Don Siegelman never dreamed that he actually would be convicted and sent to prison on corruption charges, according to an article about the former Alabama governor in GQ.
"I never thought for a minute that I was going to be convicted," Siegelman tells reporter Brett Martin. "We knew where this prosecution was coming from. We knew the political motivation. I was confident that the truth would come out—so confident, in fact, that we didn't put any witnesses on the stand because we didn't think there was any evidence."
Siegelman goes on to make some profound statements about the nature of evil and the harsh realities of prison:
Do I believe in evil? Do I believe that Karl Rove is evil? I do. I don't mean that he was necessarily raised to be evil. But I think that, like Caligula, he turned himself into an evil ruler. He has subverted democracy and, by the way, done a great disservice to the Republican Party. I hear that more and more—like the former head of the Alabama Republican Party, whom I ran into at the airport in Washington lately. He told me, "I told them they should have stopped at [defeating you in] the election." Yes, I think there are evil people in the world, and I think Karl Rove is one of them.
How stark is life in a federal prison? Listen to Siegelman:
I was taken to a maximum-security prison in Atlanta. No daylight. Food served through a little slot in the door. No exercise. I stayed there for three weeks, and then I was flown to a facility in New York, then Michigan, then Oklahoma City before ending up in Oakdale, Louisiana. During this time, my wife and family were not notified where I was.
Time is viewed totally differently in prison. When you're free, you want the day to last as long as possible. You want to savor every moment. In prison, it's just the opposite; you want to get rid of days as fast as you can. I couldn't help but think about the people whose execution dates I had set when I was attorney general and that I'd upheld as governor. I said a quiet prayer that I had made the right decisions, because I knew then that the justice system was not infallible.
How important is it that Rove and others are held accountable for their corrupting influence on the U.S. justice system? It is essential, Siegelman says, that future Roves think twice before attempting to manipulate the justice system for political reasons:
If (Rove is) not held in contempt, it will send a clear signal that there are two systems of justice in this country: one for the rich and powerful, those connected to the White House, and one for the rest of us. When we get subpoenaed, we have to show up.
That's the only way we're ever going to reinstate people's belief in our government, in our democracy: clearing the air about what happened at the Department of Justice. We're not guessing that this stuff happened; we're not speculating that it might have happened. We know it happened. And if Rove doesn't pay, what are all those followers of his, the young people who want to be like him, going to think? If he's held in contempt, it sends the message that their time might be next. It may not stop 'em, but maybe it will slow them down.
What jumps out the most about this compelling interview? For me, it's the comment Siegelman received from a Republican who said he told Rove & Co. they "should have stopped at [defeating you in] the election."
What do we learn from this comment?
* This Republican, and probably others, cling to the notion that Bob Riley "defeated" Siegelman in the 2002 Alabama gubernatorial election. In reality, substantial evidence suggests that the '02 election was stolen when vote totals in Baldwin County changed overnight. (The story has been covered on a number of respected Web sites, but it has been largely ignored in the mainstream press.) Republicans are noted for playing fast and loose with the language, and this appears to be another example of it.
* It apparently is a poorly kept secret in Republican circles that Rove & Co. were out to get Siegelman. This GOPer flat-out tells Siegelman that he knew about the plot and counseled against it. How many other insiders knew about it, and when are they going to be called to testify before an authoritative body?
* Rove & Co. are prone to overreach, and I know about this firsthand. Siegelman's airport companion says he told his Republican cohorts they should be content with having "won" the election--that pushing for a prosecution of Siegelman would be going too far and could lead to big trouble. Did they listen? Nope. Could they wind up in big trouble? We can all hope.
Similar behavior has taken place in my Legal Schnauzer case. And keep in mind, the "bad guys" in my story have direct ties to Rove. The corrupt attorney who filed a bogus lawsuit against me (William E. Swatek) has a son (Dax Swatek) who worked for Bill Canary. And Canary, of course, is a close associate of Rove.
Just as in the Siegelman case, we are talking about gold-plated Rovites here. And did they overreach? Well, they could have stopped at costing my wife and me thousands of dollars. They could have stopped at causing a bogus lawsuit to go to trial, when by law, it could not go to trial. They could have stopped at threatening to seize our cars and home.
But no, they had to cost me my job at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), where I had worked for 19 years.
What will be the cost of their overreaching? That remains to be seen. But if I have anything to do with it, it's going to be high.