If you thought the Don Siegelman case smelled, and you thought the Paul Minor case in Mississippi wreaked, wait till you get a whiff of the stench emanating from the John W. Goff case currently heating up in Montgomery.
Goff is the Montgomery insurance executive who filed a lawsuit against Alabama Governor Bob Riley and others, alleging that they had conspired to harm his business. It appears that Riley retaliated by urging U.S. Attorney Leura Canary, famed for her central role in the Siegelman prosecution, to go after Goff.
Riley's entreaties evidently fell on welcoming ears. Goff recently was indicted on 26 corruption-related charges, 23 of them for mail fraud. The charges against Goff appear to mirror those in a 2004 complaint filed by the Alabama Insurance Department. That case was settled in March 2005, and the settlement was approved by an administrative law judge, with 59 of 60 counts dismissed and Goff pleading guilty to one count and being fined.
"I thought, until now, that this whole matter was over," Goff said in a recent statement.
He evidently had good reason to think the matter was over. The language in the settlement agreement, Goff says, stated he was released "for any and all claims, demands, charges, prosecutions, damages, actions, causes of action and suits of any kind or nature related to the subject matter of Counts 1-59 of the administrative complaint."
Despite that language in the settlement agreement, Goff is under indictment now. And he says, "This indictment is in my opinion to retaliate against me for suing the Insurance Department, its commissioner Walter Bell, Steve Windom, Gov. Riley, Ferrell Patrick, and others on March 23, 2007."
Thomas Gallion III, Goff's attorney, told the Montgomery Independent, "They had released (Goff) from these claims. Absolutely this is double jeopardy."
The Goff indictment has attracted considerable attention in the insurance industry. Workcompcentral.com, a Web site devoted to coverage of workers compensation issues, has a story about the case.
Goff said Monday the federal indictment is payback for his allegations that (Jack) Abramoff laundered campaign money funneled to Riley in return for help with a threat that the Alabama Creek Indians would build a casino rivaling the gaming operations of the Choctaws in neighboring Mississippi.
Abramoff was convicted on charges stemming from a Miami casino boat deal and allegations that he illegally pressured Native American tribes, including the Mississippi Choctaws, for money. Two White House officials, nine lobbyists and a U.S. Congressman also were convicted in the Abramoff probe.
Goff filed the civil case against Riley and his allies last year, after Riley's campaign paid Goff $8,000 on a $25,000 bill for two flights Riley took aboard The Goff Group company aircraft in 2002. The suit also names Ferrell Patrick, a former Goff employee, as part of the conspiracy and Riley's son, Montgomery attorney Rob Riley.
Is it possible that Bob Riley and his GOP compadres have grabbed the wrong tiger by the tail this time? It certainly sounds like Goff is ready for a fight.
"The Rileys, Windom, Bell, and Patrick have ruined me," Goff said. "I am innocent, and if they think I am backing off of my civil lawsuit, then they can think again."
Goff and Gallion say depositions they've requested of the state's most powerful politicians will reveal a conspiracy that stretches to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff and the Bush White House. Goff and Gallion are scheduled to go back to state court this week to push for a change in judges and permission to move forward with depositions in the Goff lawsuit.
This could get very interesting. Says Workcompcentral:
Press spokespeople for both Bell and the U.S. Attorney's office have failed to return repeated telephone calls and so far issued no public response to allegations by Goff and Gallion that the 26-count indictment is a political hatchet job.
The Goff case, like the Don Siegelman prosecution, shines an unflattering light on the office of U.S. Attorney Leura Canary. William L. Rhegness, former commander of the Alabama Public Safety Intelligence Unit, filed an affidavit that reveals the slapdash nature of the Goff investigation.
Rhegness has worked as a consultant for Gallion's law firm and participated in a meeting on September 11, 2007, with Steve Feaga from the U.S. Attorney's Office. Rhegness says the meeting was about other issues, but Feaga brought up the Goff matter.
"Feaga said he was going through files because he had been tied up in the Siegelman case," Rhegness says. "He had run across the Goff file and he realized that the statute of limitations would run out in October 2007 and that was the reason he was urgently working on the Goff matter. I remember asking Feaga somewhat jokingly why is the U.S. Attorney's Office bringing out the heavy artillery on the Goff matter. He just smiled and said nothing. He said later, words to the effect that a disgruntled insurance agent had turned this over for investigation some years ago."
Feaga's actions sound real professional don't they? And isn't it interesting that Feaga just happened to stumble upon the Goff case just a few months after Goff had filed a lawsuit against Bob Riley and others--and just a few days after Goff''s attorneys had begun to send out deposition notices and discovery requests in his lawsuit?
Feaga's behavior moved from the incompetent to the comical at one point. "Feaga said he would be glad to let Goff come in and enter a guilty plea," Rhegness says. "Gallion asked what he wanted Goff to plead guilty to. Feaga said well they could work it out."
These are your federal tax dollars at work, folks. A federal prosecutor wants someone to plead guilty, but the prosecutor doesn't even know enough about the case to cite what the alleged offense is.
The incompetence doesn't stop there. Feaga stated that the statute of limitations ran out in October 2007, but the indictment against Goff was not handed down until December 19, 2007. Based on Feaga's statement, the government was too late in going after Goff--for a case that already had been settled.
Reporter Bob Gambacurta writes that Feaga's colleague, Louis Franklin, has been quoted as saying Goff's alleged offenses took place between Jan. 1, 2002, and April 30, 2003. If that is the case, the statute of limitations would not have run out.
But it appears that Feaga and Franklin cannot get their stories straight. We will keep you posted when this episode of Keystone Cops continues.
I read the DOI settlement on the DOI website.
Goff and his lawyer are stressing that the settlement absolves Goff from further prosecution. Does it? I mean, what authority does the Insurance Department have to say whether or not someone will be charged by the federal authorities?
According to the Rhegness affidavit, Assistant US Attorney Feaga claimed that the federal case against Goff began with a complaint filed by a "disgruntled insurance broker."
If it's true that an individual brought the complaint, rather than the DOI, does it matter what the DOI promised Goff it would or wouldn't do?
Irrespective of the settlement agreement, the DOJ is revisiting alleged offenses that are years old. The underlying dispute over the remittance of premiums to Goff's reinsurers has long since been arbitrated and litigated.
Goff recently filed a very embarrassing lawsuit against the governor and his closest advisers.
You are off on this one. John Goff did wrong. I work in insurance and I'm quite familar with the Goff Group. He still owes insurance agencies a lot of money throughout the state for uppaid commissions...while he was living the "good life." I liken a lot of the things that he was doing to the wrong doings in the banking sector with executives paying themselves huges salaries and bonuses while their banks were suffering.
Actually...the Riley administration got it right here. I think your dislike of the Riley administration clouded your judgement on this one.
Is he in prison?
Good question. I'm not sure about Mr. Goff's whereabouts.
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