Friday, November 14, 2008

Obstruction of Justice

You may recall that Siegelman was ordered released earlier this year by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which found that his appeal raised "substantial issues or law or fact" that justified his release on bond. Certainly it isn't the law that's in question, so much as the facts, and Time magazine-thanks to an intrepid whistleblower-delivers some more bombshells in the case that demonstration that the Siegelman prosecution has been playing fast and loose with the truth:

When the House Judiciary Committee looked into the Siegelman affair earlier this year, DoJ issued statements, placed in the Congressional record, maintaining that the case had been handled only by career prosecutors, not political appointees, and that Canary had recused herself in 2002, "before any significant decisions ... were made."

But new documents furnished by DoJ staffer Tamarah T. Grimes tell a different story. A legal aide who worked in the Montgomery office that prosecuted Siegelman, Grimes first submitted her documents to DoJ watchdogs in 2007, and now finds herself in an employment dispute that could result in her dismissal. Grimes' lawyer had no comment.

The documents — whose authenticity is not in dispute — include e-mails written by Canary, long after her recusal, offering legal advice to subordinates handling the case. At the time Canary wrote the e-mails, her husband — Alabama GOP operative William J. Canary — was a vocal booster of the state's Republican governor, Bob Riley, who had defeated Siegelman for the office and against whom Siegelman was preparing to run again. Canary also received tens of thousands of dollars in fees from other political opponents of Siegelman.

In one of Leura Canary's e-mails, dated September 19, 2005, she forwards senior prosecutors on the Siegelman case a three-page political commentary by Siegelman. Canary highlighted a single passage which, she told her subordinates, "Ya'll need to read, because he refers to a 'survey' which allegedly shows that 67% of Alabamans believe the investigation of him to be politically motivated." Canary then suggests: "Perhaps [this is] grounds not to let [Siegelman] discuss court activities in the media!"

Prosecutors in the case seem to have followed Canary's advice. A few months later they petitioned the court to prevent Siegelman from arguing that politics had any bearing on the case against him. After trial, they persuaded the judge to use Siegelman's public statements about political bias — like the one Canary had flagged in her e-mail — as grounds for increasing his prison sentence. The judge's action is now one target of next month's appeal.

The judge has his own issues to worry about. But that's not all:

Grimes last year also gave DoJ additional e-mails detailing previously undisclosed contacts between prosecutors and members of the Siegelman jury. In nine days of deliberation, jurors twice told the judge they were deadlocked and could not reach a decision. After the panel finally delivered a conviction, allegations emerged that jurors had discussed the case in e-mails among themselves and downloaded Internet material — serious breaches which could have invalidated the verdict. But the trial judge ruled that the jurors' alleged misconduct was harmless.

The DoJ conducted its own inquiry into some of Grimes' claims, and wrote a report dismissing them as inconsequential. But the report shows that investigators did not question U.S. marshals or jurors who had allegedly been in touch with the prosecution.

A key prosecution e-mail describes how jurors repeatedly contacted the government's legal team during the trial to express, among other things, one juror's romantic interest in a member of the prosecution team. "The jurors kept sending out messages" via U.S. marshals, the e-mail says, identifying a particular juror as "very interested" in a person who had sat at the prosecution table in court. The same juror was later described reaching out to members of the prosecution team for personal advice about her career and educational plans. Conyers commented that the "risk of [jury] bias ... is obvious".

That would be an understatement! This is unbelievable, and this prosecution now reeks with the stench of corruption and political manipulation. Scott Horton, who has extensively documented the misdeeds of the prosecution in this case and detailed the flimsy lies that they've told to try and protect themselves, says these revelations "suggest certain questions of obstruction of justice" as DOJ officials have known of these issues for a year and said nothing. It's clear at this point that someone belongs in jail, but that someone ain't Siegelman.

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