A whistleblower from inside the Justice Department has provided documents that raise questions about the behavior of prosecutors during the case of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman.
Tamarah T. Grimes, a legal aide who worked in the office that prosecuted Siegelman, provided the documents, according to a major investigative story by Adam Zagorin of Time magazine.
Grimes worked for Leura Canary, U.S. attorney for the middle district of Alabama in Montgomery, and provided the documents to Department of Justice watchdogs in 2007. She now is involved in an employment dispute that could result in her termination.
The documents include e-mails from Canary, written long after her recusal in the case, offering legal advice to her subordinates. Canary supposedly had recused herself because her husband, William Canary, is a close associate of Governor Bob Riley (Siegelman's one-time opponent) and White House strategist Karl Rove. Bill Canary had received tens of thousands of dollars in consulting fees from political opponents of Siegelman, Zagorin reports.
Grimes' documents show that Leura Canary was giving legal advice to prosecutors in her office, long after she was supposed to be off the case:
In one of Canary's e-mails, dated September 19, 2005, she forwards senior prosecutors on the Siegelman case a three-page political commentary by Siegelman. Canary highlighted a single passage which, she told her subordinates, "Ya'll need to read, because he refers to a 'survey' which allegedly shows that 67% of Alabamans believe the investigation of him to be politically motivated." Canary then suggests: "Perhaps [this is]grounds not to let [Siegelman] discuss court activities in the media!"
Prosecutors in the case seem to have followed Canary's advice. A few months later they petitioned the court to prevent Siegelman from arguing that politics had any bearing on the case against him. After trial, they persuaded the judge to use Siegelman's public statements about political bias — like the one Canary had flagged in her e-mail — as grounds for increasing his prison sentence. The judge's action is now one target of next month's appeal.
That is not the only damaging information Grimes provided about Canary:
Beyond providing the e-mails, Grimes has given a written statement to the Department of Justice noting that U.S. Attorney Canary had "kept up with every detail of the [Siegelman] case".
Grimes also provided e-mails that show previously undisclosed contacts between prosecutors and the Siegelman jury.
A key prosecution e-mail describes how jurors repeatedly contacted the government's legal team during the trial to express, among other things, one juror's romantic interest in a member of the prosecution team. "The jurors kept sending out messages" via U.S. marshals, the e-mail says, identifying a particular juror as "very interested" in a person who had sat at the prosecution table in court. The same juror was later described reaching out to members of the prosecution team for personal advice about her career and educational plans.
And that was not the only hanky panky between jurors and the prosecution:
Further undisclosed evidence of prosecution team members speaking with jurors following the verdict emerges in Grimes' written statement to the DoJ. In it, she says a member of the team prosecuting Siegelman had spoken with a juror suspected of improper conduct — apparently at the time the judge was due to question the juror about that conduct. Grimes quotes the lead prosecutor in the case as saying someone had "talked to her. She is just scared and afraid she is going to get in trouble."
Glynn Wilson, of Locust Fork World News & Journal, provides important perspective on this breaking story. Wilson includes insights from Scott Horton, Columbia University law professor and legal-affairs contributor for Harper's magazine, on a number of topics, including:
* A possible approach from an Obama Justice Department regarding the Siegelman case and other matters related to corruption in the Bush administration.
* Possible connections between President George W. Bush and the Siegelman case.
Horton says the White House is concerned about the U.S. Attorney’s probe.
“As the Inspector General noted, the White House’s refusal to cooperate and turn over documents blocked the conclusion of the Justice Department’s internal probe,” he said.
“But of greater interest,” he said, “is the suggestion now openly aired that the White House is particularly concerned about documents and evidence linking it to the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don E. Siegelman. I am told that this involves former White House counsel Harriet Miers, former senior political advisor Karl Rove, and President Bush, himself.”
He asks: “What you may wonder was the President of the United States doing meddling in the prosecution of a Southern governor? That is a very good question. Some significant news on this front will break shortly. Stay tuned.”