Don Siegelman recently spent nine months in federal prison, so it is safe to say the former Alabama governor has had a few crummy days in the past year or so.
But yesterday was not one of them. In fact, Siegelman--now released from prison pending appeal of his conviction on corruption-related charges--had a banner day. And in the Age of Rove, a good day for Don Siegelman almost certainly means a step forward for America's beleaguered justice system.
First came word that federal officials admitted they screwed up in restricting travel for Siegelman. And how did they screw up? Probation officials in Alabama and Louisiana mistakenly applied rules governing offenders who are on probation. But Siegelman is not on probation; he is free on bond pending appeal. "Oops, our bad," justice officials said. More specifically, a spokeswoman for the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts said: "They made an honest mistake."
Right, and no one higher up the line--say, a certain judge or prosecutor--had anything to do with it. This illustrates a point I've seen time and again in my battle with corrupt Republicans in Alabama's state courts. Corruption from the top of a justice system inevitably filters down to lower levels. If you find a corrupt judge at a state-court level, you are almost sure to find a corrupt district attorney, a corrupt county clerk, a corrupt sheriff, and so on.
When a justice system becomes infested with corruption, folks at the lower levels no longer serve the public--they serve the corrupt honchos above them. And since the small fry enjoy their nice government salaries and benefits, they aren't about to buck a system that is treating them pretty darn good--even if it means some people are screwed criminally, ruined financially, cheated civilly, etc.
Experience tells me this was not an "honest mistake" by probation officials in Siegelman's case. If Siegelman had not squawked loudly--with it amplified by his supporters and a semi-alert press--these unlawful travel restrictions would have stayed in place. In other words, the bad guys would have gotten away with it.
In my case, I don't have vocal supporters, and the press easily ignores my situation--even though my case is hardly isolated; the number of people who get cheated in Alabama state courts probably is staggering. So state court officials are likely to get away with just about anything when it comes to low-profile folks like me--up to and including, in my case, unlawfully seizing and auctioning my house.
But back to Siegelman. The former governor got more good news, in the form of an excellent column titled "What Karl Rove Fears Most" (love that headline!) by Dan Froomkin of the Washington Post. There is so much good stuff in Froomkin's column, it's hard to know where to begin. Basically, it's a splendid overview of recent events regarding Rove and his slithering efforts to avoid testifying about his role in the Siegelman case and other Justice Department shenanigans. It's a must read, and it shows that Siegelman's statements about the political nature of his prosecution are resonating with the national press. The Alabama press remains brain dead, but I'm not sure that matters anymore. Siegelman is expertly going over their heads and proving just how irrelevant corrupt Alabama news outfits really are.
Finally, Siegelman received a standing ovation, and supportive words from U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, at last night's annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Birmingham. Pelosi heaped a heavy dose of criticism on President Bush:
"He has brought a war without end, a budget awash in red ink, a looming recession, assault after assault after assault on our Constitution, politicizing the Justice Department, and I'm so glad that Congress is looking into that--and I'm so proud we are joined by Gov. Siegelman."
With that, Siegelman stood and received a long and loud standing ovation from the crowd.
While Pelosi had harsh words for Bush last night, more than a few Democrats say she has not been aggressive enough in countering the White House, especially on matters of justice.
Glynn Wilson gave voice to those concerns in a strongly worded piece at Locust Fork News.