Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Will Joseph Siegelman's lawsuit against Justice Department produce evidence that officials admitted to wrongdoing in prosecution of his father?

Joseph Siegelman
Joseph Siegelman, an attorney with The Cochran Firm in Birmingham, has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) seeking documents about the prosecution of his father, former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. The new lawsuit suggests certain DOJ officials have admitted to misconduct during the course of the Siegelman investigation and trial.

Siegelman associates have been seeking documents about the case, especially regarding the supposed recusal of then U.S. Attorney Leura Canary, for roughly 10 years. Alabaster attorney John Aaron filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in 2006 and followed up with a lawsuit in 2009. Aaron learned that more than 1,000 documents exist related to the Canary recusal, but the government has refused to turn them over.

Joseph Siegelman filed a FOIA request last year with the DOJ's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), but the request was denied. Joseph Siegelman now has filed a lawsuit, which appears to go well beyond the Canary-recusal issue. (Please see full lawsuit at the end of this post.) From a report at WAFF in Huntsville:

The son of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman is suing the Office of Professional Responsibility, a branch of the United States Department of Justice. Siegelman is serving a federal sentence for bribery and conspiracy at Oakdale Prison in Louisiana.

Siegelman’s son, Joseph Siegelman, is suing for records obtained during the Office of Professional Responsibility’s, or OPR’s, investigation into Siegelman’s prosecution and conviction. The OPR investigates Department of Justice attorneys accused of professional misconduct.

The filing states that the OPR opened an investigation after multiple national media outlets reported on the Siegelman case and raised questions about the prosecution. These outlets reported prosecutors placed undue pressure on witnesses, communicated with the jury, communicated privately with the judge, and withheld evidence from the defense.

Could Joseph Siegelman's lawsuit produce devastating information about the prosecution? According to WAFF, the answer appears to be yes:

The lawsuit also notes an article written by the Project On Governmental Oversight. That article mentioned a letter summarizing the OPR investigation. That letter reportedly includes admissions from “several” officials who acted improperly.

In June 2015, Joseph Siegelman filed a Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, request for the OPR findings. The OPR denied that request based on an exemption for inter- or intra- agency memos or letters, an exemption for personal privacy interests, and an exemption for records compiled for law enforcement.

Joseph Siegelman says the OPR is wrong in [its] reasoning and is illegally withholding the information. He has requested a trial before a federal jury. Don Siegelman’s release date is set for August 8, 2017.

From the Joseph Siegelman complaint:

On December 11, 2014, the Project On Government Oversight (“POGO”), an independent nonpartisan non-profit organization, published an article entitled, “Justice Department Downplays Evidence of Politics in Probe of Governor.” The article discussed a letter sent from the Office of Legislative Affairs of the DOJ to the Honorable John Conyers on June 3, 2010 which purported to summarize the findings of OPR’s investigation.

In that letter, the DOJ admits that “several” of its officials involved in the Siegelman case acted improperly.

Among those officials was the Assistant U.S. Attorney (“AUSA”) in charge of the Siegelman prosecution who communicated directly with the campaign manager of Mr. Siegelman’s gubernatorial opponent. The letter discusses an email from the AUSA to the campaign manager informing him that the AUSA “and a small group of like-minded conservative prosecutors” within the U.S. Attorney’s office were pursuing Siegelman.


Anonymous said...

Our government is just that, ours!!!! No one who works for us the tax payers should have the right to keep secretes from us the tax payers. We the people are the bosses!! We are not taking about information that would harm the nation interest of the USA. This is information that could answer the question if someone in the justice department went after a person because of his political views. Using our criminal courts to settle political scores is a two sided sword that can cut both ways. We run the risk of killing off the best system in the whole wide world. We do not want to become another USSR, Do we??? Keeping secretes is not the American way.

Anonymous said...

Will Stephen Feaga get to chime in on this and clear this up for he Montgomery Advertiser?

Anonymous said...

I hope this lawsuit breaks the Siegelman story wide open.

Charlotte Mulvihill said...

Everyone knows Governor Siegelman is innocent. He worked for the State of Alabama far too many years for anyone to doubt him. His word alone is enough. He has the evidence to back his word up though. He has his record to back him up. Those that are guilty of slandering his good name should be in jail themselves. This should never have been a court issue.