One of the best written pieces on the political prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman appears in the current issue of B Metro, which bills itself as "The Magazine of Metro Birmingham Living."
Reporter Jesse Chambers focuses on Dana Siegelman and her efforts to free her father from federal prison via a presidential pardon. The article is titled "Crusade: Dana Siegelman Was Once Alabama's First Daughter, But She Will Always Be Don's First Daughter."
Chambers does a splendid job of describing the emotional and financial toll the prosecution has taken on Don Siegelman's loved ones--Dana, brother Joseph, and wife/mother Lori. Even friends and extended family members, Chambers reports, failed to grasp the evil nature of the injustice committed against Don Siegelman and his family. As the driving force behind the Free Don Siegelman Web site and petition campaign, Dana Siegelman has become the public face of her father's fight for justice.
The B Metro article allows Dana Siegelman to describe how the case against her father was flawed--how corrupt prosecutors, a compromised judge, and a tainted jury allowed it to veer wildly off course. But Chambers, while providing a thoughtful, sensitive treatment to the story of Siegelman and codefendant Richard Scrushy, does not go quite far enough.
He provides compelling evidence that the final outcome, via a jury verdict, was unjust. But he stops short of showing how the case could not go to a jury--in fact, could not even have gone to trial--because the prosecution filed its indictment almost one full year after the statute of limitations had lapsed.
The public, I suspect, often gets lost in the details about what happened at the Siegelman trial. The eyes of many citizens probably start glazing over when they come upon a serious discussion of bribery law, criminal procedure, and such.
But most Americans can grasp the notion that many actions in our daily lives have to be done on time. All of us face deadlines, of one sort or another--and that certainly applies to federal prosecutors. Limitations periods exist, in both criminal and civil law, so that parties will not have to defend against charges that might have grown stale with time. Under the law, a violation of the limitations period--even by one day, by one minute past the designated time--is an absolute bar to prosecution. If you miss the deadline, your case is toast--no matter how strong you think it might have been.
Well, the public record shows that the Siegelman prosecutors missed their deadline by the proverbial country mile. We discussed the issue in a post titled "An Overpowering Stench of Corruption Emanates From U.S. Eleventh Circuit On Siegelman Appeal." Here is the key information:
What is the one issue that should have doomed the prosecution's case before it ever reached a jury? It was the statute of limitations, and the facts and the law, show the case against Siegelman and Scrushy was brought almost one full year too late. So regardless of what one thinks about the testimony of key government witness Nick Bailey, the shaky jury instructions, the questionable juror behavior, the weak evidence on a quid pro quo ("something for something") agreement, and the myriad conflicts involving the judge and U.S. attorney . . . none of that should have been a factor.
Evidence at trial showed that the alleged acts constituting bribery took place in summer 1999, and the original indictment was issued in May 2005. That's almost six full years, even though the statute of limitations is five years. Failure to initiate the case within the applicable statute of limitations, under the law, is an absolute bar to a successful prosecution.
Defense lawyers asked for a bill of particulars that would have spelled out dates that alleged misconduct took place--and that would have shown the statute of limitations problem before testimony even started. Such a motion routinely is granted in criminal cases--heck, even accused child rapist Jerry Sandusky was granted a bill of particulars--but U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller denied the request in the Siegelman case.
If Fuller had ruled according to law, Siegelman and Scrushy never would have faced a trial. But Fuller didn't stop there; he cheated the defendants again after the trial was over. Defense lawyers filed a Rule 29 motion, asking for a judgment of acquittal because testimony had shown the key bribery charge was brought too late. Fuller wrongfully denied the motion, and the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, misreading simple procedural law and butchering its own precedent, found that defense lawyers had waived the statute of limitations defense by failing to properly raise it at trial.
A clear reading of Rule 29 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure--plus a pertinent case styled Phillips v. U.S., 843 F. 2d 438 (11th Cir., 1988)--shows that the Siegelman/Scrushy defense team raised the issue in a proper fashion and did not waive it.
Thanks to Alabama whistleblower Jill Simpson, powerful evidence shows that Alabama Republicans coordinated the bogus Siegelman prosecution via the Bush White House and presidential adviser Karl Rove. But those who have a hard time accepting Simpson's sworn statements should simply examine the court record. That both the trial and appellate courts could get it so plainly wrong on the statute of limitations--a straightforward issue that was proven at trial and should have been proven before the trial--points to an alarming level of coordination among judges. And that means the conspiracy probably seeped out of the Bush White House and into the machinery of our court system. It wasn't enough for Siegelman and Scrushy to face a bogus prosecution; they had to receive bogus convictions, which had to be upheld with bogus appellate rulings.
Jesse Chambers is to be applauded for providing an intimate look at one family that has been tormented by a broken federal justice system. Consider this:
The ordeal has taught the governor’s kid some lessons about human nature. “It’s amazing how many people think that politicians are not human,” Dana says. “I’ve gotten comment after comment . . . ‘Well, if he’s a politician, he must be corrupt,’ which is sad. It discourages good people from going into politics, thinking that the word ‘politician’ comes with such a negative tone.”
She says that some people even dehumanized her and Joseph. “A lot of people just saw us as politician’s kids and not as human beings who were persecuted and threatened and embarrassed and hurt, which was disappointing, but a good learning experience for me,” she says.
Some family members more or less turned their backs on one of their own:
Beliefs about the case and her father’s culpability among members of her extended family have been interesting to track the last few years, according to Dana. “There are people in my family who’ve never stopped to research the case, because . . . people don’t have time for this, so they chose to believe that dad was guilty, but they loved him anyway,” she says.
Dana says that some of these family members have come to view the case differently. “It’s interesting now to see their disposition change,” she says. “It’s almost like they have five years of apologizing to do, and they’re just coming back into my life and my mom’s and brother’s life. ‘We wish we had known earlier that you had been railroaded.’ She adds, “It’s incredible and wonderful, and I’m so grateful, but it is almost overwhelming.”
Just how bad was the railroad job? To understand that, you have to know about the statute of limitations. And we hope that Jesse Chambers will take a second look at the Dana Siegelman story, perhaps in a followup, and allow her to explain how the case should have been over before it started.
If other journalists follow suit, perhaps the public can understand just how grossly Don Siegelman and Richard Scrushy were railroaded. Americans then might come to understand that a conspiracy was in play--and it went to the very heart of our justice system, causing innocent individuals to be imprisoned for purely political reasons.
Many of us will fulfill our patriotic duty by voting in tomorrow's elections. But the outcomes will not matter much if our constitutional rights to due process and equal protection are bastardized beyond recognition.
The president we elect tomorrow will take an oath to uphold the constitution. But if the Don Siegelman travesty is allowed to stand--and no one ever is held accountable for unconscionable violations of democratic principles--then that oath, and the constitution itself, will not mean much.
Nice article by B Metro. Excellent analysis by LS. Great pic of Dana S.
I suspect most Americans don't realize how many political prisoners reside in U.S. prisons.
They don't care until their one of their loved ones feel the cold,hard, relentlessness of injustice.
And after you discover your attorney--David W. Bouchard--who has unconstitutionally railroaded you all the way to SCOTUS works for federal agencies & interests- & is at the service of corporate/banksters-one has to endure these ridiculous puff pieces:
I bet Dana Siegelman will prove to be more effective at getting justice for her dad than all of the lawyers he hired put together.
Thanks for the link to Rule 29. It clearly is proper to raise the statute of limitations post trial. I've seen nothing that shows the Siegelman lawyers failed to meet the deadline for filing their motion. That Fuller screwed Siegelman on this is no surprise. That the entire 11th Circuit did it, too, does point to a conspiracy.
Don't they teach this sort of stuff in Law School 101?
Most Americans don't want to know. Consider our president. If he loses tomorrow, and the Romney DOJ goes after him on bribery charges, imagine the howls of protest. But Obama has been fine with letting Siegelman and Scrushy rot in prison.
Pardon my frivolous comment on a serious subject, but Dana looks smokin' in that pic.
This is simple law, isn't it? If these judges couldn't get this right, isn't it like a doctor who doesn't know how to take your temperature?
Good point, Ned. Reminds me of an episode of Scrubs where one of the docs was distracted and started listening to a patients heart with a stethoscope, but the doc had a slight problem. "Don't those work better if you put them in your ears?" the patient said. Oh . . . um . . . yes, you are right.
Imagine how good Dana would look if her dad wasn't being screwed over by the feds. You go, girl!
She's smart as hell, too. Dana for gov.
Is anyone reading my post?
Don't worry, LS. We'll read the article--after we finish drooling over the pic of Dana. I agree with 10:17--Dana for governor.
There's a post?
This case remains important to me because back in 1999, almost at the very same moment when former AL Attorney General, turned 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge, Bill Pryor, launched his investigation into Governor Siegelman some 18 wheeler trucks had gone missing in Marshall County, Alabama. District Attorney Ronald Thompson resigned & Siegelman appointed Steve Marshall who has since switched to the Republicans. Marshall dismissed some of Thompson's employees. Mr. Fuller, the City Attorney in Boaz who had lost the 1998 race to Thompson has been disbarred. Sheriff Holcomb & Commission Chairman Billy Cannon died & the causes of death never were announced to the public.
Rob, interesting case. What do you make of it? Are you thinking that Pryor had some ties to the disappearance of 18 wheelers? It's interesting to note the power of the trucking industry in Alabama, and elsewhere. Bill Canary has a background in trucking; so does Tom Donohue.
Dana Siegelman probably wants to get the hell out of Alabama. But in all seriousness, she probably would be a good candidate for a high office someday. I wish her the best in her future endeavors.
Roger - I haven't liked the Trucking Association since I used their parking lot when I was a State Employee. Bob Riley ran the Association before he got Governor. After I got a space in the parking deck & canceled my month to month lease, Trucking Association continued billing me & sent it to a GOP aligned debt collection law firm. I know a Bush era Air Force Intelligence Officer and Montgomery Lawyer who is close to the Trucking Association. His wife worked with me at the Conservation Department. We leased an island in the Gulf on Mexico for one of their covert ops. All of this stuff was managed from the Pentagon while Rove & Rumsfeld were there. Alberto Gonzales was right. He really didn't know what was going on at DOJ with Siegelman not did he look into it. The Pentagon used its reserve officer/ civil service prosecutors inside the Justice Department to go around the Attorney General. If these reserve officers didn't follow Pentagon directives to help Karl & Rummy misuse the Dept. of Justice, there would be consequences for them in their Air Force careers. That's why the case was run out of Maxwell Air Force Base instead of Leura Canary's office. If you're a Brigadier General like Steve Feaga & get TAD for the War on Terror, your Air Force pay is much more than your DOJ prosecutor pay. So, it's financial suicide to not do what the Pentagon says. Those guys prosecuted Siegelman for Rumsfeld & Rove & their Air Force pay, not for Canary and Gonzales and their DOJ pay. Like them, Judge Fuller was making much more money as a USAF contractor than he could ever make as a judge.
Another case of "follow the money."
Is the Air Force more corrupt than the other branches of military? Sounds like it would at least be tied for first.
Here is another part of the story that most folks have missed. When they move the investigation from the federal courthouse to Maxweel AFB they accumilated a large amount of material. This was mentioned in article about a guy they brought in from Virginia to analize all this mountain of data. I don't remember who interviewed hum, but I think it might have been Scott Horton. He discribed the amount of materiai in room of file caminets - 18 or more - full drawfuls. My point is this: If they didin't turn all of this over to Siegelmans;s attorneys - it constitutes a Brady violation - which why the judge threw out the case where Sen Stevens was convicted. Somebody needs to find this guy in Virginia and interview him.
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