The Birmingham News' effort to attack the credibility of Jill Simpson marches on.
Yesterday, reporters Mary Orndorff and Brett Blackledge took a crack at it. Today, it's Kim Chandler's turn.
Chandler quotes three lawyers close to Siegelman--Joe Espy, Bobby Segall, and Walter Braswell--as saying they were not aware of any deal to call off Siegelman's 2002 election challenge in exchange for an end to the federal investigation of Siegelman. Hey Kim, I hear Siegelman didn't tell his barber; might want to check that out.
Hard to tell what point the News is trying to make with this one. As was the case with Friday's stories, a careful reader can easily see that the story itself shoots down any notions that Simpson is untruthful.
On Friday, for example, the News' headline and lead paragraph made much of the fact that Simpson received help writing her affidavit. The reporters contrasted that with Simpson's earlier statements that she wrote the affidavit on her own. But then deep into the Friday story, the reporters state that Simpson did not like a draft prepared by attorney John Aaron and went on to write her own--just as Simpson had said all along.
Today's story makes much of three attorneys not knowing about any deal between Siegelman and GOP operatives. But deeper into the story one of the attorneys, Walter Braswell, is quoted as saying, "It's possible it could have happened and remained an entirely confidential matter with the late David Cromwell Johnson."
Chandler never quotes Espy or Segall, but says they claimed to know nothing about any deal. It seems to me that these attorneys, if they had an attorney-client relationship with Siegelman, shouldn't be saying anything about such matters. Current Siegelman attorney Vince Kilborn of Mobile takes that approach, declining to comment about any possible deal.
The News states that Siegelman never publicly mentioned any such Republican overture during his two trials. Correct me if I'm wrong, but my memory is that Siegelman did not testify at either of his trials.
The News' strategy seems to be this: Write a long story, stick it on the front page with an inflammatory headline and lead graph, and then jump it inside and hope readers don't get to the parts that reveal there really is nothing to the story at all.
Pravda of the South indeed.
If what Jill Simpson is saying is true, then the US Attorneys and some GOP lawyers have committed a crime by asking Siegelman to drop out in return for not prosecuting. Also, it is a violation of the Rules of Professional Responsibility to threaten criminal prosecution in order to force a settlement agreement.
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