A most curious story today out of Montgomery. And we here at Legal Schnauzer don't know quite what to make of it.
Francis X. Gilpin, of the Montgomery Advertiser, reports that a federal grand jury wants to investigate allegations that former Lt. Gov. Steve Windom played a role in an attempted shakedown of Montgomery insurance executive John W. Goff.
The story is based on court documents filed this week and comes on the heels of reports yesterday about allegations from Goff's attorneys that U.S. Attorney Leura Canary was abusing her power in an investigation of Goff.
The notion that Alabama's federal justice arm would be focusing its attention on Windom, a prominent Republican, is a true man-bites-dog kind of story. Federal prosecutors in Alabama have become targets of a Congressional probe into selective prosecution, based on their handling of the case against former Democratic Governor Don Siegelman.
Scott Horton, of Harper's, reported that Canary's job might be in jeopardy after attorneys Thomas Gallion III and Donald R. Jones Jr. wrote a letter to new U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, charging that Canary was pursuing an abusive and politically motivated investigation of Goff. Horton noted that Mukasey already had sacked a U.S. attorney in Minnesota after criticism of her surfaced from U.S. Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN).
Gilpin reports that a subpoena of Gallion has been withdrawn. And a letter from Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Feaga to Gallion's firm states that the grand jury is interested in a 2003 meeting between Goff and two Windom associates. Goff claimed the men attempted to extort money from him in exchange for Windom's help in retaining a state insurance contract.
Feaga's letter was included among documents filed with Goff's amended lawsuit against Governor Bob Riley, Windom, and others who allegedly caused damage to one of Goff's companies. The amended suit adds Riley's son, Birmingham attorney Rob Riley, as a defendant.
A few questions come to mind about Gilpin's story:
* Is this a thinly disguised effort by Canary to save her job?
* Is Windom truly in any danger of being investigated and, heaven forbid, prosecuted?
* If so, why is Bob Riley not included in the grand jury's investigation? A lawsuit filed by Goff, which seemed to spark the criminal investigation against him, alleges wrongdoing by both Windom and Riley.