We have a number of questions for Mr. Jones. They are based partly on his rather hostile response to our reporting about a massive federal lawsuit involving Birmingham-based HealthSouth Corp. And they are based partly on our own research about a fine ethical line Jones and fellow attorney Rob Riley seem to be walking between the HealthSouth civil case and the criminal case involving former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy.
So, on to our questions for Mr. Jones:
* Re: Your representation of Don Siegelman in his criminal case--You state in your critique of my reporting that you have been liaison counsel in the HealthSouth securities-fraud lawsuit since its inception in August 2002. A key figure in that case, of course, has been former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy. In your testimony before a subcommittee of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee in October 2007, you state that you became lead counsel on Siegelman's defense team in January 2003, not long after the former governor's lawyer, David Cromwell Johnson, died. In your role as Siegelman's lead counsel, you learned in July 2004 that Richard Scrushy was to be a central figure in the government's case against Siegelman. Didn't this present a clear conflict of interest for you? You are serving in a lawsuit against Richard Scrushy and others connected to HealthSouth. Then you learn that Scrushy is to be an integral part of the government's case against your client, Don Siegelman. Why didn't you remove yourself from the Siegelman case immediately? Did you tell the former governor and Mr. Scrushy about your apparent conflict, especially considering that they were being tried together? Why did you remain on the Siegelman case until early 2006, and then withdraw not long before it went to trial?
* Re: The statute of limitations in the Siegelman case--Public documents indicate the prosecution was tardy in bringing the case against Siegelman and Scrushy. Corrupt federal judges have allowed the government to get away with bringing a case that falls outside the statute of limitations. But it appears you didn't help matters any. In your Congressional testimony you stated:
There was a concern from the prosecutors that the five year statute of limitations was about to expire with regard to the appointment of Mr. Scrushy to the CON Board, which had occurred in late July, 1999. The Government wanted more time to try and fill in the evidentiary holes in the case and asked us if Governor Siegelman would sign a tolling agreement extending the statute of limitations for an additional 30 days.
Because we were convinced from our conversations that the other matters had either been written off and/or were such that we did not believe any crime had occurred, we agreed to have the Governor sign the tolling agreement.
As a layperson, I find this mind blowing. The government had almost five full years to build a case, they admit to you that they have failed to do it, and you convince your client to give them more time? What on earth were you thinking? Has it occurred to you that Don Siegelman and Richard Scrushy wound up in prison largely because of this bone-headed decision? And you question whether I know what I'm doing in my field, journalism? Seems to me that Siegelman would have pretty strong grounds for a legal-malpractice case against you.
* Re: Your motives and alliances in the HealthSouth lawsuit--More than $500 million worth of settlements have been announced in this case, with you representing plaintiffs against Richard Scrushy and others. Sounds like things are going pretty well for the plaintiffs--and the plaintiffs lawyers. By continuing to represent Siegelman after you learned of Scrushy's involvement in the criminal case, did you learn anything that has proved useful in the civil case? Have you and your clients profited from your involvement in the Siegelman defense? How important was the HealthSouth lawsuit to the future of your former firm, Whatley Drake & Kallas?
* Re: Your alliance with Rob Riley--You state in your response to my reporting, that you have no knowledge of Riley's involvement in a health-care company, Performance Group LLC. Actually, you do. You've admitted you read my post about it, which references public documents that are easily available to you. (In fact, I would be glad to send them to you.) Rule 8.3 of the Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct states that a lawyer possessing unprivileged knowledge of misconduct "shall report such knowledge to a tribunal or other authority empowered to investigate or act upon such violation." Public documents, which you are aware of, indicate that Rob Riley owns a company that has engaged in "dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation." It is your duty to report this information to an appropriate authority. Do you intend to fulfill your duty?
* Re: Your alliances with UAB--How many times have you represented UAB, or people affiliated with UAB, in legal matters? Public records indicate you represented six UAB administrators in the Brittany Benefield case, which might be the ugliest chapter in UAB history. Benefield was 14 years old when she enrolled at UAB and moved into a campus dorm. She allegedly became a sexual plaything for several UAB football and basketball players and wound up suing the university.
I ask about your ties to UAB administrators because here is something I find interesting: I wrote about Rob Riley's involvement in the HealthSouth litigation on March 13, 2008. Thanks to your comments a few weeks ago on an Alabama-based listserv, we know that is a sensitive topic for you. We also know that two of Riley's partners in Performance Group LLC are on the staff at UAB. On April 16, 2008--a little more than a month after I wrote the Riley/HealthSouth piece--the harassment from my boss at UAB got so bad that I wound up complaining to her superior about age discrimination and filed a formal grievance in UAB Employee Relations. Roughly three weeks after I filed the grievance, I was fired, contrary to multiple university policies.
Follow me on this timeline: Write about Riley/HealthSouth in March, get harassed unmercifully by supervisor in April, get fired in May. Call me paranoid, but I see a possible cause and effect going on there.
You admit in your response that you tried to squash Sam Stein's original report at Huffington Post about Riley and HealthSouth. Having failed in that effort, is it safe to say that you, Riley, and perhaps UAB officials weren't happy to see a Birmingham blogger (me) pick up on it?
Here's the bottom-line question: Given your ties to Rob Riley and UAB, do you know anything about who is behind my unlawful termination?
Anyone who has followed my blog for a period of time knows that I've studied and written about honest-services mail/wire fraud extensively. I strongly suspect that honest-services fraud, and perhaps other federal crimes, are present in my firing.
As a former federal prosecutor, you surely are concerned about such matters. And as a private attorney, you are pursuing a fraud case involving HealthSouth. What about UAB? Are you concerned about fraud that has gone on there? Do you have firsthand knowledge of such fraud?
Here is one final question: In your critique of my post on an Alabama listserv, you actually don't criticize my original reporting at all. Rather, you seem irked about issues that first were raised in Sam Stein's report at Huffington Post.
In fact, you state that anyone familiar with the appointment of lead and liaison counsel in the HealthSouth lawsuit would laugh at the notion that Rob Riley's entry into the case was connected to Siegelman or the result of "legal-political insider trading."
Stein, however, quotes an anonymous source who says that Riley entered the case specifically because of his political connections. And a key source in Stein's case was Scott Horton, a New York attorney, Columbia University law professor, and legal-affairs contributor for Harper's magazine.
Horton, by the way, did not seem to find Riley's role to be a laughing matter. Stein reports:
"[Riley] very aggressively thrust himself into that suit as a late comer," said Scott Horton, a law professor at Columbia University who has written extensively on these issues for Harper's magazine. "He knew that Fuller had made statements suggesting that he felt he had once been a target of a politically motivated attack by Siegelman. He knew that this would make someone predisposed against Siegelman and perfect hanging judge. And he would reap the benefit of the class action suit on the side."
Stein went on to discuss connections between Riley's knowledge of the criminal case and his role in the civil case. Again, Stein quoted Horton. And Horton wasn't laughing:
"Rob Riley approved of the strategy of dragging Scrushy into the [criminal] case because it would have benefits for him in the class action suit," said Horton. "It was clear that he was intently following what was going on in Fuller's court and knew that the conviction of Scrushy in that case would have strong benefits in the class action suit."
Are you saying that Scott Horton doesn't know what he's talking about?
And here's an even better question: If a Scrushy conviction would pay dividends for Rob Riley in the civil case, it also would pay dividends for you, wouldn't it? After all, you were even more directly involved in the Siegelman/Scrushy criminal case than was Rob Riley. And unlike Rob Riley, you were involved in the HealthSouth lawsuit from the beginning.
The questions Scott Horton raises about Rob Riley would also apply to you, wouldn't they?
Is that why you were so interested in quashing Sam Stein's reporting on the subject? Is that why you were so irritated by my reporting on the subject?
Does all of this have something to do with why I currently find myself out of a job?