|Joseph and Don Siegelman|
As it turns out, something did happen in February -- and if that caused Haikala to dismiss the FOIA case, it speaks to political payback and provides another example of hideous corruption in Alabama's federal courts.
Here is the really disturbing question: What if Haikala was taking signals from one or more "power brokers," someone who had an interest in making sure the truth about the Don Siegelman prosecution remains under wraps? What if the power broker was thinking ahead to concerns about the outcome of what likely will be the most bitterly contested race -- at least behind the scenes -- in Alabama's midterm elections of November 2018.
The peculiar handling and outcome of the FOIA case suggests something foul is in the air. And that almost always happens when politics and the federal judiciary intermingle in Alabama.
So, what happened in February that might have sparked action in the FOIA case? News broke on Feb. 9 that Joseph Siegelman had qualified with the Democratic Party to run as attorney general. Ironically, that's the same date Haikala -- after letting the matter lie dormant so long that many people probably forgot out it -- issued the first of three rulings that swept the case out the door, almost under cover of darkness. The docket shows Haikala's other rulings came on Feb. 23 and 28 -- and, boom, the FOIA case was gone, after many Alabamians likely had forgotten it ever arrived.
Joseph Siegelman brought the FOIA case, long before announcing his AG candidacy, seeking Department of Justice (DOJ) documents from his father's prosecution -- especially documents related to the dubious recusal of then U.S. attorney Leura Canary. Various attorneys connected to Don Siegelman had been seeking such documents, via FOIA, for roughly 12 years. The most recent effort, in the form of Joseph Siegelman's federal lawsuit, ended with the DOJ's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) turning over requested documents -- but they were so heavily redacted due to claimed exemptions under FOIA -- as to be virtually useless.
Haikala did nothing to make OPR turn over information in a readable format. Was someone unhappy that Joseph Siegelman decided to run for attorney general? Were Haikala's hurried and nonsensical rulings on the FOIA matter a form of political payback? Was someone pulling the judge's strings, meaning Haikala is corrupt and accomplishing little other than to add to the sewer-like qualities of Alabama's justice system?
If the answer to that last one is yes, the power broker in question probably is named Doug Jones, as in the U.S. Senator who upset Roy Moore last December to claim Jeff Sessions' old seat. Consider the evidence we've already presented:
(1) Doug Jones is a "Democrat" (in name only) who once served as Don Siegelman's defense attorney, so a reasonable person might expect him to support Joseph Siegelman for AG. But that is not the case -- and Jones and Don Siegelman had a heated discussion on the issue in February, just before the senior Siegelman had emergency heart surgery. In fact, Don Siegelman's surgery was on Feb. 9, the same day his son qualified as an AG candidate and Madeline Haikala made her first ruling that would lead to dismissal of the FOIA case.
(2) Jones made it clear that he supported Bradley Arant lawyer Chris Christie, who was Joseph Siegelman's opponent in the Democratic primary. Another Christie supporter was Sirote Permutt lawyer Barry Ragsdale, who defended former federal judge Mark Fuller as he faced wife-beating charges. Fuller, of course, railroaded the Don Siegelman prosecution, causing the former governor and codefendant Richard Scrushy to unlawfully spend roughly six years each in prison.
(3) Alabama Democrats don't like to hear this, but evidence strongly suggests Doug Jones is more loyal to the Bob Riley wing of the Republican Party -- which includes such luminaries as Jeff Sessions; Bill Canary; Luther Strange; and Bob's oily son, Rob "Uday" Riley -- than he is to any Democratic causes. After all, Jones and Rob Riley teamed up on a federal HealthSouth lawsuit, which allowed them to take home a hefty chunk of $51 million in attorney fees. That probably is the No. 1 reason Jones could afford a Senate run.
(4) Could Joseph Siegelman, as Alabama AG, pose a threat to Doug Jones, Rob Riley, and their political allies? The answer is yes -- if the younger Siegelman is serious about cleaning up his home state, which badly needs cleansing. Doug Jones took a number of curious actions as Don Siegelman's defense lawyer -- including charging him $300,000 without even taking the case to trial. And Rob Riley played a central role in setting up the baseless Siegelman prosecution, which led to Bob Riley becoming two-term governor of Alabama -- with the help of Siegelman votes disappearing overnight in GOP stronghold Baldwin County, flipping the 2002 election.
(5) It's not clear how the Obama administration (Democrats) came to appoint a federal judge who clearly does not abide by Democratic principles, such as respect for the rule of law, due process, and equal protection. Doug Jones has touted his connections to Obama VP Joe Biden, so perhaps Jones pushed for Haikala's nomination, even though she came from a conservative, pro-corporate law firm (Lightfoot Franklin), and like Jones himself, is more or less a Republican in disguise. Does Haikala owe here judicial seat to Doug Jones, and is that why he might have had her ear on the Siegelman FOIA matter?
Joseph Siegelman defeated Chris Christie in the June primary and is set to face incumbent Steve Marshall, who has the support of the state's white conservative elites -- and that group probably includes Doug Jones. A determined younger Siegelman in the AG's chair might lead to investigations that could expose the truth behind his father's prosecution -- and it could spell big trouble for Doug Jones, Rob Riley, and their allies.
Given the ugliness in Alabama politics over the past 25 years or so, this much is certain: Powerful white elites, both Republicans and Democrats, see Joseph Siegelman as a threat, and they will pull out all the stops to make sure he does not become the chief law-enforcement officer of Alabama. That includes the strong possibility that, if the race appears to be remotely close, it will be stolen for Steve Marshall, who is likely to protect the corrupt status quo.
If the Siegelmans are committed to a Joseph Siegelman victory, they had better develop a rock-solid plan to prevent election theft. Our bet is that they will definitely need it.