Does Bob Riley take judicial corruption seriously, particularly when Alabama's state courts (at the time in question) were administered by one of his appointees?
I have a personal experience with Riley's situational ethics, as they pertain to judicial corruption. In November 2005, when the Natalee Holloway disappearance story was at its peak, Riley called for a travel boycott of Aruba, citing that country's poor handling of the Holloway case. Riley went on Bill O'Reilly's television show to promote the boycott. (Never mind that, statistically speaking, Holloway was far safer in Aruba than she ever was in her native Alabama.)
As Riley attacked the Aruban justice system, O'Reilly raised the issue of Alabama's justice system. (Even O'Reilly saw hypocrisy looming on the horizon.) I don't have a transcript of the show, so I'm paraphrasing here, but Riley said, in so many words: "If anyone has a problem with Alabama's justice system, please contact me. I want to know about it." The implication clearly was that if someone had information about wrongdoing by officials in Alabama's justice system, Riley would try to do something about it--politics be damned.
Well, I took Riley up on his offer. I went to the governor's Web site and sent a rather lengthy missive about my experience with the corrupt practices of Republican judges in Alabama courts, which at the time were headed by Chief Justice Drayton Nabers, a Riley appointee.
My letter was on one of those Web forms that, to my knowledge, don't allow you to keep a copy. But I'm pretty sure I helpfully pointed out to the governor that the source of the corruption I had experienced was one Bill Swatek, an Alabama attorney who is the father of Dax Swatek, who has served as a campaign consultant and advisor for Riley himself.
I believe I also pointed out (helpfully, I'm sure) that it appeared that a corrupt attorney such as Bill Swatek could get away with figurative murder in Alabama courtrooms if he has family ties to the Riley administration.
Finally, I believe I pointed out that said Republican judges had repeatedly made unlawful rulings and used the U.S. mails in furtherance of a fraudulent scheme, constituting a federal crime, honest services mail fraud, under 18 U.S. Code 1346.
A few weeks went by before a letter (dated December 7, 2005) arrived from Riley's office. It assured me that the governor was concerned about the issues raised in my e-mail, and it had been forwarded to his chief legal advisor, Ken Wallis.
Have I ever heard anything from Mr. Wallis? Well, let's just say it's a good thing I didn't decide to hold my breath while waiting for him to take action.
So let's review: Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, a Democrat, now sits in a federal prison largely because a jury found that he had improperly granted favors to people who had special ties to him. (Twenty of the 32 charges against Siegelman? Honest services mail fraud.)
Meanwhile, Dax Swatek's daddy (who has a lengthy history of ethical violations with the Alabama State Bar) gets away with all sorts of shenanigans (including mail fraud) in Alabama courts, and Riley doesn't seem to bat an eye.
Is that because Dax Swatek raises money and otherwise assists Riley? By ignoring Bill Swatek's criminal behavior, is Bob Riley improperly granting a favor to someone with special ties to the governor?
And we're supposed to believe that Riley has raised the levels of ethical government in Alabama? We're supposed to believe that Alabama's justice system is better than the one in Aruba? We're supposed to buy the letter from Alabama Republican Party chair Mike Hubbard about the crystal-clean nature of the Riley administration? (Has Hubbard ever heard of Jack Abramoff, Michael Scanlon, and Dan Gans, and their roles in Riley's election in 2002? Maybe Hubbard needs to catch up on his reading.)
So how does Alabama's justice system compare to the one in Aruba? Based on my experience, I'd say Alabama has a ways to go to catch up to Afghanistan.
Does that concern Bob Riley? If it does, I've certainly seen no sign of it.