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Scott Horton: Updates on America’s Most Prominent Political Prisoner (Siegelman) [View All]

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seafan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-29-07 03:59 PM
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Scott Horton: Updates on America’s Most Prominent Political Prisoner (Siegelman)
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November 27, 2007


The view taken by Raw Story, that Don Siegelman is a political prisoner, may have emerged as the view of the people of Alabama. In any event, a new Rasmussen poll shows 56% of Alabamians surveyed believed that politics played a role in the prosecution of Don Siegelman. Earlier polls had shown only about 30% believing that the prosecution and trial were politically motivated.

What happened in the interim that would make a difference? Evidence has steadily accumulated establishing that the claims of Dana Jill Simpson, a Republican lawyer who first broke accusations of Republican manipulation of the case, are correct. Time Magazine’s Adam Zagorin disclosed that a key witness in the case, Lanny Young, made specific accusations against Republicans William Pryor and Jefferson Sessions that were not followed up.

Digging around a bit, I found this:

Lanny Young's other friends, October 12, 2007


The frenzy will be further fueled by recent news that one of the key witnesses against Siegelman also claimed to have given illegal campaign contributions to prominent state Republicans - allegations that investigators apparently deemed unworthy of pursuing.

According to the story first reported by Time magazine, lobbyist Lanny Young told investigators that in addition to the gifts he'd bestowed on Siegelman and his top aides, he'd provided illegal campaign contributions to U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions and former Attorney General Bill Pryor in the 1990s.

Siegelman's lawyers have complained they weren't allowed to raise that point at trial and have questioned why investigators didn't pursue the information on Republicans. "In my mind, I don't believe there was any follow-up investigation, and that is very peculiar to me," said David McDonald, one of Siegelman's defense lawyers.


At the same time, it's strange that Sessions, for instance, says he was never asked about Young's allegations. You'd think investigators would have at least followed the trail that far.

And what about Pryor? Some of the authorities participating in Young's interview worked for Pryor, since the Siegelman investigation was a joint effort by state and federal agencies. You would hope there is some kind of protocol to be followed if a criminal suspect implicates one's boss in any kind of wrongdoing. Certainly, once allegations were raised about Pryor, the attorney general's staff needed to take special pains to avoid any appearance of favoritism or bias.

We remember William Pryor, all right:

(William) Pryor was nominated to the Eleventh Circuit by President George W. Bush on April 9, 2003 to fill a seat vacated by Judge Emmett Ripley Cox, who assumed Senior status. After his nomination stalled in the Senate due to Democratic opposition, he was installed as judge via recess appointment on February 20, 2004 during the Congress's recess period, bypassing the U.S. Senate confirmation process. Pryor resigned as attorney general that same day and took his judicial oath for a term lasting until the end of 2006 when the next Congressional session would begin.

Many Democrats criticized him for his comments regarding homosexuality and abortion, as well as for what they described as his extreme right-wing views and reputation as a conservative who lacked the temperament to avoid being an "activist" judge. Pryor's nomination was prevented from being put to a vote in the U.S. Senate by Democrats who had filibustered his nomination.

On May 23, 2005 Senator John McCain announced an agreement between seven Republican and seven Democratic U.S. Senators, the Gang of 14, to ensure an up-or-down vote on Pryor and several other stalled Bush nominees, including Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown. On June 9, 2005, he was confirmed to the Eleventh Circuit by a vote of (53-45). He received his commission on June 10, 2005 and on June 20, 2005, he was sworn in to his new lifetime judicial position at the age of 43.

This guy was no wallflower at the time of his nomination:

Sometimes in the game of judicial politics, presidents will nominate a so-called "stealth candidate" -- a little-known lawyer or judge with no public record on controversial legal issues who can slip under the Senate's radar to confirmation.

As a nominee to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Alabama Attorney General William H. Pryor Jr. would be the opposite -- a B-52 candidate, if you will -- who has spent his career flying high, carpet-bombing the landscape with conservative views on federalism, abortion, church-state separation and a host of crime and punishment issues.


William Pryor, former Alabama Attorney General until February 20, 2004
Jay Sailors/Associated Press

Again, from Horton on Siegelman's case:


Time also documented the extensive conflicts and political motivation that marked the work of U.S. Attorney Leura Canary and members of her staff involved in the matter.

Further, it was disclosed that the two most senior career prosecutors working on the case had concluded that it did not merit being taken to a grand jury. More recently it was disclosed that Leura Canary’s office has convened a grand jury proceeding targeting persons making corruption allegations against several of her husband’s clients, also in violation of Justice Department policies. Mrs. Canary has also refused to release documents requested by the House Judiciary Committee in connection with its examination of the Siegelman’s case.


While the transcript of the Siegelman trial is still not finished, and its absence is holding up Siegelman’s appeal, bits and scraps of it have come out and much of it makes for very interesting reading. One thing that stands out is that Judge Fuller allowed Prosecutor Franklin to get away with conduct that other judges would have sanctioned. In one passage, Franklin calls defense counsel Terry Butts “a sleaze.” Fuller refuses to chastise or rebuke him in any way. (transcript follows at link)


Franklin comes across as bullying, intimidating and rude. Not exactly the model of a federal prosecutor. But then, nothing in this case comes anywhere close to that model. And Judge Fuller comes across as extremely indulgent–of the prosecutors, but not of defense counsel.

But we need to step back and think about this. Allowing a prosecutor in the trial of a political corruption case to call the defendant’s lawyer a “sleaze” is very serious business. It undermines the fairness and integrity of the entire trial process. This is a lot more than a lawyer misbehaving. It’s a prosecutor engaging in guerilla warfare in the court room and subverting proper process, while the judge looks on indifferently.

Our present system of justice is gravely and perversely ill.

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