Friday normally is a relatively quiet day in the blogosphere. But this past Friday was anything but calm, with the breaking story by Time magazine's Adam Zagorin about shenanigans in the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman.
The story reverberated around the Web throughout the weekend and has potential for a number of intriguing followups. Let's take a look at the latest turn in a story that shows just how far our Justice Department has sunk in the Era of Rove:
Peter B. and Me
Our Friday post about the Siegelman story probably attracted more attention than anything we've done on Legal Schnauzer. And I was invited to appear via telephone on the Peter B. Collins Show, a progressive radio program based in San Francisco.
This was my second visit to the Peter B. Show; the first was back in July after Raw Story's Lindsay Beyerstein had broken the story about my unlawful termination at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) because I write this blog.
Brad Friedman of Brad's Blog was a guest on Friday, and he and Peter B. asked a number of insightful questions about the latest revelations in the Siegelman case.
I was in the last segment of the three-hour program. You can listen by going to the Peter B. archives here and clicking on "download this episode" for 11-14-08. You can click on the timekeeping device just above the play/pause button and drag it over to about the 2:42:36 mark--and that's where my segment begins.
We delved into a number of interesting subjects, including the similarities between the Siegelman case and the Paul Minor case in Mississippi, along with some speculation about how an Obama administration might approach the DOJ scandal.
I got a bit of big head the last time I turned into a "radio star." Mrs. Schnauzer is trying her best to keep my feet on the ground this time.
The Scott Horton Perspective
No story about the Siegelman case would be complete without input from Scott Horton, legal-affairs contributor for Harper's magazine and a law professor at Columbia University.
Horton has played a central role in bringing the Siegelman case to the nation's attention, and he posted "What the Justice Department is Hiding" at the Daily Beast, a new Web publication started by former Vanity Fair and New Yorker editor Tina Brown.
Horton provides an excellent summary of the Siegelman case, along with insight on the latest revelations about wrongdoing by U.S. Attorney Leura Canary and improper communications between jurors and the prosecution team.
Documents provided by Canary staffer Tamarah T. Grimes show the entitlement at the heart of Canary's operation:
Grimes also charges that Canary ran the U.S. Attorney’s office like a personal fiefdom, enlisting federal employees for babysitting, and appointing relatives to positions in violation of federal nepotism rules.
Justice Department sources reveal that after bringing these charges, Grimes was subjected to intense harassment by Canary, who at one point threatened she would prosecute Grimes for perjury unless Grimes withdrew her complaints.
The improper jury communications focus on a juror who was called "Flipper" because she liked to entertain her colleagues by performing backflips.
Grimes quoted the lead prosecutor describing direct interaction with a juror who was about to be questioned by the judge and who was “scared and afraid she is going to get into trouble.” This conduct violated rules guaranteeing the independence of jurors as well as an order issued by the judge in court against dealings between the jurors and the prosecution team.
Communications of this sort between litigants and a juror often lead to a mistrial and potential disciplinary action against lawyers involved. However, the Justice Department kept these jury interactions secret from the court and defense counsel in what may constitute a serious act of obstruction.
A Justice Department investigation into the charges was a sham, Horton shows:
“Look at the list of people these ‘investigators’ failed to question and at the questions they failed to ask. Frankly, this doesn’t much look like an investigation,” said one Congressional staffer.
The internal probe failed to question the marshals who were on jury duty. This omission suggests that the purpose of the report was not to get at the truth. Was this a fair investigation of the Grimes accusations, or was it a rushed effort to exonerate—through “inconclusive” findings—an errant U.S. attorney on the eve of a massive transfer of power in Washington?
Concern about the Siegelman matter, and other political prosecutions, appears to be very much on the DOJ radar:
A career Justice Department lawyer stated that apprehension about the matter was building within the department. “What happened in this case is a disgrace that threatens the reputation of the Department as a whole and federal prosecutors across the country,” he said. He identified David Margolis as having failed to take corrective measures. “He has essentially checked out and is intent on sweeping everything under the carpet. It will be one hell of a mess for the new tenants.”
"Flipper" Is Revealed
David Fiderer, of Huffington Post, has a fascinating read about the inner workings of the Siegelman jury. The piece is titled "Dirty Little Secrets About Juror Contacts in the Don Siegelman Case."
"Flipper," it turns out, is Katie Langer, a 26-year-old gymnastics coach who is one of two jurors to speak to the press about the case. The other is jury foreman Sam Hendrix.
Fiderer had previously done some outstanding reporting on the Siegelman jury, and we noted his work about Langer and Hendrix and their curious ties to Auburn University.
Insight on the Siegelman Appeal
Glynn Wilson, of Locust Fork World News & Journal, has a detailed analysis of the key points in Siegelman's appeal, which will be heard by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta on December 9.
Wilson has a fascinating nugget about possible interest in the case from the resident at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue:
There is an attorney in Montgomery who could shed considerable light on the extent to which George W. Bush was interested in keeping up with developments in the Siegelman case. We won’t name him for now, but we know from talking to other sources who have heard it from him that Bush was in the loop in this case. On top of all the other grounds for impeachment, this would certainly add to the list. Unfortunately, the hierarchy of the Democratic Party refused to pursue this for the past couple of years, and now it is too late.
The Alabama Press, As Usual, Is Pathetic
Isn't it interesting that a major Alabama story, one with national implications, was broken by Time magazine? And the mainstream press in Alabama doesn't seem to care.
The Montgomery Advertiser, based in the capital city where the Siegelman trial took place, ran a wire story about the latest revelations in its Saturday editions.
The Birmingham News did have a staff reporter prepare a piece for the front page on Saturday. But it had the News' usual right-wing slanted tone, and there was no followup in the Sunday edition. The headline, "Siegelman Case E-Mails Heralded as Red Flag," treats this as a story about public relations rather than possible federal crimes committed by prosecutors. And the story makes no mention of the most serious charges against Canary.
Schnauzer Beats Keith O in the ratings
Well, not really. But hey, this is my blog, and if I can't crow here once in a while, where can I crow?
As I noted earlier, my Friday piece on the Siegelman case received more attention than anything I've written in the blogosphere. And get this: I cross posted it at Daily Kos, and it wound up No. 3 on the list of high-impact diaries for November 14, 2008. And where was Keith Olbermann's diary that day, which was about the possibility that Hillary Clinton might be offered a job as secretary of state in a Barack Obama administration? Why, it was No. 4!
So, in a way, we did beat Keith O in the ratings. Mrs. Schnauzer says I'm taking so much glee in that little accomplishment that you would think I was Bill O'Reilly.
I'm a huge Keith O fan, and I look forward to helping him trounce Bill O in the ratings. But I must admit that, for one shining moment, I was pretty thrilled that my little blog post "ranked" one notch higher than Keith's did. What a country!
On a serious note, I should say that the lesson about the DK ranking probably is this: The Don Siegelman story resonates with people. Citizens are concerned about corruption in the Bush Justice Department, and they want key people held accountable.
The notion that someone could be targeted for criminal prosecution simply because of his political affiliation is profoundly disturbing to people. It runs counter to the foundational beliefs that make us Americans.
And Siegelman is not alone in suffering at the hands of people connected to the Bush DOJ. A number of Rovian types who are connected to the Siegelman case are almost certainly responsible for my unlawful termination at UAB.
Thankfully, I haven't lost my freedom, but imprisonment is not the only dirty card these scoundrels will play. I lost my job, Huntsville businessman Alex Latifi lost his business, former Assistant U.S. Attorney Deirdra Brown Fleming saw her career threatened, and whistleblower Jill Simpson has seen her law practice badly damaged. Simpson also has seen a mysterious fire at her home and had someone apparently try to run her off the road. These are just Alabama cases we know about. Who knows what has gone on in other states?
While Americans are rightly concerned about the economy, two wars, and numerous other issues, they care deeply about justice. They are appalled that certain people could use our Justice Department as a political weapon. And they don't want those people to slip away into the good night.