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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Obama Nominee Should Be Rejected for Key Justice Department Post

George Beck

The U.S. Senate should thoroughly grill and then reject the Obama administration's nominee for a controversial U.S. attorney position, according to a report out this morning from the Justice Integrity Project (JIP).

Andrew Kreig, executive director of JIP, writes that George Beck should be rejected as U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Alabama because of conflicts of interests related to the Don Siegelman case--and any possible spinoff public-corruption investigations. This morning's piece is the first of a three-part series Kreig has written about the Beck nomination. The remaining parts are due for release this afternoon and tomorrow at justice-integrity.org.

Beck is "tainted," Kreig writes, and then provides plenty of evidence to back up that assertion. If confirmed, Beck would replace George W. Bush appointee Leura Canary, who oversaw the Siegelman prosecution and inexplicably has been allowed to serve for more than two years of the Obama administration. But Kreig states that Beck should not be confirmed--and the Senate Judiciary Committee should call witnesses to bring out relevant facts about the Siegelman case, in which Beck played a prominent role.

Writes Kreig:

Despite an impressive career overall, Beck is a horrible choice because he was a compliant defense attorney in the notorious prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, the state’s leading Democrat. Beck’s role in that travesty further destroys public confidence in that long-troubled DOJ office. At the minimum if confirmed, Beck must recuse himself and all of the most prominent staff at DOJ's Montgomery offices from the Siegelman case and every spin-off public corruption probe.

In other words, a Beck appointment could be a legal and logistical nightmare, in an office that desperately needs to be cleansed. Writes Kreig:

Our Justice Integrity Project, among many others, has documented how the Bush Justice Department framed Siegelman via the current Bush-appointed U.S. Attorney Leura Canary and her subordinates. The prosecutors did this in part by pressuring Beck’s client Nick Bailey, whose tormented and coerced testimony were enabled by a biased Republican trial judge, Mark E. Fuller. Fuller hated Siegelman, according to our research. We documented this in a 2009 investigatory story that the Huffington Post front-paged, entitled, "Siegelman Deserves New Trial Because of Judge's Grudge, Evidence Shows." Fuller himself had no response when we asked him for comment, which helps underscore why the Justice Department and Senate need to have inquiries above suspicion.

Key questions involve Fuller's curious ties to the military-industrial complex, issues that Beck might not be equipped to handle:

Even if Fuller continues to refuse to recuse himself because of his animosity to the defendant, the judge was compromised also by his secret contracts on the side bringing in $300 million from 2006 to 2009 for Doss Aviation, Inc., the judge’s privately held company. Doss primarily serves the Air Force. This Air Force tie-in leads to a host of necessary Senate confirmation questions for Beck, the Justice Department and others regarding Air Force involvement in the Siegelman prosecution and in the recent $35 billion Air Force acquisition of a next-generation of mid-air tankers. Powerful interests wanted these tankers to be built by a European-led consortium at a reassembly plant in Alabama instead of by a U.S. prime contractor.

Beck declined to be interviewed for Kreig's article. But Beck already has indicated he is not willing to examine Fuller's myriad conflicts in the Siegelman matter. Reports Kreig:

{Beck} revealed a number of troubling perspectives when he spoke to reporters on Alabama’s statewide television on June 29, 2007, during a half-hour interview about the Siegelman sentencing. Asked, for example, whether there was evidence of judicial bias by Fuller during the trial, Beck responded emphatically, “None whatsoever.” That was two months after a defense filing showing that the judge was being enriched with Air Force contracts through the company he controlled with up to 44% ownership. Beck showed also a remarkable level of ignorance about basic facts involving two of his biggest cases of the past two decades, that of Bailey (who he had represented since 2001) and former Alabama Gov. Guy Hunt, a Republican convicted of ethics charges in misappropriating some $200,000 and then pardoned.

Are the Obama administration and the Alabama legal establishment strongly behind Beck? Well, their words say one thing and their actions say another. Writes Kreig:

To be sure, Beck has strong defenders in Alabama. But state party leaders and the White House declined to respond to our requests for comment on specifics, aside from their press releases.

The Beck nomination, Kreig writes, seems to be the ugly end product of massive weakness within the Democratic Party, both in Alabama and nationwide:

Democratic cowardice and confusion in replacing even a prosecutor so disgraced as Canary is no reason to recruit Beck. His conflict is so serious that the Senate Judiciary Committee must grill him expertly at his confirmation hearing – in ways far beyond the committee's usual rubber-stamp process for Alabama personnel – about his role in the Siegelman-Scrushy case, referenced below for brevity as the Siegelman case since all of Scrushy's convictions and seven-year prison term were caused solely by what he's described as innocent donations to an education non-profit at Siegelman's request. The Siegelman prosecution remains a human rights scandal of the worldwide infamy. Even if Beck survives thorough hearings to win confirmation he and all his office’s most senior career holdovers must recuse themselves from the Siegelman case and its important spin-offs. That means Beck’s recusal not simply from formal filings, but also from related personnel decisions such as pay raises and promotions that would make his job as a supervisor almost impractical.

Birmingham lawyer G. Douglas Jones, a former U.S. attorney in the Clinton years, has been one of Beck's most vocal supporters. Maybe that's because Jones, like Beck, also played a role in the Siegelman case,  even though he had major conflicts of interest.

In in his upcoming installments, Kreig will report on Jones' support for George Beck. We will follow with our own examination of Doug Jones' actions in an Alabama system that seems to feature a bipartisan effort to protect elites while dispensing little that remotely resembles justice.

Doug Jones seems to have found a way to make himself a kingmaker in Alabama. We see ample evidence indicating that is not a good sign for progressive interests, either here or beyond our borders.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Doug Jones? Bah! That guy is interested in only one thing...his own shameless self promotion. What a loser.

legalschnauzer said...

Does anyone know what Doug Jones' record is in defending white-collar crime cases? Can anyone think of someone he has successfully defended? I'm amazed that all of these people turn to him as their lawyer, but I can't remember winning a case. Chris McNair got nailed, and he's going to prison in spite of ailing health; Siegelman got nailed for a completely "non crime"; Ronnie Gilley could be next. The prosecution seems to do awfully well when Doug Jones is on the defense team.

David said...

Someone may have a better memory than I do, but wasn't Doug Jones a US Attorney in Birmingham? Was he the USA that tried so hard to go after a Birmingham mayor?

legalschnauzer said...

David:

Doug Jones was USA from about 1997-2000, under Clinton. I don't think he went after a Bham mayor. You probably are thinking of Frank Donaldson, who went after Bham Mayor Richard Arrington. I think that was in the mid to late 80s. If I remember correctly, Donaldson was a Reagan appointee. Others might know more about that episode.

Anonymous said...

Any news about A defector's mystical disappearance?