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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Siegelman Jury Questions Center on Auburn University

Auburn, Alabama, home to the largest university in the state, is known as the "Loveliest Village on the Plains."

But a report from David Fiderer at Huffington Post indicates something not lovely might have been going on at Auburn University during the trial of former Democratic Governor Don Siegelman.

Fiderer reports that jurors Sam Hendrix and Katie Langer engaged in unlawful communication during the trial, using Langer's g-mail account and Hendrix' e-mail account at Auburn University, where he works as a fundraiser.

Evidence shows that Hendrix and Langer sent each other private messages both before and during jury deliberations.

Langer, who teaches gymnastics, is an Auburn graduate. Fiderer says copies of nine e-mails probably were sent via fax by someone in Auburn's development office:

But were the e-mails bona fide? As we learned last week, the saga of the e-mails has many sinister twists and turns. What emerged is a smoking gun that incriminated prosecutor Louis Franklin and Judge Fuller. They, like Hendrix and Langer, connived behind the backs of others.

Some of the nine messages had been sent anonymously by fax in July 2006. My guess is that the sender was someone on the development staff at Auburn. (It's a very small world in Alabama. Katie is an Auburn alumna. Auburn is run by its Trustees, all of whom are appointed by Governor Bob Riley. According to sworn testimony before the Judiciary Committee, the governor's son, Rob Riley, was on the call in which Republican operative Bill Canary said that Karl Rove had arranged with Justice to destroy Siegelman.)

For good measure, Alabama Republican Party chairman Mike Hubbard used to work in the Auburn Sports Information Office and then started Auburn Network Inc., a company that handles the university's multimedia rights. Hubbard's wife, Susan, serves on the faculty at Auburn.

Hendrix and Langer, the only jurors to speak to the press, painted a picture of a jury that got along splendidly. But other jurors, Fiderer reports, tell a different story. Seven jurors admitted in a post-trial hearing knowing that Hendrix and Langer had used information not available to the others.

Fiderer says a postal inspection that found the e-mails were forged "was a sham," and he points to questionable actions by Judge Mark Fuller and Prosecutor Louis Franklin:

Three things suggest that the Postal Service inquiry was a sham: (1) The stated purpose of the inquiry was to determine who sent the letters, not the authenticity of the emails. Yet the Postal Service looked into the matter anyway; (2) The emails sent to Hendrix's work address at Auburn could have been easily authenticated by the university's IT department. The most obvious, commonsensical approach -- at least to this non-techie - was not taken; (3) Then there's the obvious red herring: "information from a co-worker of Juror 7 [Hendrix] who monitored Juror 7's emails during trial and did not see any incoming emails from Juror 40 [Langer]." The emails were always sent late at night, after 10:00 p.m. Of course Hendrix's coworkers would never see the messages, if they were deleted.

What does Siegelman think of the revelations in the Huffington Post article? Tommy Stevenson, of the Tuscaloosa News, has reaction at his Politibits blog here.

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