Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Unmasking Judge Fuller

A Springfield, Missouri, attorney has uncovered information that could have an impact on the Congressional investigation into the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. It also could spell legal trouble for U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller and an iconic Alabama businessman with ties to the Bush family.

The new charges should be of special interest to anyone with connections to the Retirement System of Alabama (RSA), which is run by CEO David G. Bronner.

Fuller oversaw the prosecution of Siegelman, who now is in federal prison following his conviction on corruption charges. But attorney Paul Benton Weeks, in an affidavit filed in 2003, states that Fuller himself is corrupt and should be investigated.

Weeks looked into Fuller's background as part of his work in Murray v. Scott & Sevier, a civil action that originated in Kansas but was transferred to federal court in Montgomery.

Murray first was assigned to Judge Ira DeMent, but the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals found that DeMent had a conflict and removed him from the case. Judge Myron Thompson then took over, but the case mysteriously wound up under Fuller.

Weeks, in his role as counsel for the plaintiffs, conducted standard research on Fuller's background and was "astonished" by what he found. Weeks' research, and the entire affidavit, are the focus of a post today by Scott Horton of Harper's.

Horton notes that Weeks sent his allegations regarding Fuller to Noel Hillman, then head of the Public Integrity Section at the Department of Justice. Writes Horton: "This means that at the time that Fuller was presiding over the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, a prosecution brought by Noel Hillman's Public Integrity Section, he was or should have been the subject of an investigation by the Public Integrity Section. This presents a further appearance of impropriety both by Judge Fuller and by the prosecutors handling the case."

The Murray case revolves around the Montgomery-based Bass Anglers Sportsman's Society of America (B.A.S.S.), a national association of bass fishermen founded to protect the health of the nation's public fishing waters and to promote children's fishing programs.

Ray Scott, the founder of B.A.S.S., has deep ties to the Bush family, including current president, George W. Bush. In his 1999 biography, Scott wrote, "George W. told me that outside his father and family, the two men who had had the most profound effect on his life were Billy Graham and Ray Scott. One had taught him about faith and the other about bass fishing."

Bradley Murray, a lifetime member of B.A.S.S., filed a lawsuit against Ray Scott and associates in federal court in Wichita, Kansas, in 1992. The suit was transferred to Alabama in 1995.

Murray's lawsuit alleges that Scott and others stole more than $75 million from B.A.S.S., a nonprofit association, and transferred it to B.A.S.S. Inc., a for-profit corporation. "B.A.S.S. membership dues and the Society's magazine revenues come into B.A.S.S. (the Society), but instead of being spent on the Society's conservation and children's programs, Scott and his associates transfer all of the Society's funds from B.A.S.S. to B.A.S.S. Inc. and then into their pockets," the lawsuit says.

In his affidavit, Weeks says he was warned by someone in the Montgomery federal court clerk's office that, once the case was in Alabama, it was likely to be decided based on politics, not on its merits. Weeks' concerns about political influence on the case only heightened when he looked into Fuller's background.

Weeks found evidence that Fuller had:
* Conspired with a political associate to defraud RSA of $330,000;
* Embezzled and stolen government funds by giving an associate $70,000 for work that was not done;
* Committed perjury while testifying under oath before the RSA appeal board;
* Committed fraud upon the United States Senate and obstructed the Senate's attempt to thoroughly review his judicial nomination.

Who is Paul Benton Weeks? He graduated from the University of Missouri and earned his law degree at the University of Virginia. He has worked with G. Robert Blakey, one of the nation's leading authorities on white-collar crime, chief author of the federal racketeering laws, and a law professor at Notre Dame.

Unlike many of the lawyers I have encountered, Weeks takes legal ethics seriously. And he is not intimidated by judges. "Lawyers have a duty to report any apparent misconduct by a judge--especially when the evidence points to criminal misconduct," Weeks writes.

Like Alabama attorney Jill Simpson, Weeks has come forward at significant personal risk. "In the B.A.S.S. case, I have been harassed and my life threatened twice by Ray Scott," Weeks writes. "One of Mr. Scott's attorneys asked a friend of mine where my parents and sister lived."

One of Weeks' role models was Frank Johnson, the late federal judge from Alabama. "One of the finest federal judges in U.S. history was Alabama Judge Frank Johnson," Weeks writes. "More than once, Judge Johnson said that judges are not above the law and must be held accountable. If Judge Johnson were alive today, he would say that if Judge Fuller lied to the RSA or violated any criminal laws, then Fuller must be removed from federal office. Indeed, if Fuller lied or has violated any criminal laws, then Article III, Section 1 of the Constitution of the United States requires Fuller's removal from federal office."

So what does it all mean for the Congressional investigation into the Siegelman matter? Writes Horton: "The Siegelman case presents a bizarre spectacle: a political corruption prosecution which is itself profoundly corrupt. As time proceeds, the allegations against Siegelman appear more and more dubious, but the evidence of criminal wrongdoing by those who brought and handled the case is mounting."

1 comment:

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