Tommy Stevenson, of the Tuscaloosa News, is the first Alabama print journalist to interview Don Siegelman after the former governor's recent release from federal prison pending appeal of his conviction on corruption charges.
Stevenson produces an important piece, not only about the Siegelman case but about America's justice system as a whole.
"This is not about Don Siegelman, and it's not about the Alabama case," (Siegelman) said in his first interview with an Alabama newspaper since being released from a federal prison in Oakdale, La. "This is about America, it is about finding out who hijacked the Department of Justice and used it as a political tool to win elections."
Stevenson reports that Siegelman had just returned from two days in Washington conferring with U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., chair of the House Judiciary Committee. Siegelman said he is willing to testify before Congress about his case "or anything else they want me to do."
"I tried to make clear to Congressman Conyers that, to me, above everything else, [my case is about] making it clear to anyone who might think that they can get away with this in the future that they won't be able to," Siegelman said.
Siegelman has maintained that he was targeted by political operatives, particularly Rove, the President George W. Bush's former chief political advisor. "So they've got to find out who is responsible, hold them responsible and make a clear and unequivocal statement that Congress and people of this country are not going to tolerate people taking over the Department of Justice and using it as a political tool," he said.
Stevenson provides an update on the legal status of Siegelman's appeal:
"We have not filed the appeal yet and have until the 23rd of May to do so," Siegelman said. "But you have to remember, that on an appeal, only what happened in the courtroom is relevant and you have to find errors to have action taken. I could get thrown back in Oakdale, I could get a new trial, I could get a new trial on one issue or not the other, or the court could reverse the conviction and I would be a free man."
Comments from Siegelman attorney Vince Kilborn provide insight on the heart of Siegelman's appeal:
"We think there were some problems with Judge [Mark] Fuller's instructions to the jury about what constitutes a bribe — that there has to be a quid pro quo involved and there was never any testimony that there was," he said. 'There were also several issues we tried to bring up in the case that the judge would not let us do that we think bear looking at."