What Fresh Hell Is This?

August 21, 2009

DOJ Misconduct Scandals NN09 Panel (The Selective and Wrongful Prosecution of Don Siegelman)

Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman
(after he let go of my arm)

Dr. Cyril Wecht takes one for the blog

The full title of the panel was Reporting DoJ Misconduct Scandals: Why Netroots Remains Last Hope for Justice and panelists included former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman and former coroner of Allegheny County Cyril Wecht, MD, JD.

Most Pittsburghers have some familiarity with Wecht's trial (read here if you don't) and some thought his case was an example of selective prosecution by the Bush administration and U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan.

Less Burghers may have followed the case of Don Siegelman. Way back in 2007, The New York Times in an editorial titled "Selective Prosecution" described it thusly:
Putting political opponents in jail is the sort of thing that happens in third-world dictatorships. In the United States, prosecutions are supposed to be scrupulously nonpartisan. This principle appears to have broken down in Alberto Gonzales’s Justice Department — where lawyers were improperly hired for nonpolitical jobs based on party membership, and United States attorneys were apparently fired for political reasons.

Individual Democrats may be paying a personal price. Don Siegelman, a former Alabama governor, was the state’s most prominent Democrat and had a decent chance of retaking the governorship from the Republican incumbent. He was aggressively prosecuted by both the Birmingham and Montgomery United States attorney’s offices. Birmingham prosecutors dropped their case after a judge harshly questioned it. When the Montgomery office prosecuted, a jury acquitted Mr. Siegelman of 25 counts, but convicted him of 7, which appear to be disturbingly weak.

The prosecution may have been a political hit. A Republican lawyer, Dana Jill Simpson, has said in a sworn statement that she heard Bill Canary, a Republican operative and a Karl Rove protégé, say that his “girls” — his wife, the United States attorney in Montgomery, and Alice Martin, the United States attorney in Birmingham — would “take care” of Mr. Siegelman. Mr. Canary also said, according to Ms. Simpson, that Mr. Rove was involved.

The Rove controversy is still ongoing.

You can watch the 60 Minutes expose on the front page of Siegelman's website: http://www.donsiegelman.org

Unfortunately, like many of the Netroots panels that I wanted to see, the DOJ one conflicted with two others (Torture, Accountability, and Prosecutions: Looking Back to Move Forward and Advocating for Reproductive Rights in the Age of Obama).

But Siegelman wasn't having any of that. He stood outside his panel room and literally grabbed people in the halls (including me) to convince them to hear him speak with the line, "I'll be speaking during the first 10 minutes -- just stay for that."

I did just stay for his part (mostly because I already knew a lot about his case and the Wecht case), but if you're not as familiar, I urge you to check out his website, watch the 60 Minutes piece and then take action.

By the way, Siegelman did have something new to say in those first 10 minutes.

He had a chance to speak with Valerie Jarrett -- one of Obama's most trusted advisors -- that very day. He implored her to remove Rove's clones from the DOJ.

I found her reported response to be terribly discouraging. He said she told him that it was up to us to lobby for that reform.


You can contact Jarrett via Siegelman's website here.

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