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Monday, September 21, 2009

Whistleblower Is the Target of Dirty Tactics in Karl Rove's Alabama

What happens to individuals who incur the wrath of the right-wing machine that has come to rule Alabama since Karl Rove arrived on the scene in the mid 1990s?

If you are former Governor Don Siegelman or former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy, the Department of Justice tries to turn you into a "criminal."

If you are me, a blogger who happens to write uncomfortable truths about Alabama's GOP-controlled justice system, someone cheats you out of your job.

If you are Tamarah Grimes, a former legal aide in the Middle District of Alabama, you experience both. After Grimes blew the whistle on prosecutorial misconduct in the Siegelman case, right-wing forces seemingly pulled out all the stops--costing Grimes her job AND compiling bogus criminal charges against her.

Do loyal Bushies, many of whom still call the Justice Department home, play dirty? Oh, yes. And that is the central message in part II of Andrew Kreig's interview with Grimes at OpEd News.

Did the Justice Department welcome Grimes' revelations about prosecutorial misconduct in the Siegelman case? Not exactly. The Office of Inspector General (OIG) referred her for a criminal investigation, arbitrarily waiving her right to confidentiality with arbitrator Sharon Stokes, of Atlanta. Says Grimes:

Then Mrs. Stokes and Rita Sampson, Assistant Director of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys EEO Staff, supposedly "neutrals" in the EEO process, began corresponding with DoJ's Office of Inspector General to push for a criminal investigation of me. Later, I discovered that Mrs. Sampson was no neutral at all. Mrs. Sampson formerly worked with the Executive Office's General Counsel and as former General Counsel for the FBI. On March 19, 2008, DoJ Special Agent Ronald Gossard of the Inspector General's office in Sharon Stokes' district of Atlanta requested that I be indicted on criminal charges arising from confidential discussions with the “neutral” mediator during an active mediation. The request was addressed to Assistant United States Attorney Melvin Hyde, Jr. in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Columbus, GA.

What was at the heart of Gossard's request that Grimes be indicted on criminal charges? Grimes tried to find out, and after considerable stalling from the DOJ, she determined that the request was based on charges that she had improperly tape recorded conversations while serving on the Siegelman prosecution team. Grimes was compelled to take part in a Kalkines interview, which means a government employee is required to answer questions about her official duties so long as the government also grants the employee immunity from prosecution based upon that information.

Did the DOJ uphold its end of the bargain? Not exactly. Says Grimes:

In violation of Kalkines, DoJ used my testimony from March 27, 2008, against me to accomplish my termination. According to a Report of Investigation authored by Special Agent Gossard on June 12, 2008, the investigation failed to develop any substantive evidence to support the charges against me. However, in Gossard’s sole opinion, I was guilty of making false statements to a federal law enforcement officer under oath during my Kalkines interview for every occasion I denied making statements to the mediator about the existence of audiotapes. Later, in an internal administrative action, DOJ accused me of lying to a federal agent. I asked them to produce the audiotapes, and of course they could not. There are none. There never were.

What did Gossard wind up doing? Better take a deep breath before you read this because it boggles the mind:

Special Agent Gossard issued, “OIG Report of Investigation No. 2008-00904,” from which I draw many of these specifics and timelines. The report concludes that although no evidence was developed to support the allegation that I made audiotape recordings of anyone at all, for any reason at all, he concluded that I made false statements because I denied making audiotape recordings.

You heard that right. Grimes denied making audiotape recordings, the DOJ failed to produce any evidence that such recordings existed, but the DOJ charged her with lying to a federal agent for making what--according to their own evidence--was a truthful statement.

This is reminiscent of what happened to me at UAB. All of us in the Office of Periodicals had multiple components to our job descriptions. But two of them clearly were: (1) Use the Web to keep track of Alabama-related news events that could become story ideas for our various publications; and (2) Use the Web to learn about blogs, audio/visual sites, and other forms of "new media" in order to develop possible new projects for our clients. I did those two things--along with all of my other duties--and my boss determined they were "non-work related activity"--even though she had told me to do them.

Nutty, indeed.

Grimes puts her experience in perspective:

The main thing is that I never said I had made audiotape recordings. That is a false claim. The no-win nature of the process is that the only alleged evidence is a claim that I made a verbal claim that I had a tape, and yet I was being criminally accused of denying it. There is no audiotape. No smoking gun.

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