Siegelman and Selective Prosecution

A NYT editorial calls for an investigation into the successful prosecution of former Alabama governor Don Siegelman.

It is extremely disturbing that Don Siegelman, the former governor of Alabama, was hauled off to jail this week. There is reason to believe his prosecution may have been a political hit, intended to take out the state’s most prominent Democrat, a serious charge that has not been adequately investigated. The appeals court that hears his case should demand answers, as should Congress.

Steve Benen (who is simultaneously blogging at his own site and subbing for both Kevin Drum and Josh Marshall) thinks the story has “legs.”

Now, I’ve called here and elsewhere for a depoliticization of the entire U.S. Attorney system on the grounds that having prosecution decisions made by partisan appointees gives rise to these kind of questions. Still, Siegelman’s case would seem an odd one to hang one’s hat on in this fight. He was, after all, convicted by a jury on multiple felony counts.

As I noted in my first post on this matter nearly two years ago, “Siegelman is one of the few Democrats I’ve voted for, although I later came to regret it.” I also expressed concern about the bringing of “charges for public corruption that allegedly took place more than seven years ago.” As more evidence came out, though, it was pretty clear Siegelman was taking massive bribes from former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy and others in classic quid-pro-quo fashion.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Bithead says:

    As I noted in my first post on this matter nearly two years ago, “Siegelman is one of the few Democrats I’ve voted for, although I later came to regret it.”

    That’ll teach ya…

    I also expressed concern about the bringing of “charges for public corruption that allegedly took place more than seven years ago.” As more evidence came out, though, it was pretty clear Siegelman was taking massive bribes from former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy and others in classic quid-pro-quo fashion.

    Correct…. And of course these are the people where to turn our Healthcare system over to.

    You’ve touched on precisely the reasoning behind my objection to government control of health care. When I see people like Clinton, (Either Bill or Hillary, actually) who have spent their entire lives grasping for power, also being one of Socialized healthcare’s biggest supporters, my instinct tells me that their goal has nothing to do with the betterment of health care.

    All this, of course, leaving aside the idea that were socialist systems have been put into place, elsewehre in the world, they haven’t been better., but rather hav ebeen decidedly worse. As with everything else about these people, it’s the money…. OUR money… and how to obtain power over it.

  2. Bithead says:

    James ; another thought occurs.

    You’re closer to the story than I am, so I will ask you; is the subject going to come up as regards the democrats current smoke storm about justice department attorneys being fired? For example, would the attorneys who were supposed to have investigated this type of offense, and in his region, be one of the ones who get canned?

    If so, my instinct tells me this could end up being a little bit more than the democrats in Congress bargained for.

  3. lunacy says:

    As a Mobilian, my observation has been that across the political spectrum here, across age groups and genders, everyone seems to be glad Seigelman got time. Pleasantly surprised, even. Some people expressed disappointment in him, but not the verdict and sentencing.

    Again, the NYT proves they don’t know sh!t from Shinola.

  4. I can see no reason to associate the Siegelman case with the broader USA discussion–and I have been quite critical of the entire USA mess and of the DoJ of late.

    And I say that from Montgomery, AL where I even played TV pundit regarding Siegelman on primary day back in June of ’06. Like lunacy above, it is my sense that the consensus here in Alabama is that Siegelman deserved to be convicted.

  5. Bithead says:

    Ponder the question this way, Steven…

    James raises the issue of the amount of time involved between the actual crime, and the trial, which seems to be suggesting statute of limitations issues.

    First of all, I should comment that that issue was probably dealt with at trial or the conviction would not exist, so let’s call that one the moot point that it is, right off.

    That point aside, the timing as I understand it, would seem to suggest prosecution against Siegelman didn’t start until such time as the attorneys were replaced.

    Which leads to the question; Rather than being a case of selective prosecution against Siegelman, by the bush administration, is this rather a case of selective NON-prosecution on the part of the attorneys who were replaced? In other words were they correctly fired for not doing their job?

    One could consider the possibility that their actual job was to protect corrupt Democrats such as Siegelman.

    If that’s true, and I suspect it is, then this is all going to come out in the congressional investigation. Assuming the Democrats are willing to blunder into it.

    If it does come out, it will make the administration’s case, particularly in terms of public opinion.

    That, aside from that the deeper ramifications about both government healthcare and Democrat corruption of course… corruption the U.S. attorneys were supposed to have been looking into, and prosecuting, prior to being replaced.

    It all looks very interesting, from here. Inquiring minds, and all that.

  6. Bithead,

    I am more than willing to entertain any number of possibilities. However, I am not sure if we even have an confluence of USAs coming or going in this case.

    Regardless, there was an initial indictment on some charges in 2004 that were tossed and then the indictments in 2005 that led to the convictions. Since the crimes were alleged to have taken place from something like 1999 to 2003, the time gap that James notes in the post above is too broad–i.e., only a few years rather than seven. It isn’t like it was some old crime that some new prosecutors picked up on.

    Also, I suspect that the timing was linked to evidence from the various Scrushy trials. As such, I am not sure that there is any USA-linked timing that would explain much of anything. And, to my knowledge, there was no controversy regarding hirings or firings or USAs in Alabama.

    I will, of course, be happy to entertain any evidence to that end.

    Of course, the USA replacements were all last year, I think, and Siegelman was indicted in late 2005.

    As such, I really think your scenario is unlikely.

  7. just me says:

    Okay, I admit I didn’t even know the former governor had been prosecuted or charged. I don’t know anything about the evidence against him, but apparently it appeared strong enough for a jury to convict him.

    I do recall the whole Healthsouth thing was a big deal, and my guess is that if you take bribes and provide kickbacks you deserve whatever it is you get, whether it was 7 years ago or 2 years ago.

  8. mikem says:

    Heh. I googled his name and scanned through dozens of listings before I found one that mentioned the word “Democrat”.

    The media is just so over the top protective of Democrats, it is no wonder the first link that mentions his party affiliation is suspicious that a Democrat has been punished.
    LOL

  9. Bithead says:

    I am more than willing to entertain any number of possibilities. However, I am not sure if we even have an confluence of USAs coming or going in this case.

    Oh, granted, mine is speculation. But it does seem to fit a number of params we do understand about the story. I will be watching, for information, as regards the staffing of the office is down there. I’m sure that the point is going to be coming out before very long. until then, I’ll defer to your memory on the point. But frankly, I still get the feeling this questions there that are not even being investigated, much less being answered, and I suspect the democrats don’t look good as a result of either of them being investigated or answered.

    And in any event, I find the charge from the democrats about selective prosecution, laughable, at least. The question comes down to, did the guy do the crime or did he not? Obviously, the Jury felt that he did. They convicted and based on that. The Judge in the case, went along for whatever reason.

    If Siegelman was vindicated during the trial, then the “selective prosecution” nonsense would seem to carry somewhat more weight. As it is, well, let’s just say it looks suspicious.

    It gets even more laughable when we see lines in the New York Times like:

    The idea of federal prosecutors putting someone in jail for partisan gain is shocking.

    Oh, you mean like the Democrats tried with Tom Delay, for example? Do these people really think we have that short a memory cycle?

    Regardless, there was an initial indictment on some charges in 2004 that were tossed and then the indictments in 2005 that led to the convictions.

    Yes, well, about that;
    Who was the judge? What party does he/she/it belong to? Who appointed the judge? Or, were they elected? What if the judge was appointed by a democrat? Or was a member of the democratic party, having been elected on that line?

    You can imagine that a democrat appointee may have had some other motive besides “justice” for throwing those out. At the very least, the question ought to be asked.

    Still, at the end of the day, he was convicted of the remaining charges and sentenced to about seven a half years. Clearly, the jury thought he was guilty of something.

    Interestingly enough, none of the material I’ve seen thus far, in my admittedly quick search, has come up with a name for that judge. I’ll be watching, as I say over the next couple of days for that information, too.

    I think, however, in the end this is connected with the fired attorneys “scandal”, in that it meshes rather nicely, with the democrats all out effort to “prove” the bush justice department was being used as a political tool.

    I wonder if that’s a Pandora’s box they really want to open.

  10. spacemonkey says:

    In Mobile here too,

    IMO, Siegelman deserved jail time.

    Good thing he didn’t get re-elected Governor in 2006 so he could pardon himself.