy clearly was qualified to serve on the Certificate of Need Board and had served on the board under three previous governors. We know he had made campaign contributions to at least one of those other governors, Republican Fob James. So again, how did Siegelman not serve taxpayers' well?

* What is cynical and sad about Siegelman's justifications for his actions? First of all, Siegelman isn't justifying anything. He's having to defend himself in criminal court. But consider these questions: Is it cynical and sad for Republican Governor Bob Riley to get a sweetheart contribution from Huntsville supporters, who then get massive amounts of state dollars for a biotech deal? Is it cynical and sad that numerous Riley cronies, including his children, have done quite well with no-bid state contracts? Is it cynical and sad that Riley evidently violated state campaign-finance laws, and none of the state's daily newspapers has looked into it? Is it cynical and sad that evidence strongly suggests that someone electronically manipulated the vote totals that put Bob Riley in office in the first place? Is it cynical and sad that when Montgomery insurance executive John Goff files a lawsuit against Riley for helping to ruin one of Goff's businesses, the governor apparently pushes to have Goff investigated by federal authorities? Is it cynical and sad that Riley has well established ties to felons Jack Abramoff and Michael Scanlon, and that GOP presidential candidate John McCain took steps to hide these ties, and the News has written nothing substantive about it?

* His actions as part of this criminal case haven't always reflected well on him, either? Oh, really? What on earth does this mean? Sounds like the Newsies are upset that Siegelman didn't roll over and play dead for their puppet judge, Mark Fuller. What inappropriate actions did Siegelman take during the course of the criminal case--other than try to defend himself? The News doesn't tell us, and I have no idea what they are talking about.

As for our second "Greasy," it goes to the Alabama Republican Party and its chief, Mike Hubbard. When Siegelman was released from federal prison pending appeal, there was no reason for Hubbard to say anything. The ruling didn't involve Hubbard or the Alabama Republican Party.

But since Hubbard was asked for comment, he could have shown some respect for the seriousness of the issues involved by saying something like: "Former Governor Siegelman is entitled to a full and fair appeal. We will continue to watch his case with interest." Or he could have said, "This matter does not involve the Alabama Republican Party, so I would prefer not to comment."

But no, Hubbard couldn't do that. Instead he had to issue one of the most tasteless statements I've seen from a public official in quite some time. Here is what Hubbard had to say:

"The former Governor's release pending appeal does not change the conviction by a jury of his peers. It would be premature to turn this development into anything other than a formality."

Both sentences put Hubbard's ignorance on full display. A jury's verdict is only as good as the judicial rulings and jury instructions it is given. If a judge puts garbage in, the jury is going to spew garbage out. Hubbard evidently has no clue about criminal or civil procedure. And the second sentence? Siegelman's release came because trial judge Mark Fuller failed miserably in his efforts to justify, in writing, Siegelman's imprisonment pending appeal. Fuller's memorandum opinion puts the judge's incompetence and bias on glaring display. And yet Hubbard considers that a mere formality.

Mike Hubbard has all the class of a truckstop hooker. Republicans should be embarrassed to be represented by an individual who spews such nonsense.

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