|U.S. Judge Mark Fuller|
A rational person does not need new reasons to question the handling of the Don Siegelman prosecution. But the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is providing them anyway.
Resentencing in the Siegelman case has been postponed because the DOJ refuses to produce documents that might show the former Democratic governor of Alabama was the victim of a Bush-era political prosecution. For more than five years, lawyers for Siegelman and codefendant Richard Scrushy have been seeking documents that might show Leura Canary, former U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Alabama, remained active in the case after she had announced her recusal.
The documents clearly exist, so why is the DOJ stonewalling? Andrew Kreig, of the D.C.-based Justice Integrity Project, provides insights on that question and more in a piece titled "Siegelman Sentence Delays as DOJ Hides Conflict Data."
Kreig reports the latest on a case that probably will go down as the most notorious federal prosecution in U.S. history:
The Alabama judge presiding over the notorious Bush prosecution of former Gov. Don Siegelman postponed the defendant's re-sentencing last week while prosecutors continue to stonewall defense requests for documents showing whether they violated the defendant's right to an honest, unbiased prosecutor.
On the afternoon of Sept. 22, Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller of Montgomery postponed his re-sentencing of Siegelman and co-defendant Richard Scrushy on corruption charges. Decisions by the Supreme Court and other appellate bodies reduced charges, requiring Fuller to review his original seven-year terms.
Siegelman, a Democrat, was the state's governor from 1999 to 2003. He says that authorities for five years have illegally blocked his document requests regarding Middle District U.S. Attorney Leura Canary. . . .
She is presumed to have recused herself from his case, according to news reports through the years that have existed as conventional wisdom. William Canary, her husband, was Siegelman's longtime political enemy and the 2002 campaign manager for Bob Riley, Siegelman's Republican opponent in the 2002 gubernatorial election.
Why is this a profoundly important matter for the Siegelman case--and the American "justice system" in general? Kreig addresses that question:
"No one [in authority] has ever grasped the magnitude of the recusal issue and why it is the most important issue in this entire case," former Siegelman aide Chip Hill wrote me this week. "Absent proof that the case was conducted without conflict of interest, every action taken in that conflicted environment should be invalidated. That would include the original indictments, the trial, conviction, etc."
A new judge now is involved in at least some aspects of the Siegelman matter. Reports Kreig:
Fuller last week temporarily transferred certain motions in the case to U.S. District Judge L. Scott Coogler, who is based in Tuscaloosa. Coogler, like Fuller, is a Republican appointee of President George W. Bush.
Fuller is heavily compromised by allegations he hated Siegelman and rigged the 2006 trial against Siegelman and Scrushy, former CEO of HealthSouth. Scrushy is serving his term for contributing heavily to a pro-education, pro-lottery non-profit in 1999 at Siegelman's request before Siegelman reappointed him to a state board.
Birmingham lawyer John Aaron has led the effort to obtain DOJ records regarding Leura Canary's recusal. We spotlighted Aaron's work in an April 2011 post titled "The Siegelman Case: Ten Years of Injustice--and Counting." From that post:
Siegelman's No. 1 concern at the moment seems to be the U.S. Justice Department's apparent determination, even under a Democratic president, to obscure the truth about his prosecution. Birmingham lawyer John Aaron filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in February 2006, seeking documents related to the recusal of Leura Canary, U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Alabama, site of the Siegelman prosecution. With the DOJ stonewalling on the FOIA request, Aaron filed a lawsuit in May 2009, and that case is pending. Discovery has revealed the existence of more than 1,000 documents related to Canary's recusal, and they have not been turned over.
The decision to prosecute Siegelman and Scrushy for "crimes" that do not exist under the law rests with the Bush administration. But the decision to stonewall on DOJ records now rests with the Obama administration. Reports Kreig:
As our Justice Integrity Project has found typical in such disgraceful Bush-era prosecutions, the DOJ is continuing to enforce a code of silence amongst authorities, sometimes by ruthless measures and sometimes by lavish rewards. One way, for example, was blackmailing and threatening Nick Bailey, the chief witness against the defendants.
Another in 2009 was to fire Tamarah Grimes, a Republican and the DOJ's top paralegal on the Siegelman/Scrushy prosecution. Grimes claimed vast waste and unfairness in the Siegelman prosecution, including Canary's continued direction of Middle District prosecutors despite her public claim of recusal because of her husband's work.
Siegelman has strong opinions about who is behind the DOJ's efforts to obscure the truth in his case. From our earlier post:
Who is behind the DOJ's efforts to stonewall on the Siegelman case? The former governor points a finger at David Margolis, an associate deputy attorney general and the most senior career employee in the department. "When you ask if the Siegelman case was handled fairly, Margolis has to say yes because he was the one who approved many of the decisions to pursue the case," Siegelman says. "As long as he's addressing questions about my case, I'll never get a fair shake because he was involved from the outset.
"There is an obvious conflict of interest for him to be ruling about decisions he was involved in. He needs to step down from any involvement with my case."
Does the Obama administration have the guts to stand up to David Margolis and anyone else who is obscuring the truth about the Siegelman case? We await the answer to that question.