The rules that govern the conduct of attorneys in Alabama make this concise statement: "Loyalty is an essential element in the lawyer's relationship to a client."
Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman returned to federal prison last September 11 for his conviction on "crimes" that do not exist under the law, in a prosecution that was brought almost one full year after the statute of limitations on the central charge had expired. How could a high-priced defense team fail to get an acquittal under such outrageous circumstances?
One answer might be that Siegelman's ever-evolving defense team included one or more members who had conflicts that did not serve the former governor well. Our inquiry has focused especially on G. Douglas Jones, a former U.S. attorney in the Clinton administration who was, until recently, a member of the Birmingham firm Haskell Slaughter. Earlier this month, Jones joined with former White Arnold & Dowd lawyer Greg Hawley to announce the formation of Jones & Hawley PC.
Jones also was a central character in the federal Alabama bingo trial, serving as defense counsel for former Country Crossing founder Ronnie Gilley. Ironically, Jones stepped down as Gilley's lawyer prior to trial, much as he did with Siegelman. Gilley went on to plead guilty and testify against VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor and other defendants. Through a trial and re-trial, federal prosecutors achieved zero verdicts.
As for the Siegelman matter, Jones was chief defense counsel at a critical time in the investigation, when the government seemed uncertain whether it even had a case. We already have shown that Jones threw prosecutors a lifeline by encouraging Siegelman to sign a tolling agreement that extended the five-year statute of limitations.
Perhaps of more interest than Jones' actions is his mindset. To get at that issue, we will examine his statements and actions toward three individuals--a former Alabama attorney general and current federal judge, a fellow lawyer with strong political connections, and a veteran journalist.
Did Don Siegelman have Doug Jones' undivided loyalty? Let's take a look. (We will conclude with a video at the end of this post.)
* Doug Jones gives Bill Pryor "thumbs up"--As one of Don Siegelman's chief defense lawyers, Jones might be expected to have serious issues with former Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor. After all, Pryor launched a state investigation of Siegelman before the new governor's fanny had hardly warmed his chair--and that state probe turned into a federal prosecution that ended with Siegelman in prison on convictions that are not supported by fact or law. Pryor also sealed ballots from the 2002 gubernatorial election when votes for Siegelman mysteriously disappeared overnight in heavily conservative Baldwin County, giving the "victory" to Republican Bob Riley. Pryor's actions ensured there would be no recount--and no revelations about an almost certain case of election theft.
Doug Jones must think Bill Pryor is a dubious guy, right? Heck, no. The Bush administration rewarded Pryor for his skulduggery on the Siegelman case with an appointment to the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals--even though Pryor had zero judicial experience. Pryor's nomination was so controversial, and liberal groups were so strongly opposed to him, that Bush was forced to make a recess appointment.
But Doug Jones thinks Bill Pryor is a swell guy, based on Jones' testimony before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee in October 2007. (See document beneath the video at the end of this post.)
From Jones' own words, we see that he had ample grounds to suspect Bill Pryor was an unethical guy, a partisan hack. On page 3 of his testimony, Jones said he first learned of a criminal investigation against Siegelman in spring 1999, while Jones was serving as U.S. attorney in the Northern District of Alabama. Jones states that lawyers from the Alabama attorney general's office met with his assistants to look at a possible state/federal investigation. During the course of that meeting, the lawyers from the AG's office said they "hoped" the probe would reach the highest levels of the Siegelman administration.
Jones rightly decided that was a bad sign and refused to join the investigation. And he makes it clear that these unethical lawyers worked for . . . Bill Pryor. So why do we then find in Jones' testimony that he finds Pryor to be a "trusted colleague and friend" and was "proud" to support his nomination to the Eleventh Circuit?
Jones receives clear evidence that assistants working for Pryor are corrupt, but he proceeds to declare that Pryor himself is an honorable guy, deserving of a lifetime position on the federal bench? Jones says this in Congressional testimony, even after it was clear that Pryor had played a central role in launching a political prosecution against Jones' one-time client? Was Doug Jones standing up for Don Siegelman or kissing Bill Pryor's judicial fanny?
* Doug Jones gives Rob Riley "thumbs up"--As one of Don Siegelman's chief defense lawyers, Jones might be expected to have serious issues with Homewood lawyer Rob Riley. After all, Riley is the son of Siegelman's chief political rival, a rival who benefited from almost certain election theft in 2002. And Rob Riley had his sticky fingers in the middle of his father's ethically challenged administration every step of the way.
Doug Jones must want to keep his distance from a sketchy guy like Rob Riley, right? Heck, no. They worked together on a massive federal lawsuit against individuals and entities connected to HealthSouth Corporation. They even acted together as "co-liaison counsel" and helped themselves to the proceeds from a case that generated more than $50 million in attorney fees.
In fact, Jones is so tight with Riley that he takes great exception to anyone who shines light on Junior's seedy activities--like health-care fraud, the very charge that Jones and Riley were quick to help throw at others in the HealthSouth case.
In late March 2009, I wrote a post titled "Does Rob Riley Engage in Fraud As He 'Fights' Fraud?" noting that Riley and his physical-therapy company were defendants in a federal whistleblower lawsuit that alleged Medicare fraud.
Does Doug Jones appreciate efforts to expose fraud and corruption? Not when they involve his legal compadre, Rob Riley. Jones attacked me and my reporting in a comment he posted to a well-known progressive listserv based in Huntsville, Alabama. He described me as a person who "wrote on something they obviously know nothing about" and hinted that my work was based on "innuendo and speculation," that I had come to "absurd conclusions."
I wrote about Jones' attack in a post titled "Striking a Nerve with a Key Figure in the Don Siegelman Case." I later tried to interview Jones via telephone on a number of issues. (See video below.)
When I asked for his response to the fact that Rob Riley is alleged in a federal lawsuit to be involved with Medicare fraud, Jones said, "Based on the things I've seen that you've written, I don't think it's worth my time to comment."
Did Jones cite any specifics regarding inaccurate reporting on my part? No. Does he seem to be extremely sensitive about real journalism being applied to Rob Riley? Yes.
Doug Jones gives Legal Schnauzer "thumbs down"--As one of Don Siegelman's chief defense lawyers, Jones might be expected to be a fan of this blog. After all, few journalists in the country have done more to show that Siegelman was the victim of a political prosecution, a corrupt federal judge, and a tainted jury.
Doug Jones must dig Legal Schnauzer, right? Not exactly. I asked Jones about a decision by the U.S. Justice Department in the late 1990s to call off an investigation of Alabama Reassurance, a company owned by Tuscaloosa businessman and University of Alabama trustee Paul Bryant Jr. Alabama Re already had been implicated in a federal prosecution that resulted in a 15-year prison sentence for a Pennsylvania lawyer/entrepreneur named Allen W. Stewart. Investigators had been given the go-ahead by Jones' predecessor to proceed with an investigation in Alabama against Bryant's company. But when Jones took office, someone called off the Alabama Re investigation.
When asked about the case, Jones said he had been precluded from participating in the Stewart case because of a previous attorney/client relationship--and that presumably means he had done legal work for Bryant. Asked specifically if he, as U.S. attorney, called off the subsequent investigation of Paul Bryant Jr.'s company, Jones responded with a stream of insults. And he never answered the question. Here is part of that exchange:
Jones: I'm trying to make sure you understand that I have read your stuff, I have seen your conspiracy theories, and I am not going to answer any of your questions because I don't trust what you will write, period.
LS: I'm taking it down word for word. . . . I'm asking you, who called off the investigation of Paul Bryant?
Jones: I am not going to respond to any of your questions . .
LS: You were a public official then, Doug . . .
Jones: I am not going to respond to any of your questions. . . . I've seen the garbage you write and the way you spin and the way you slant. It's the most disingenuous stuff I've ever seen. . . . It just doesn't matter to me. You're a nothing to me."
Is Doug Jones a smug, pompous ass? More importantly, does he have solid loyalty to Don Siegelman, his former client who now sits in a federal prison for "crimes" that do not exist under the law? Or is Jones more interested in cozying up to the corrupt likes of Bill Pryor, Rob Riley, and Paul Bryant Jr.?
As for the Alabama bingo trial, evidence strongly suggests that Jones was watching out for Rob Riley's interests all the way--probably because the Riley family long has been at odds with VictoryLand's Milton McGregor. We addressed that issue in an April 2011 post titled "Who Beneifts From Ronnie Gilley's Guilty Plea in Alabama Bingo Case?" From that post:
Jones, in theory, is a Democrat, while Riley has extensive ties to Bush-Republican henchmen. But the two became compadres on the HealthSouth lawsuit, which yielded substantial sums of cash for both of them. So isn't it curious that Ronnie Gilley, whose prime defense lawyer has been Doug Jones, would plead guilty in a move that seems to help the Riley clan?
How does it help the Rileys? Well, Gilley now appears set to testify against the other bingo defendants, including VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor. And it seems clear now that McGregor has been the feds' main target all along. . . .
Does it benefit the Rileys to see Milton McGregor wind up in federal prison? Yes. Did Doug Jones help his buddy, Rob Riley, by pushing Ronnie Gilley to plead guilty and agree to testify against McGregor? Our sources say the answer is yes.
When push comes to shove, does Doug Jones tend to come down on the side of Rob Riley and his corrupt GOP associates? A mountain of evidence suggests the answer is yes.
Here is another question: Does Doug Jones have any trouble sleeping at night over his failure to protect the interests of a former governor who is paying a heavy price for a "crime" he did not commit? I invite you to listen to the video below and come to your own conclusions.
(Note: This is the first of three attempts I've made to interview Jones on a variety of topics. In the first two, he was so smug and snippy that we essentially had no interview. He simply refused to answer questions about matters connected to his role as a former public official or as an officer of publicly funded courts. In the third conversation, Jones actually answered a number of questions in a fairly courteous manner. Why the change in his tone? Perhaps it's because of his recent shift to a new law firm, where he is trying to drum up business. Whatever the reason, you will be hearing the original Doug Jones, and the revised version, in a series of upcoming posts.)
Doug Jones Testimony