Monday, September 26, 2011

Justice Department Continues to Play Hide and Seek with Siegelman Documents

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.


Robby Scott Hill said...

I may be a "crazy SOB," but at least I don't have to work for peanuts a federal agency. My household gets not one, but two checks from the US Government every month, due largely to the grief they & the Alabama State Bar have caused my parents.

So, I don't even try to do taxes or disability cases anymore. I just sit on the couch, watch old Cheech & Chong movies, scratch my salty vanilla balls & laugh myself silly at all the federal agents who get all hot & bothered over this blog & my investigative database.

A wifi signal named the "Legal Schnauzer" proudly broadcasts right next door to the US Courthouse in Gadsden, AL seven days a week & there's not a damn thing they can do about it. If you've been wronged by the system, maybe your story can be published here.

Robby Scott Hill said...

Justice Coogler did put Keith Norman's buddy, former Bar President, Gary Huckaby, in prison. So, I do have some faith in his ability to be impartial

legalschnauzer said...


Wasn't Huckaby the guy who got caught doing the "funky chicken" at the Wheeler Reserve near Decatur?

Wasn't he with one of the major Bham law firms?

legalschnauzer said...

Huckaby was with our friends at Bradley Arant, although I guess he was based in Huntsville:

jeffrey spruill said...

@Robby Scott Hill:

I got to this sentence & almost fell out of my chair!!!

"I just sit on the couch, watch old Cheech & Chong movies, scratch my salty vanilla balls & laugh myself silly at all the federal agents who get all hot & bothered over this blog & my investigative database."

Anonymous said...

Siegelman is being treated to the wonderful Alabama and American justice system that he tried to deal out to parents with his Deadbeat Dog campaign in 2001. This tax payer funded public campaign was political grandstanding, abused children by embarrassing them at school when their classmates saw their mom or dad picture in the newspaper or other advertisements, wasted taxpayers money, and once more did nothing to truly help educate the public about the problems generated by the Alabama child support system. Alabama lawyers, judges, DHR workers and many others receive MILLIONS of dollars in federal grant kickbacks for collecting child support. In effect, for every $1 collected the State of Alabama receives $2 back. The incentive is to destroy parent-child relationships because of the money generated by it. I have a ton of documentation on this issue (and no, I am not a deadbeat parent, I pay child support, take care of my child, always have, I don't have any axe to grind-only pray the truth to be told). Siegelman, welcome to our world!! - Chris Hobbs

Max Shelby said...

Something stinks in Holder's DOJ as bad as the stench from Clinton's SOS department when they recently let Uribe out of being forced to testify in the Drummond case of the murdered Colombian labor leaders.
At least we have it straight where the corrupt power emanates from in Alabama and how convenient is is to have low friends in high places.
(apologies to Garth Brooks)

Robby Scott Hill said...

@Max Shelby - Oh the party switching Drummond Family! Certainly no friends of mine. They were big Democrats who promptly switched parties when Riley agreed to do their bidding. I used to do bid packages for coal & oil & gas leases at State Lands Division & no matter who else was bidding on the lease, somebody would inform me that this was the Drummond Company's lease & not to "spin my wheels" as James Hillman Griggs would say, considering other bids.

legalschnauzer said...


If Riley and Griggs helped arrange such a sweet deal for the Drummonds, perhaps after Riley received campaign cash from up in Jasper, that sounds like a quid pro quo.

Max Shelby said...

We should talk sometime RSH--off web. It would be an interesting conversation from both sides.

Anonymous said...

Great Blog. You got it right.


Anonymous said...

Sooner or later we all have to pay the piper. Even Leura Canary and the T-H-U-G-S at the Doj (Department of little justice) cannot control the game forever. I can't wait for the day when that old hag has to be accountable for all her indiscretions and tawdry back room deals. Canary's old Doj boss, Kenneth Melson (most recently of ATF fame) finally made a misstep with the "Fast and Furious" gun running scam. That skank Canary will be on the grill soon.