|Mike Papantonio and Don Siegelman|
To our knowledge, this was the first time Siegelman has discussed possible legal remedies to hold accountable those who caused him to be incarcerated for six-plus years, in what generally is considered the most notorious political prosecution in American history. (Video of the interview is embedded at the end of this post.)
Siegelman raised the possibility of a lawsuit under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. Congress passed the RICO Act in 1970 as a way to fight Mafia groups. The law has evolved to include actions against a variety of organizations, from corrupt police departments to motorcycle gangs. RICO allows for both criminal prosecutions and civil remedies for victims.
The general five-year federal statute of limitations likely would preclude criminal prosecutions in the Siegelman matter. But there might not be a limitations bar on a civil complaint because the government has stonewalled for more than 10 years on the former governor's efforts to obtain evidence about prosecutorial misconduct in his case, via the Freedom of Information Act. (FOIA).
Joseph Siegelman, the former governor's son, is leading the latest FOIA effort, and that case is pending in the Northern District of Alabama before U.S. District Judge Madeline Haikala. Public records indicate the government has turned over at least some of the documents Siegelman has sought for more than a decade, especially those involving the alleged failure of former U.S. Attorney Leura Canary to recuse from the case.
According to the court docket, the Department of Justice (DOJ) turned over requested documents for Haikala's in camera review on April 10, 2017. It's now more than five months later, and we see no sign that anything new has happened in the case. What's the hold up? The Siegelmans surely are asking that question, and the delay suggests to us that the documents contain information that could prove deeply problematic for certain right-leaning political figures.
Don Siegelman, despite the delay, is confident Haikala will handle the case properly. "She is very fastidious and has a good legal mind," Siegelman said. "We want her to rule in her own time and way. We trust her to be fair."
The importance of Haikala's ruling in the FOIA case cannot be overstated. If she turns the documents over to the Siegelman team, and they become public, that could spell bad news for some national, regional, and statewide political figures -- including Karl Rove, Jack Abramoff, Leura and Bill Canary, Bob and Rob Riley, Mark Fuller, Ralph Reed, Grover Norquist, leaders of the Mississippi Choctaw Indians, and more. Two former Alabama attorneys general -- current federal judge Bill Pryor and current Trump AG Jeff Sessions -- also could find themselves in deep doo-doo.
From Don Siegelman's interview with Mike Papantonio:
We have a FOIA case pending in the Northern District to hopefully shed some light on what has been going on. If [the government] had given me this exculpatory information when they had it, we could have filed a motion for a new trial. But they have sealed it and concealed it, and they are still hiding it from me and the public.
The case pending in the Northern District might reveal enough new evidence to move forward -- either with discovery or a civil RICO case against all this cast of characters and deep-funded people in Mississippi with the Choctaw Indians, who provided the money for Karl Rove's bag man, Jack Abramoff, to do me in.
There is a possible civil RICO case, but we have to wait and see what evidence is produced.