In today's Tuscaloosa News, Tommy Stevenson presents probably the most in-depth account so far of Don Siegelman's strategy for appealing his conviction on corruption charges.
The appeal is not due to be filed until May 23, but Stevenson gives an inside account of where the Siegelman legal team is headed. No one can predict what will happen when it comes to justice in the Age of Rove. But from here, it appears that the Siegelman appeal is built on sturdy legal legs.
Stevenson notes that, by law, the appeal will deal only with matters that are part of the trial record. But the record appears to include a number of inviting targets for attack.
Vince Kilborn, Siegelman's Mobile-based lead attorney, says he thinks he can find things in that transcript--especially in what he says was evidence not allowed to be presented to the jury, evidence withheld from the defense by the prosecution in the "discovery" process, and in jury instructions by federal Judge Mark Fuller--that could get the verdict overturned or at least get Siegelman a new trial.
If an appeal to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals is not successful, Kilborn says Siegelman "definitely" will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"On appeal, we can bring in some of the issues that weren't allowed in Judge Fuller's courtroom, but which are in the overall record," (Kilborn) said. "Selective prosecution, the larger plot to get Don, those sorts of things - things the jury never heard about but that are in the record because of our arguments.
"It's like cases where DNA evidence has been found that exonerates someone who has been convicted after the trial, or where someone else confesses to a murder after there has already been a conviction. We feel good about our chances both in Atlanta or in Washington, if we have to go that far."
Stevenson reports that Lanny Young, one of the witnesses who testified against Siegelman on federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act charges, will be central to Siegelman's claim that his right to equal protection under the law was violated. Siegelman was exonerated of the RICO charges, which constituted more than half the counts against him. But he was found guilty on one count of obstruction of justice involving the receipt and sale of a motorcycle, about which Young testified
"This is the government's key witness in their case against me on criminal RICO charges," Siegelman, released on bond last month after serving nine months in federal prison, said in an April 17th interview. "The jury found him not credible, but the judge also did not let us introduce evidence while Lanny was on the stand which would have shown that I was being singled out for prosecution."
Siegelman also points out the curious circumstances surrounding Young's claims that he had given possibly illegal campaign contributions not only to Siegelman but also to Republicans Jeff Sessions and William Pryor.
Siegelman said the Young deposition was also attended by people who had worked for Sessions and Pryor.
"Lanny was questioned under oath by FBI agents, by a representative of the DOJ, by Assistant U.S. Atty. Julia Weller, who worked for to U.S. Attorney Leura Canary, who had to recuse herself from the case because her husband, Bill, had worked for Karl Rove, [Gov.] Bob Riley and other prominent Alabama Republicans," Siegelman said. "There were also FBI agents in there who had worked for Sessions when he was a U.S. attorney and moved to Montgomery to work for Bill Pryor when he was attorney general. Julia Weller is also the wife of Bill Weller, who was Pryor's campaign manager.
"Every one of those people had a conflict of interest," Siegelman insisted, slapping his hand on his desk. "They should have all said to the FBI agents present who had no conflicts, 'Excuse us, we have got to recuse ourselves, he's just implicated our bosses, our husbands or people we raised money for. We've got to walk out of here.'"
Even more curious is the matter of Young's whereabouts:
Although he was sentenced to two years in prison, Young was released last December after serving 11 months. "As soon as the Time magazine story came out, when he was naming names about Republicans, he was immediately let out of prison and hasn't been heard from since," Siegelman said. "I don't know that anybody knows where he is, but I know Time magazine has been looking for him, as well as some other people. But they can't find him."