Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Joseph Siegelman's run for attorney general of Alabama must have some of the state's nastiest political animals nursing quivery rectums


Joseph and Don Siegelman
Last week's announcement that Joseph Siegelman had qualified to run as Alabama attorney general has the makings of perhaps the most intriguing political news in . . . well, ever, at least in the 40 years I've had connections to the state.

As the son of former governor Don Siegelman, Joseph has a perspective on the "justice system" that probably is unique in post-modern America. His father was the target of likely the most flagrant political prosecution in U.S. history, and that surely has had a profound impact on Joseph Siegelman. What's it like to watch your dad shipped off to federal prison for six-plus years, for what we've called "a crime that doesn't exist" -- in a case that prosecutors brought almost one full year after the statute of limitations had expired?

It's hard for us to answer that question with certainty, but we suspect Joseph Siegelman would take his role as AG with the utmost seriousness. We suspect he would have plenty of motivation to investigate his father's case -- to ensure that justice delayed is not justice denied. And we suspect he would have a strong interest in deterrence, to make sure that future political thugs think twice before concocting a scheme like the one that sent two innocent men -- Don Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy -- to prison.

Joseph Siegelman surely will make a public statement to this effect: "I'm not seeking this office in order to gain justice for my dad or my family. My goal is to represent the interests of all Alabamians, to help provide us with a justice system that we can trust and respect." But the truth is this: The Don Siegelman case helped turn Alabama into a judicial and legal sewer, and it's unlikely the state ever can move forward unless the rule of law is restored. And Joseph Siegelman might be the only person who is willing, and capable, of turning over the rocks necessary to expose the bad actors in his father's case and hold them accountable.

We suspect the mere thought of Joseph Siegelman in the AG's office is enough to make some prominent sphincters pretty tight in Alabama right now. And we think that is a good thing -- an extremely good thing.

As a journalist, not a lawyer, I don't claim to be an expert on the duties of the attorney general in Alabama -- and I certainly am not an expert on the criminal and civil remedies that might be at Joseph Siegelman's disposal, if he were to be elected. I do know that the Don Siegelman case goes back to at least March 1999, roughly two months after he took office as governor. That means some elements of the case -- if a serious AG were to investigate -- likely would run afoul of various statutes of limitations (SOL). But my research indicates some elements of the case likely would fall inside the statute of limitations -- and that sound you hear is certain sphincters tightening as you read this.

For example, an investigation probably would produce heaping helpings of evidence pointing to civil cases of false arrest and false imprisonment. The SOL for each, in Alabama, is six years. The shackling of Don Siegelman in a Montgomery courtroom, plus his rough treatment in federal prison,  likely would support a civil claim for assault and battery, which also carries a six-year SOL. Keep in mind that Siegelman only recently passed the one-year anniversary of his release from prison.

Could the Alabama AG bring a case involving Don Siegelman in federal court? Given the apparent involvement of national GOP figures -- Karl Rove, Jack Abramoff, Michael Scanlon, Ralph Reed, Grover Norquist, Bill Pryor, Jeff Sessions, Bill Canary, and more -- the answer almost certainly is yes.

Did key figures act behind the scenes to ensure the U.S. Supreme Court did not overturn the Siegelman convictions and to make sure the Obama administration did not issue a pardon? If so, that means certain individuals in both parties might be experiencing tightness in their whities.

A federal civil-rights claim in Alabama generally is subject to the state's two-year SOL for personal-injury cases. But accrual of the claim is a matter of federal law (see Kelly v. Serna, 11th Cir., 1996), and a false-imprisonment claim does not accrue until the imprisonment ends. That already has been spelled out in a Northern District of Alabama case styled Antonio James v. City of Birmingham (2012). From the James ruling:

As to Count Two, alleging false imprisonment, the “running of the statute of limitations on false imprisonment is subject to a distinctive rule --dictated, perhaps, by the reality that the victim may not be able to sue while he is still imprisoned: ‘Limitations begin to run against an action for false imprisonment when the alleged false imprisonment ends.’” Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. at 389 (quoting 2 H. Wood, Limitation of Actions § 187d(4), p. 878 (rev. 4th ed. 1916). Construing the complaint in the light most favorable to plaintiff, this court presumes that he remained in the city jail until July 29, 2008. As such, the statute of limitations did not begin to run until July 29, 2008, and plaintiff’s false imprisonment claim is not time-barred.

Don Siegelman was released from federal prison on Feb. 8, 2017, so he has almost one full year to pursue a false-imprisonment claim -- with or without the assistance of the attorney general.

Our research indicates a false-imprisonment claim could provide a serious AG (such as Joseph Siegelman) with grounds to conduct a sweeping civil (or criminal, or both) investigation of the ugliness behind the Siegelman and Scrushy incarcerations.

How is this for possible irony? Siegelman's lawyers have been seeking information since 2006 about the alleged recusal of former U.S. Attorney Leura Canary -- via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) -- only to be stonewalled for 12 years. In fact, Joseph Siegelman has a FOIA lawsuit pending before U.S. District Judge Madeline Haikala, and she has been sitting on it since last April.

The government's stonewalling could blow up in its face, like a stick of dynamite with Wile E. Coyote. A general principle of law is that the SOL is tolled when a party has been denied information to which it clearly is entitled. Also, Haikala's handling of the FOIA case suggests someone is unlawfully pulling her strings, which might give a serious AG (Joseph Siegelman?) grounds to investigate for obstruction of justice or its state equivalent.

Yes, a lot of time has passed since then-AG Bill Pryor launched an investigation of Don Siegelman. And yes, some avenues of investigation might be cut off by SOLs. But we suspect Joseph Siegelman, if he is elected AG, will have plenty of available avenues that are not time barred. On top of that, Don Siegelman mentioned last fall the possibility of pursing a federal RICO case against those responsible for his unlawful arrest and incarceration -- and that likely was long before anyone suspected Joseph Siegelman might be running for state AG.

All of that probably has some powerful and corrupt people connected to the Siegelman case sleeping a bit uneasy these days. We can't help but suppress a smile just at the thought of it.

By the way, Don Siegelman reportedly is recovering well from heart-bypass surgery late last week. Below is an interview he conducted with Cenk Uygur, of The Young Turks:





27 comments:

Anonymous said...

Interesting column, LS. How old is Joseph Siegelman? Looks like a very young guy.

legalschnauzer said...

@11:01 --

Here is Joseph's bio. It doesn't give much in the way of dates. My guess is that he's around 30.


https://www.cochranfirm.com/attorneys/joseph-j-siegelman/

Anonymous said...

Is it proper for Joseph Siegelman to run for public office just to seek vengeance for his dad?

legalschnauzer said...

@11:16 --

A few thoughts:

(1) I would replace the word "vengeance" with "justice."

(2) The public and the press will have plenty of opportunities to ask Joseph Siegelman this very question. I'm sure he will say his father's case is not the main reason, or even a reason, that he is running for AG. I would accept that answer; others might not.

(3) I'll turn the tables on you a bit: Would it be proper for Joseph Siegelman -- or any other AG -- to take office and ignore likely the worst white-collar crime in Alabama history. We've had Jeff Sessions and Bill Pryor help instigate the case -- with Troy King, Luther Strange, Alice Martin (interim) and Steve Marshall doing absolutely nothing about it. Is that proper?

(4) Any prosecutor is supposed to pursue crimes, not people. If you seriously think there are no crimes surrounding the Siegelman case, I'd suggest you need to pay attention.

Anonymous said...

Nice work, LS. Been awhile since I've seen the words "quivery rectums" in a headline.

Anonymous said...

I have a hard time figuring if Joseph Siegelman might bring a state case or a federal case, criminal or civil.

legalschnauzer said...

@11:40 --

That's a tricky one for me, too. I think all four are possible. If the Trump admin goes down, and we wind up with a legit US AG, there probably could be a federal-state operation. In my view, false imprisonment would be a key civil action -- and that is both a state and federal tort.

On the criminal side, the Siegelman case almost certainly was riddled with obstruction of justice, plus misprision of a felony. Obstruction could be the charge that brings down Trump, and I'm betting it could bring down a lot of people surrounding Siegelman case.

I'm researching the issue of "fraud on the court" re the Siegelman case. I think that could be a major avenue to pursue. That often involves discovery abuse, and it appears Nick Bailey was targeted for such abuse.

Anonymous said...

"An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere"

MLK

Letter from the Birmingham Jail


How ironic is that?

Anonymous said...

Joseph Siegelman: The Real Swamp Cleaner

Anonymous said...

RICO . . . RICO . . .

Anonymous said...

Who will be Siegelman's competition for AG race?

legalschnauzer said...

On the Dem side, it's Siegelman and Chris Christie (Bradley Arant firm).

For GOP, it's incumbent Steve Marshall, Chess Bedsole (Trump campaign chair), former AG Troy King and former US Attorney Alice Martin (one of Bill Canary's "girls," who prosecuted Siegelman.

James Greek said...

That was back before Troy King realized that he was railroaded. Troy did get better when he stood up to Bob Riley on the gambling bit in his last year as AG, but I do wish Joseph luck.

James Greek said...

11:40 Did you know that Bill Clinton was just about Joseph's age when he ran for AG of Arkansas in the 70s? So he was a baby too. He later grew up to be president.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it be interesting if Joseph Siegelman winds up investigating Haikala, the judge who is sitting on his FOIA case?

legalschnauzer said...

@12:25 --

That would be interesting, and it could very well happen. Haikala has made a huge mistake by sitting on that case because it's clear something foul is up. There is no excuse for sitting on a ruling for 10 months. And there is no lawful excuse for failing to release those documents. She has herself in a tight crack, and it's all due to her lack of integrity.

Anonymous said...

A guy from Bradley Arant is running as a Democrat? How could that happen?

legalschnauzer said...

I suspect it's a con game. Chris Christie is the designated protector of corrupt elites in both parties.

I think Alabama Gang types have decided all of the GOP candidates have serious flaws, and Christie has been designated as the guy to protect elites from being held accountable. He's just Luther Strange 2.0.

The Siegelman candidacy could be the fly in the ointment for those plans.

James Greek said...

Troy King has recently realized that the Siegelman case was a sham. And Troy King not doing anything was a long time ago and he in fact has changed since then. And 11:01 Did you know that Bill Clinton was a young'un when he ran for AG in Arkansas back in the 70s?

Anonymous said...

Maybe Rob Riley, Matt Lembke, Bill Pryor, and Doug Jones could all share the same prison cell.

Anonymous said...

Maybe he can investigate what happen to the Hubbard case. The case that went up on appeal but was never heard from again. Do they use the postal service to send cases up to the appellate level? Maybe it got lost in the mail. It doesn't seem to be a big deal to anyone anymore. I guess the state was just happy to get him convicted and out of office. Out of sight, out of mind, is the rule of law for some down here in Bamaland.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see Dana Siegelman run for public office. Very smart young woman, well spoken and easy on the eyes.

Anonymous said...

Could Joseph Siegelman win?

legalschnauzer said...

@9:03 --

It's very early in the game, but here is one man's opinion: Joseph Siegelman has an edge on everybody in terms of name recognition. His biggest negative is that Alabama has not elected a Democratic AG since Jimmy Evans in 1990, 28 years ago.

The first order of business, of course, is the Democratic primary against Bradley Arant lawyer Chris Christie. If progressives realize Christie is a DINO, I think Siegelman can win that primary.

On the GOP side, you have three deeply flawed candidates -- Steve Marshall, Alice Martin, Troy King -- plus Chess Bedsole, whose main claim to fame is being Donald Trump's campaign chair in Alabama. Trump's popularity is plummeting, even in Alabama, and he might be indicted by the time elections roll around, so that association might become an albatross for Bedsole.

Bottom line: Christie is a DINO, and the GOP field is a mess, so I believe Siegelman has a chance.

Anonymous said...

Great news, LS! Wonder what the Captain of the Eliza Battle thinks about this.

legalschnauzer said...

@10:44 --

Great question, and I would love to know. I don't feel like an issue can be thoroughly understood until Eliza Battle has chimed in.

Anonymous said...

Aboard the Eliza Battle Coach and Jimmy had been awakened by the Hammering and sawing of John and Thomas Yancey. Coach was trying to awaken the General who was shouting in his sleep," No! Teddy - Heel Teddy Heel". Upon awakening, the General revealed the cause of his nightmare. The General began that his first task after graduating law school was to serve a writ of attachment in Lowndes Co Georgia. He continued saying that he had stopped at LuLu's Bar to get a quick drink to wash the dust from his throat, and considering the road he had been traveling was a dusty dirt road which put a lot of dust in his throat, he woke up in jail with Terrible Ted the wrestling Bear during bear mating season. The General continued that when he had seen Minda and Coach in the life boat, he got a flash back of his night in jail with a wrestling bear. Coach told the General that he need not have that night mare anymore. Jimmy asked Coach why not? Coach replied ,"Because we were not wrestling". Meanwhile the Captain had the crew assembled in the Galley for a War Briefing. The Crew was greeted by Emile Zola and Alfred Drefus wearing full battle gear consisting of flak jackets and helmets. The Captain began that a turn of events has caused the Eliza Battle to modify plan B. Bob Yancey inquired about the turn of events and the Captain replied that The Victoria with the Riley Machine aboard wanted to clear Mike's name using the Henderson prosecution, but Hart has subpoenaed 25 legislatures to investigate for campaign contributions which will prevent Mike from arguing selective prosecution. Sheldon asked the Captain about the large sum of money Mike could be paid to report to prison. The Captain replied that there was 14 million dollars left from the original bond issue but unless some one gets the bonds out of default, that money is not available to Mike. Ms Chapelle reminded the Captain that Mike still had the option to reveal the Bingo trial corruption. The Captain responded that the other 25 Subpoenas will jeopardize that plan. Mary Mac gasped and said" Captain, The Eliza Battle needs a plan." The Captain replied that Emile Zola planted the seeds for a plan in the comment's of Roger's Sept. 8 2016 post when Emile said that Mike needed to attach himself to someone's coattails similar to the seed of the plant called beggar lice. Mike will ride Trump's coat tails. The Captain continued that John and Thomas Yancey are building a landing craft for Emile and Alfred to deliver the Documentary " Atticus and the Architect' to the Washington press corps. Trump will tweet that Robert Mueller was the head of the FBI during the Siegelman prosecution and President Obama extended his ten year assignment two more years to lead the FBI during the McGregor and Hubbard prosecutions. Don Siegelman's son will be at the right place at the right time. Eliza Yancey entered the plan into the ship's log book as plan "E.B."