Saturday, July 07, 2007

When Being A Democrat Might Land You In Prison

The Libby pardon has served to starve the Justice Department Scandal of air. But for those following those events, there has been a new element recently added to the mix. The conviction of former Alabama Democratic Governor Don Siegelman on corruption charges for a supposed quid pro quo when he appointed Richard Scrushy to a state panel overseeing the permits process for building new hospitals in Alabama.

What brought this trial to national prominence is the sworn affidavit of a well connected Republican lawyer who assisted Siegelman's Republican opponent in the 2002 campaign. According to this affidavit Karl Rove influenced the U.S. prosecutor to bring the charges against Siegelmann.

This in and of itself throws the prosecution of Siegelmann into an entirely new and sinister light. Can it be true that Rove is capable of instigating Justice Department investigation and prosecutions of political enemies? In effect simply being a Democrat can be cause for criminal proceedings at the hand of the Bush administration.

I suppose however if the case against Siegelmann is strong enough, even if it were politically motivated at inception, one would be hard pressed to stand in defense of a proven crook. After all, Siegelmann was found guilty on seven counts all revolving around his dealings with Scrushy. However Siegelmann was acquitted on 25 other charges.

Looking at the facts of the case, one is struck by the lack of criminality in what the Federal government seems to be accusing Siegelmann of. In particular the government charges that Scrushy paid $500,000 to the campaign for a state lottery that would pay state school tuition's. In return the government claims that Scrushy was appointed to the board by Siegelmann in a nefarious quid pro quo.

Yet there is no claim the Siegelmann was personally enriched by the transaction. And Siegelmann had been appointed to the same board by the three past governors, all of them Republicans.

Further, in reading the case that Siegelmann's lawyers are taking to appeal, it is hard to fathom how the jury deliberations were allowed to stand in the first place. Or how they reached their findings. Siegelmanns lawyers are in possession of Gmail's between two of the jurors, sent while the jury was deliberating, which prove that those jurors were determined to find the defendants guilty, and were looking up information which had not been presented to the jury over the internet. Once these emails were found, how could that jury be allowed to continue their duties in respect to Siegelmann? That is a clear cause for mistrial, or the dismissal of the verdict in case the evidence of outside influence on the jury be found after the verdict is announced.

As to the question of how the jury reached the conclusion they did, it is clear that the testimony of the one witness which the government used to hang their case on was hardly credible. In fact it can be conclusively proven that the facts which the witness purported to have witnessed were physically impossible. That witness is one Nick Bailey, who pleaded guilty to an assortment of white collar crimes and agreed in a plea deal to cooperate with the feds in the prosecution of Siegelmann. Bailey purported to discuss the quid pro quo with Siegelmann who was holding the check from Scrushy as they discussed the transaction. But Bailey places that conversation on a date in which the check had yet to be written. Thus Bailey is witness to an event which could not have occurred.

Bailey does not claim to have been present when the check was written or to have heard the quid pro quo worked out when it happened. His testimony in effect is hearsay as to Scrushy's understanding of the supposed transaction. It may well be the case the Scrushy simply wrote a check without any idea as to how Siegelmann would consider that, and that Bailey connected the dots when Siegelmann mentioned appointing Scrushy to the board he had already sat on during past administrations. That is not a quid pro quo... that is politics. A person who donates to the causes the politician in question roots for is far more likely to be promoted than one who donates to causes the politician finds odious. Duh!

So the one witness the government relies upon is using a plea deal to lessen his sentence, witnessing something it is not possible to witness, and not actually witnessing the quid pro quo in the first place. Siegelmann is guilty of not personally benefiting from the proceeds of his "criminal" undertaking, and Scrushy was appointed to a board he was appointed to under the past two Republican governors.

What is the crime in that? I rather suspect the crime is that Siegelmann was a Democrat in the home state of Karl Rove.

This case if very reminiscent of the recent dismissal of charges against Georgia Thompson, after she was found guilty of being a Democrat corruption charges brought the the U.S. attorney in Wisconsin. The appeals court summarily dismissed the charges against her (she actually saved the state money by signing the cheapest contractor, as opposed to spending more money for an out of state contractor) calling the evidence against her "beyond thin".

We've got major problems with political persecution of Democrats by the Bush Justice Department, and Siegelmann is sitting in jail right now because of it. Quite frankly it's an outrage, and something which ought to concern Republicans as well. After all, they will not hold the keys to the White House forever. All they have to guarantee that their ox will not be gored, as they have gored the Democratic ox, is the trust in the good faith of the Democrats.

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