Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Forgotten Charge Against Don Siegelman

I was rereading one of my recent posts the other day, and I realized that 60 Minutes, the Alabama Republican Party, and your humble blogger all got something wrong about the Don Siegelman story.

And I, of all people, should have known better.

It started when 60 Minutes' Scott Pelley said Siegelman had been convicted of charges related to bribery. The Alabama Republican Party harrumphed and issued a statement that 60 Minutes had gotten it wrong--that Siegelman also was convicted of obstruction of justice. That prompted me to harrumph and write a post saying that obstruction of justice is a "piggyback" charge that requires the presence of another crime. Like conspiracy, it cannot stand on its own and must be found in connection with a related crime. Therefore, I said with indignation, Pelley's statement that Siegelman was convicted of "charges related to bribery" was correct.

Turns out all three of us had it wrong.

Siegelman was convicted of one count of bribery and one count of obstruction of justice. But by far, the stickiest charge against him was honest-services mail fraud. He was convicted of four counts of honest-services mail fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit honest-services mail fraud.

The final score? Five of the seven counts for which Siegelman was convicted were related to honest-services mail fraud. (In all, the former governor was convicted on seven counts and acquitted on 26 counts--not a particularly strong showing for the prosecution.)

Just how important was honest-services mail fraud in the Siegelman case? It made up roughly two-thirds of the charges against him. And yet 60 Minutes and the Alabama Republican Party never mentioned it, and yours truly completely forgot about it. Duh.

No wonder we call it the "forgotten charge." But folks who care about justice, both in general and in the Siegelman case specifically, should not forget about the forgotten charge. And I sure as heck shouldn't forget about it.

Why? Because I've been a victim of it.

I've had a number of folks ask me, "Why do you write so much about the Siegelman case on your blog? Why don't you just jump straight into your own story of corruption?"

Well, there are two main reasons for that. One, evidence clearly shows that many of the same characters who play leading roles in the Siegelman story--Alice Martin, Bob Riley, Bill Canary, Leura Canary, Dax Swatek--also have connections to my story.

The primary connector? Alabama Republican consultant Dax Swatek, whose father Bill Swatek filed the bogus lawsuit against me that started our Legal Schnauzer tale. As we've noted before, Dax Swatek has close ties to Bill Canary, who is married to Leura Canary, who started the prosecution of Siegelman and . . . well, you get the picture.

The second reason? I know what real honest-services mail fraud is all about. I've been on the receiving end of it, and I've studied it extensively. On a personal level, I can tell you it's not much fun to be the victim of honest-services mail fraud. It pretty much ruins your faith in our system of government--or at least the people who are running it.

A transcript of the Siegelman trial is not available (although his lawyers say it is on the horizon), so I can't say for sure that Don Siegelman was innocent of the mail fraud charges against him. But I strongly suspect the case was flimsy.

(Honest-services mail fraud also was a key charge in the Paul Minor case in Mississippi, and that's a key reason I have written so much about that case. I have seen that transcript, and there is no question the three defendants in the Minor case did not commit mail fraud--or bribery or any of the other crimes they were charged with. But in Karl Rove's America, all three defendants are in federal prison. That's another story that deserves 60 Minutes attention. In fact, here's an idea: Since we no longer have 60 Minutes II, let's encourage the network to start a version devoted entirely to corruption in federal courts, state courts, and the U.S. Justice Department under George W. Bush. There would be no shortage of stories to cover.)

There is nothing flimsy about the honest-services mail fraud I've seen committed by Shelby County judges J. Michael Joiner, G. Dan Reeves, and others in our Alabama state "justice system." But they are Republicans, members of the "home team" that U.S. attorney Alice Martin endeavors to protect.

If you really want to understand the Siegelman case, I encourage you to learn about honest-services mail fraud. It's the charge upon which his conviction is overwhelmingly based.

As a public service, we offer this tidy little post as a place to learn about this key charge. We call the post "Mail Fraud: A Primer."

You will find there are several benefits to reading this post. One, you can dazzle your friends with your knowledge of honest-services mail fraud. Trust me, it will make you the "life of the party" at your next outing. Two, it will help you get to the core of the Siegelman and Minor cases. And three, it will have you prepared when we show you what a real case of honest-services mail fraud looks like--and how a U.S. attorney tries her darnedest to cover it up.


Anonymous said...

The three largest newspapers and the Internet site al.com in Alabama are all operated by Newhouse Publications which is owned by media giant Advance Publications, Inc. These newspapers literally print nothing but lies about all top Democrats in the state. They will not allow their investigative reporters any access to these cases. They did not investigate and didn't printed the truth about Don Siegelman. Most of the smaller locally owned newspapers have managed to spread the truth. They have done a remarkable job since this is a red state standing up to Bush's GOP operatives.

These three newspaper instruct their writers to start every article that they write about Siegelman with this statement, "Our newspapers endorsed Bob Riley and we believe Siegelman to be a crook" then they twist every sentence after that to sound negative.

Most Alabamians now know the truth about Don Siegelman and the conspiracy that removed this most popular Democrat in the history of Alabama from office using Bush's appointees financed by illegal laundried money.

Only 59% of the children in Alabama graduate from high school. Siegelman ran an education campaign that would have provided financial assistance to the education system and college schorlarships; however, GOP operatives ran prime time media smear ads which were endorced by Christian sham organizations, Congressman Bob Riley and Ralph Reed. This smear campaign along with the two that was used to defeat him in his reelection for governor were funded by lobbyists Jack Abramoff and Michael Scanlon who made the Choctaw Indians believe that Don Siegelman was a threat to Mississippi gambling and that if he was re-elected that he was going to pass laws that would free the Alabama Poarch Indians.

Anonymous said...

Though John McCain has repeatedly claimed he took on Jack Abramoff and the Republican culture of corruption, a recent story revealed that McCain covered for his friend, Alabama Governor Bob Riley, who was fighting a tight re-election battle at the time, by refusing to release key evidence that would have linked Riley to the Abramoff scandal. Yesterday, Riley returned the favor by endorsing McCain.

As chair of a committee conducting an investigation on Abramoff, McCain had access to an incriminating email sent just one month after Riley was elected to office detailing what Abramoff wanted Riley to do in return for the contributions Abramoff's tribal clients directed toward his campaign. But instead of including the email in his report on the Abramoff scandal, McCain instead chose to withhold the email, shielding Riley from becoming implicated in the scandal as he was waging a bitter fight to keep his seat, a race that even Karl Rove became involved in. [Huffington Post, 2/25/08]

This cycle of quid pro quo seriously calls McCain's integrity into question and is further evidence that the so-called "maverick" isn't the Washington reformer he claims to be.

McCain Didn't Investigate Republican Colleagues for Their Illegal or Unethical Behavior. John McCain's Indian Affairs Committee hearings failed to go after federal lawmakers who benefited from Jack Abramoff's lobbying. "McCain said his committee continues to examine all the financial angles of where the $82 million ended up, as well as other political and charitable contributions the tribes made at Abramoff's request. But he reiterated that he was following the money trail, not the legislative actions taken by Members of Congress. 'We stop when we find out where the money went,' he said." [Roll Call, 3/10/05]

McCain Acknowledged That Some Legislators Had Committed "Wrongdoing," But Refused To Investigate. Asked if he believed that some legislators had committed a crime related the Abramoff scandal, Senator McCain said "There's strong evidence that there was significant wrongdoing, but I'm not a judge or jury," and refused to investigate his colleagues in Congress, saying "I will not, because I'm a chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee. This was brought to our--this whole thing started--was brought to us--attention by some disgruntled tribal council members in a small tribe in Louisiana, and we took it as far as we thought was our responsibility, which is where the money ends up." [NBC, Meet the Press, 12/4/05]

Anonymous said...

Colonel Retired Tom Spellissy was convicted for conspiracy to deprive the United States Government of a contractor's honest services even though the honest service statue was not part of the conspiracy count. The conspiracy count in the indictment states that Spellissy alledgedly conspired to commit bribery and wire fraud. Go to www.fight4spellissy.com The case is under a second appeal at the Eleventh Circuit. This case demonstrates how out of control our government is.

Anonymous said...

CBS news Tampa, FL reported that Colonel (Retired) Tom Spellissy is scheduled for Oral Argument at the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Sept 09 on issues concerning 18 USC § 1346.