Monday, October 08, 2007

Political Prosecution in Alabama

I've blogged a few times about the prosecution of Democratic candidate for governer of Alabama, Don Siegelman. That blogging has almost entirely consisted of linking to Scott Horton over at Harper's, who has done more work than anyone else in uncovering the sordid links between Karl Rove, the GOP machine and the prosecutors in Siegelman's case. Via to John Cole, I see that the story has finally gotten some mainstream treatment in pages of Time magazine (and it appears 60 Minutes will be doing a show on the story as well.) According to time, they've obtained State and FBI investigatory documents that contain the testimony of Clayton Young Jr., their primary witness against Siegelman, testimony that contains extraordinary allegations of corruption involving Republican lawmakers, allegations that were completely ignored by prosecutors. So far the DOJ has refused to hand over any of these records to Democrats in Congress, and you'll see why. Here are some samples:

Young testified that he had furnished Siegelman with an all-terrain vehicle and a motorcycle, lavishing money on the Governor and his aides. But he was an equal-opportunity influence monger. Early in the investigation, in November 2001, Young announced that five years earlier, he "personally provided [Senator Jeff] Sessions with cash campaign contributions," according to an FBI memo of the interview. Prosecutors didn't follow up that surprising statement with questions, but Young volunteered more. The memo adds that "on one occasion he [Young] provided Session [sic] with $5,000 to $7,000 using two intermediaries," one of whom held a senior position with Sessions' campaign. On another occasion, the FBI records show, Young talked about providing "$10,000 to $15,000 to Session [sic]. Young had his secretaries and friends write checks to the Sessions campaign and Young reimbursed the secretaries and friends for their contributions."

If true, Young's statements describe political money laundering that would be a clear violation of federal law. In 1996, when Young said he had made the contributions, it was illegal to give a candidate more than $1,000 for a primary or general campaign. None of the individuals Young named as his intermediaries in making the donations are listed in Federal Election Commission records as contributors to Sessions' 1996 U.S. Senate race. "We have on record a $1,000 contribution from Mr. Young during the 1996 election cycle and no record of any other contribution from him," says a spokesman for Sessions.

Young also openly offered details about what he said were donations totaling between $12,000 and $15,000 to Pryor's campaign for state attorney general. Once again, Young had used the friends-and-colleagues maneuver. According to the FBI record, "Young advised that during Pryor's 1998 campaign, he contributed money through other individuals." Young named four people who "all wrote checks to Pryor's campaign and were reimbursed by Young for their contributions." At one point in the conversation, Young seemed particularly eager to tell all. "This was not just for the Governor's [Siegelman's] campaign," he told investigators. "It was also for the attorney general's campaign ... I gave you the example of five checks totaling $25,000. If I was there, I would write them out or just sign them, and they would fill in who it was to or whatever." According to Young, a top official on Pryor's campaign "would call and say, 'I need money for this, this or this,'" and Young would take care of the request.

This evidence was heard by lawyers from U.S. Attorney Canary's office, representatives of Alabama's Republican attorney general and an attorney from the Justice Department's public-integrity unit in Washington. But in an unusual exercise of prosecutorial discretion, nearly all the payments and donations went uninvestigated. And when Siegelman's defense team, which had obtained Young's statements amid tens of thousands of documents provided in discovery, raised his accusations briefly in court, a judge quickly ruled them irrelevant.

Incredible. Outrageous. There are hardly words to describe what the prosecutors did in this case. The allegations that Young made regarded crimes in violation of election law, and they dismissed them because they were inconvenient and not of interest in the persecution (no, I didn't mis-type that) of Siegelman. As to that judge? Well, Horton will tell you all about him as well. No one's hands are clean in this sordid business, and if justice is to be served, then the prosecutors involved in this case should be looking at time behind bars for their perversion and betrayal of justice.

1 comment:

adam said...

Congress needs to investigate.