The Don Seigelman Travesty: How Neocons Corrupted the Justice System


I think anyone would agree that if a former Governor of a state, one who is running for a return to office and is ahead in the voting is falsely indicted by the local U.S. Attorney for the opposite political party, it is a very significant issue.

If a governor can be indicted on false charges, convicted, and sent to prison for years, then how safe are you?

This is exactly what happened in Alabama, and it has repercussions throughout society. We have to say “in our opinion” because these guys were good at their pseudo-Nazi tactics and Seigelman did do what they said. But was it criminal? When you own the jurors and you can get away with all kinds of things that cannot be proved unless you can break through the “omerta,” the wall of silence (that many remember from the old Alabama civil rights, KKK days) you can make someone a criminal for J-walking.

Don Seigelman is an Alabama Democrat. And while one might joke that he is an endangered species, his situation is no joking matter. He was elected as Secretary of State, Attorney General, Lt. Governor and finally Governor of Alabama…all as a Democrat. Then came the Bush Administration and Karl Rove.

Siegelman is a Catholic, though his children are raised Jewish. He is a Rhodes Scholar and although from Alabama, graduated law school from Georgetown. He studied international law at Oxford, and is a former cop and a black belt in karate. He is a complex, intelligent, agreeable man. In other words the exact opposite of Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, of George W. Bush and of political Neocon fanatic Karl Rove.

In the 2002 election for governor again, Seigelman was ahead, despite the vicious attacks and multiple lies of the opposition, a typical Rove campaign like that run against American patriot and war hero, Senator Max Cleland. Rove was reportedly overseeing the campaign and determined to remove the popular governor who seemingly could not be defeated, even in this heavily “Red” state.

Siegelman was declared winner in the election but challenged and when a single voting machine in one county was claimed by Republicans to have “malfunctioned” enough votes for Seigelman’s opponent, Bob Riley, magically appeared (interestingly, after Democratic poll workers had left at the end of the night.) Riley was then pronounced winner.

The state’s Lt. Governor, a longtime foe of Siegelman’s, Bill Pryor affirmed the recounted totals and proclaimed Riley the victor.

But the Neocons knew that Siegelman would not go away quietly. And even though it is shadowy and much like New Jersey or Chicago mob activity in its code of silence, what happened next has all the earmarks of one of the most dangerous political situations in the country’s history.

In May of 2004, during the tenure of Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General, Don Siegelman was indicted on federal charges, and they were immediately dismissed. This was apparently a warning of some kind for Seigelman to stay out of Alabama politics.
But he did not. He decided to run again for governor of Alabama.

While he was campaigning, in October of 2006, Siegelman was again indicted on charges of bribery and mail fraud in connection with the case of Richard M. Scrushy, a popular local citizen who was chairman of a health care firm but who, it was discovered in the trial, had defrauded the public. Scrushy was a very prominent Alabaman, giving money to many causes and to virtually every politician, Democratic and Republican.

Scrushy had been on the state’s hospital regulatory board throughout several governorships before Seigelman. It was not a new appointment. But Seigelman wanted to begin a state lottery to benefit education and Scrushy had volunteered to put up $500,000 as part of the funds to help it get started.

When Scrushy was indicted on unrelated issues, Seigelman was accused of having asked Scrushy for the money as a quid pro quo for being reappointed to the regulatory board even though he was already on it. In addition, Scrushy did nothing otherwise different from what he did for many other candidates, including now Senator Jeff Sessions. The difference is that Alabama politics is Republican and so is Sessions.

Although the lottery issue was voted down by anti-gambling groups, Seigelman was nonetheless convicted of having agreed to let Scrushy put up the money but doing so—although there was no evidence of it—in return for the appointment.

Seigelman was indicted by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Alabama, then under the supervision of Alberto Gonzales, of 25 counts of conspiracy of all kinds. In other words, they threw everything they could think of at him. One key factors was that Bill Canary, whose wife was the U.S. Attorney, was a very close friend of Karl Rove, worked in the White House with Karl Rove and had been chief of staff of the Republican Party, but there has been testimony by reliable witnesses that he told Rove on a phone call that he would “take care of Seigelman.”

Later on, after the disclosure that 8 U.S. Attorneys, at Rove’s behest, were removed from office because they would not perform similar actions in other parts of the country, it is pretty clear what happened. Attorney General Roberto Gonzales was forced to resign because of just such actions, in California, New Jersey and elsewhere. In those cases, the Republican U.S. Attorneys, far from being crooks, refused to participate. So they were fired.

Siegelman was convicted, even though there was undisclosed testimony, and illegal conduct by two of the jurors, indicating that there was a strong indication they were working in tandem with the prosecutors, and even though the key and basically only witness against Siegelman was convicted of extortion and sentenced to ten years in prison, but had his own sentence lightened because of his cooperation with the prosecutors.

In an attempt to humiliate and break Siegelman, upon conviction, this former governor and 26-year public servant was immediately shackled and taken directly to prison. Not since perhaps Dumas’ Jean Valjean was anyone so mistreated. He was released on appeal in 2008 after spending a great deal of his time in the penitentiary in solitary confinement because of threats on his life. In his 2009 appeal, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down tow of the seven charges against him, but upheld the bribery, conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges. Siegelman’s seven year sentence, therefore, with time he has already served and reduced charges…which he does not deny but merely denies that they were criminal…could be reduced to time already served.

But this targeted, politicized campaign to “get” Donald Seigelman is not the end of the story. Dana Jill Simpson, an attorney who was on the staff of Governor Riley during the campaign as well as Leura Canary, who is the wife of Bill Canary, Rove’s friend who initiated the action, and who later agrees with Simpson, both say that Karl Rove was behind the indictments. Leura Canary, it should be pointed out, recused herself from prosecuting the case when it came up, although she said nothing about Rove at the time.

Simpson further said that Siegelman’s persistence and intelligence as well as his popularity intimidated the Riley campaign, Canary and Rove into acting on the indictment.

While Siegelman may not be returned to prison, and while his conviction may be overturned by President Obama in a Presidential pardon, his political life was ruined as well as his finances decimated. This is a typical Cheney-Rove trick which they consider merely the rough world of politics. But it is ruining our democracy.

There were many others in Alabama politics who were investigated and evidence found that they had (allegedly…they haven’t been indicted) taken “bribes” including current Senator Jeff Sessions, in much more conclusive situations than Siegelman’s. But Alabama prosecutors will not bring the cases, nor would Leura Canary, the U.S. Attorney who is married to Karl Rove’s buddy, William Canary.

If this is the kind of justice we can look forward to now, it is unthinkable what will happen now after the Supreme Court decision that will allow corporations to basically elect their own judges or officials who will appoint the judges they want. These corporations have extremely important matters pending before the courts, liability suits for tens and hundreds of millions of dollars for damages to public lands or to large populations, as in the mining industry, where literally hundreds of miles of clean river water can be polluted so badly that it is no longer drinkable, and is, in fact, toxic.

There goes our Democracy. It is time to wake up and become politically active for the People, for yourself, for your children.