|Don Siegelman arrives at the Birmingham airport.|
Siegelman's return to Birmingham had to be bittersweet. His release was a rare positive development in a case that is widely known as the most outrageous political prosecution in U.S. history -- and supporters greeted him downtown with waves and cheers. That he was in prison for a "crime" that does not exist is, well . . . "American tragedy" is not too strong a term. That we've seen no sign that Siegelman and his family ever will be compensated for the wrongs committed against them -- or that the criminals responsible ever will spend a minute behind bars -- makes the tragedy even more stark.
No wonder our country allowed Vladimir Putin to put a baboon like Donald Trump in our White House. (Sorry for the insult to baboons; one of them would make a much better president than Trump.)
As if Siegelman's mind and body have not been assaulted enough already, his release on home detention came as Jeff Sessions took a position for which he is not remotely qualified. (A baboon certainly would be smart enough not to appoint him.) On top of that, Sessions played a major role in the prosecution that unlawfully sent Siegelman to prison.
It was Sessions, after all, who helped push President George W. Bush to nominate Mark Fuller to the federal bench. And it was Fuller who, despite his well-known animus toward Siegelman that required his recusal, presided over the case and repeatedly made pro-prosecution rulings that in many cases were wildly contrary to law.
The dozens of butchered rulings that led to the Siegelman conviction have been laid bare at news outlets, large and small -- none more so than here, where we undoubtedly have covered the case more extensively than anyone else. In fact, we posted a multi-part series titled "The Cheating of Don Siegelman," which might be the most fact-filled indictment of our court system ever written.
(Of course, the "honorable" Judge Fuller was forced off the bench following his arrest on charges that he beat his wife in an Atlanta hotel room in summer 2014. This came after allegations surfaced in the divorce from his first wife that he had abused her and their children, while regularly ingesting copious amounts of alcohol and prescription painkillers, and engaging in extramarital affairs -- and that's a story we broke at Legal Schnauzer. So much for Jeff Sessions' ability to make wise personnel decisions. He wouldn't know a competent, ethical person if they landed on his little gay crotch.)
With all of that in mind, there is no need to recount today the many ways Siegelman was railroaded and cheated.
All any semi-coherent citizen needs to know is this: The case against Siegelman and codefendant Richard Scrushy (former CEO of HealthSouth) was brought almost one full year after the five-year statute of limitations (SOL) had expired. Prosecutors wrote the indictment in such vague fashion, the defendants didn't know what they supposedly had done wrong.
Defense lawyers sought a bill of particulars, which would have forced the prosecution to provide specifics on the charges. Fuller, who published reports have concluded was assigned to be "hanging judge" in the case, denied the motion. Even child rapist Jerry Sandusky was granted such a motion during his criminal case in Pennsylvania. Nothing goes to Fuller's crookedness like denial of a bill of particulars.
When it became clear during the trial that the alleged wrongdoing had occurred way outside the SOL, defense lawyers moved for the case to be dismissed on those grounds. Fuller denied that motion, too, meaning a prosecution that, by law, could not begin would go to a dazed and confused jury that somehow ignored the complete lack of evidence regarding a quid pro quo and voted to convict anyway.
How could all of this nutty stuff happen in a court system that supposedly guarantees due process and equal protection? The public needs to know, but the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has been stonewalling on turning over records that could reveal uncomfortable truths about the Siegelman case.
Efforts to seek documents via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) have been ongoing for almost 10 years. So far, hardly any relevant records have been produced. Joseph Siegelman, Don's son and an attorney at the Cochran Firm in Birmingham, is seeking information about the apparent failure of then U.S. Attorney Leura Canary to abide by her recusal.
If even a sliver of justice is to come for Don Siegelman, the best bet might be via his son's FOIA activities.
For now, Siegelman has said that he feels like a "refugee," and his adjustment to life outside of prison likely will take a while. (I know. I spent five months in jail for the "crime" of blogging, in a case driven by some of the same GOP thugs present in the Siegelman case. I also lost my job at UAB for reporting, on my own time and with my own resources, about the Siegelman case. Journalism is dangerous in Alabama, folks.)
The public, however, should not give up on the possibility that the criminals behind the Siegelman prosecution will someday be unmasked -- even if Jeff Sessions, for now, is in charge of the DOJ.
Is there still hope for the U.S. justice system? It looks bleak at the moment, but maybe Joseph Siegelman will prove to be the guy to change the complexion of things.