The roots of the Don Siegelman prosecution can be traced to the Iran-Contra scandal and the assassination of a federal judge in the 1980s, according to a new report from a Washington, D.C.-based investigative journalist.
The Siegelman case also has connections to a lawsuit styled Avirgan v. Hull, which was dismissed in curious fashion--an action that might have been a forerunner to the rampant judicial corruption we see today, especially in the Deep South.
Siegelman trial judge Mark Fuller long has been involved in efforts to cover up massive CIA drug- and gun-smuggling operations that are tied, in part, to Iran-Contra, according to the Wayne Madsen Report (WMR). Fuller also has been involved in a cover up involving the 1989 mail-bomb assassination of federal judge Robert S. Vance in Birmingham.
How did Fuller become connected to such nefarious activities? His hometown of Enterprise, Alabama, is home to a prime airfield that has been used in the smuggling operations, Madsen reports.
Where does Siegelman fit into this picture, and how did he become the target of a bogus prosecution that was driven by the Bush family and their affiliates? Siegelman was our state's attorney general from 1987 to 1991, and WMR reports that he became aware of Fuller's ties to Doss Aviation and the use of south Alabama airfields for suspicious flights to Central and South America. To make Siegelman even more of a target, he and Robert Vance had once been law partners--and Siegelman considered Vance to be one of his primary mentors.
Fuller recently resentenced Siegelman to five years and nine months in federal prison, with a curious reporting date of September 11, 2012. Even more curious, WMR reports, is a statement Fuller made at the resentencing hearing: (WMR is a subscription site, and a link is not available to the content; we have received permission to run excerpts from the piece.)
After Siegelman said he accepted the decision of the court and respected the system, Fuller made a shocking and revealing statement that underscored his own criminal past--and desire for revenge against Siegelman, Alabama’s attorney general two decades ago before he became a one-term governor from 1999 to 2003.
"You came from the highest legal office in the state of Alabama,” Fuller told Siegelman Aug. 3, “and it has taken you 21 years to understand that, and I find that difficult.”
This column reveals for the first time the meaning behind Fuller’s comment, which stems, according to WMR sources, from the Fuller family’s involvement in the notorious Iran-Contra arms and dope-smuggling scandal of the late 1980s.
Iran-Contra has its roots in the Reagan years, and fallout from the scandal continued during the George H.W. Bush administration. Mark Fuller was a private attorney in a small Alabama town at the time, so how did he become involved? WMR explains:
The fear of the Bush administration was that its network of CIA-linked drug and weapons runners would be exposed. Of particular concern to the conspirators was the activities of a group of CIA shell companies, all mostly dealing with millions of dollars of cash transactions, including air transport firms incorporated mostly in the small southeastern Alabama town of Enterprise would be exposed.
From 1985 to 1996, Fuller was a private attorney in Enterprise with the law firm Cassady, Fuller and Marsh. One of Fuller's clients was a company called Parker Brown Refueling Company of Enterprise. In 1989, Parker Brown Refueling Company was bought by investors in Colorado Springs, and the company became known as Doss Aviation. The Brown in Parker Brown Refueling was the mayor of Enterprise, M. M. "Jug" Brown. The Cassady in Cassady, Fuller and Marsh, according to a reliable source in Enterprise, was Joe Cassady, who, according to our source, also served on the board of Doss Aviation.
Fuller's rise in legal and judicial circles was driven, WMR reports, by his ties to Doss Aviation, CIA-backed drug and gun smuggling, and the Bush family:
WMR has learned that Siegelman, as Attorney General, was well-aware of Doss Aviation's dealings and Fuller's role in the firm. In 1996, Republican Governor Fob James had Fuller appointed as the Chief Assistant District Attorney for the 12th Judicial Circuit of Alabama and later that year he was elected District Attorney for the 12th Circuit. In 2002, President George W. Bush nominated Fuller as a federal judge for the Middle District of Alabama in Montgomery.
In the span of six years, Fuller went from a largely unknown small-town lawyer, with thin credentials, to a federal judge. A specific and sinister purpose was behind Fuller's rapid ascent:
As district attorney and federal judge, Fuller has been entrusted by the CIA to ensure that the illegal operations involving the agency's drug and weapons smuggling operations remain a secret. In addition, Fuller has ensured that anyone who is believed to be a threat to the secrecy of the operation, is dealt with harshly, and that includes the Attorney General who first caught wind of the Enterprise operation, Siegelman.
How does this tie back to the Robert Vance assassination? Walter Leroy Moody was convicted in 1991 of being the sole individual responsible for sending the mail bomb, but WMR reports that Moody almost certainly did not act alone--if he was involved at all. The Vance murder probably was tied to Avirgan v. Hull, a lawsuit that grew from the 1984 bombing at a contra press conference in La Penca, Costa Rica, killing one American journalist (Linda Frazier) and injuring another (Tony Avirgan). The Miami-based Christic Institute brought the case under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), alleging that a North American farmer named John Hull was behind the bombing. A 1990 report from the Christic Institute provides background:
Among those injured was ABC cameraman Tony Avirgan. Once Avirgan recovered from his injuries he joined his wife, journalist Martha Honey, who had already begun an investigation to track down those responsible for the La Penca bombing.
The two journalists discovered a trail of evidence leading from La Penca to a secret contra base in Costa Rica, located on a ranch owned by a North American farmer named John Hull. Eyewitnesses identified the ranch as the staging area for the La Penca bombing.
Avirgan and Honey learned that Hull was a key figure in the criminal enterprise of retired military officers, former intelligence officials and private "soldiers of fortune" who were supplying arms for the contra war against Nicaragua. They also learned that Hull was allowing Colombian drug traffickers to use his ranch to smuggle cocaine into the United States. The profits from the drug operation were used to purchase military supplies for the contras.
Despite an escalating series of anonymous death threats and the murder on Hull's ranch of one of their informants, Avirgan and Honey completed their investigation and published their findings. Realizing they had found evidence of a broad criminal conspiracy, the two journalists asked the Christic Institute to represent them in a federal civil lawsuit against the individuals responsible for the La Penca bombing and other criminal acts. The Christic Institute, which had already amassed extensive information about the criminal operations of the Richard Secord Enterprise, agreed to represent the journalists.
The lawsuit was filed six months before the Iran-Contra story broke in the press. A federal judge in Miami dismissed the lawsuit, but a number of reports have stated that Vance was considered a strong bet to reinstate the case on appeal in the Eleventh Circuit. The appeal was pending when a mail bomb exploded at Vance's Mountain Brook home on December 12, 1989, killing him instantly. Christic's appeal would be denied, and the trial judge's imposition of Rule 11 sanctions totaling about $1.5 million was upheld, forcing the institute into bankruptcy. That helped ensure that the truth behind Iran-Contra would never be unraveled, and WMR shows how it all ties to the Siegelman prosecution:
The murder of Vance needs to be understood in the context of the 1980s Iran-Contra scandal and Siegelman’s understandable desire to investigate it as attorney general, particularly given the extensive use of airfields in Southern Alabama for suspicious flights to Central and South America. Vance was the lead justice on the 11th Circuit panel that was considering the appeal of a lower court's decision to toss out a Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) suit brought by the Christic Institute against the Bush administration for the Iran-contra scandal, specifically the 1984 bombing of a contra meeting in La Penca, Costa Rica that killed American journalist Linda Frazier and injured another American journalist, Tony Avirgan. The suit was thrown out by U.S. Judge James King in Miami and an appeal was filed by Christic with the 11th Circuit in Atlanta. With Vance's assassination, the RICO appeal was doomed. Siegelman, as someone close to Vance and, hence, to the case, would have understood the impact of Vance's assassination in exposing the entire Iran-contra episode, including Fuller's involvement with it.
According to WMR, Fuller knows exactly who helped him rise to power, and he intends to protect their secrets at all cost.
As district attorney and federal judge, Fuller has been entrusted by the CIA to ensure that the illegal operations involving the agency's drug and weapons smuggling operations remain a secret. In addition, Fuller has ensured that anyone who is believed to be a threat to the secrecy of the operation, is dealt with harshly and that includes the Attorney General who first caught wind of the Enterprise operation, Siegelman.
Those behind Iran-Contra never have been held fully accountable. But Madsen's report reminds us that a few serious journalists have tried to enlighten the public. The Associated Press' Robert Parry, now at Consortium News, helped break the story in the mid 1980s. Gary Webb, of the San Jose Mercury News, produced a groundbreaking series showing that CIA-backed drug smuggling helped fuel the American crack-cocaine epidemic of the 1980s.
Webb wound up committing suicide in 2004 after he and his paper had been attacked by a number of large newspapers, essentially causing Webb to be blackballed in the profession. A number of scholars and journalists--even an internal CIA investigation--have since shown that Webb's reporting was largely on target.
Parry now publishes an Iran-Contra retrospective every year on the anniversary of Webb's death. Here is a link to Parry's most recent piece, from December 2011. It provides important background as we consider the scandal's ongoing impact on Alabama and the Deep South:
Robert Parry: The Warning of Gary Webb's Death