George W. Bush might no longer be our president, but the political prosecutions that started under his watch are continuing--particularly here in Karl Rove's Alabama.
Insurance executive John W. Goff is on trial this week in U.S. District Court in Montgomery, Alabama, charged with 26 counts of fraud, embezzlement, and conspiracy. The trial is expected to last two to three weeks, and when it is over, America could have a new political prisoner.
The case involves possible wrongdoing by GOP officials at the very top of Alabama government, and it has received a fair amount of national attention. But based on my research, it appears that no major Alabama newspaper is covering the trial.
Curious isn't it, considering the case's myriad connections to disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff?
How did Goff get in trouble? He filed a lawsuit against Governor Bob Riley and other Republicans, claiming they had conspired to ruin his lucrative business. Goff's lawsuit contained allegations that the governor and his son, Rob Riley, had wrongfully laundered Mississippi casino money into the 2002 Alabama gubernatorial campaign, using Riley's connections to Abramoff and his partner, Michael Scanlon.
Desperate to keep the Goff lawsuit from reaching the discovery stage, Riley asked U.S. Attorney Leura Canary (who oversaw the Don Siegelman prosecution) to help make it "go away." Canary, whose husband Bill Canary had assisted with Riley's campaigns, was more than happy to help.
She hit Goff with criminal charges that mirror those that were settled in March 2005 in an administrative-law case brought by the Alabama Department of Insurance. At that time, 59 of 60 charges against Goff were dismissed, with him pleading guilty to one charge and paying a fine.
"I thought, until now, this whole matter was settled," Goff said. And he had good reason to think that. Language in the 2005 settlement agreement says Goff was released from "any and all claims, demands, charges (and) prosecutions . . . related to the subject matter" in the administrative-law case.
The Goff case does not involve the prosecution of a high-profile former governor. But in many ways, it might smell worse than the Don Siegelman case--if that is possible.
Consider the timeline:
* March 2005--Goff reaches a settlement in an administrative-law case brought by the Alabama Department of Insurance;
* March 2007--Goff files a lawsuit against Bob Riley and others. Among other things, Goff seeks to find out information about the source of the Riley's campaign funding in the 2002 governor's race. Goff, a former supporter, had allowed Riley to use his corporate airplane;
* September 2007--Scott Horton, of Harper's, reports that Riley is desperate to stop the Goff lawsuit from proceeding;
* April 2, 2008--Goff is indicted on charges that mirror those in the settled administrative matter;
* February 2, 2009--Goff's criminal trial begins in Montgomery, Alabama.
Most Americans are familiar with double jeopardy, the idea that you cannot face the same charges twice. But that concept evidently does not hold water at the U.S. Attorney's office in Montgomery, Alabama.
Barack Obama might be in the White House, but injustice continues in America's broken courts. The John W. Goff case is proof that Karl Rove's legacy of sleaze lives on.
Goff's friends and family members have started a Web site about the case. You can check it out at http://www.johnwgoff.com/.