Monday, March 03, 2008

The Sad, Twisted Saga of Don Siegelman

In the opening piece of the February 24th edition of CBS's 60 Minutes, Scott Pelly asked the musical question, "Is Don Siegelman in prison because he's a criminal or because he belonged to the wrong political party in Alabama?"

`Kudos to Air America Radio's Thom Hartmann. Were it not for him, I wouldn't even know the tragic and outrageous story of Don Siegelman. Siegelman was the somewhat moderate former governor of the state of Alabama who is now rotting away in a federal prison in Louisiana. His crime? Accepting a five-hundred thousand dollar contribution from a businessman named Richard Scrushy for a fund that benefited secondary education in that state. Scrushy was then reappointed to sit on a state Hospital board of directors, a position he had held under three previous governors. This is the "bribery" deal that sent Siegelman to the federal pen.
In a Republican state like Alabama, Governor Siegelman was a grand embarrassment for the Grand Old Party. The son-of-a-bitch just wouldn't go away! The justice Department of Karl Rove decided to take matters into its own hands. If the the voters of that state refused to send the governor into obscurity, the Bush Mob would do it for them. They managed to convince a jury of twelve Alabamans of average intelligence (average for Alabama, that is) that Don Siegelman was guilty of a crime. He is now four months into a seven year sentence.
Political prisoners are not a new phenomenon to American life. A generation ago, Black activist Angela Davis was wasting away in a federal prison for months before the Justice Department of Richard Nixon and John Mitchell could even figure out what the hell to charge the poor woman with. In 1927, Sacco and Vanzetti were both sent to the electric chair based solely on the fact they were anarchists. It is irrelevant as to whether or not they were guilty of the murder they were both charged with. The "jury", so to speak, is still out on that question (My personal opinion is that the poor bastards were railroaded). The fact is, they never had a chance to receive a fair trial. They would have been executed regardless of their innocence.
What is so disturbing about the Siegelman case is the obvious fact that what we're dealing with here is not some kind of wild-eyed radical or a stone cold, bomb-throwing Marxist zealot. What we have in Don Siegelman is a depressingly, middle-of-the-road, southern Democrat. Although he may have been "liberal" by Alabama standards, the guy wouldn't stand a chance in your average New York primary. The fact that someone as moderate as Don Siegelman can be tossed into a federal prison on obviously trumped-up charges, should give every believer in the Bill of Rights pause.
In an excellent piece that was posted this morning on AlterNet, Paul Craig Roberts of Counter Punch reported as follows:
"The frame-up of Siegelman and businessman Richard Scrushy is co crystal clear and blatant that 52 former state attorneys general from across America, both Republicans and Democrats, have urged the US Congress to investigate the Bush administration's use of the US Department of Justice to rid themselves of a Democratic governor who 'they could not beat fair and square,' according to Grant Woods, former Republican Attorney General of Arizona and co-chair of the McCain for President leadership committee. Woods says that he has never seen a case with 'so many red flags pointing to injustice.'"
The quote above by Grant Woods was from the 60 Minutes broadcast. When Scott Pelly pointed out to him the novelty of a Republican coming to the defence of a Democrat, Woods pointed out that he was an American first. It's heartening to know that there are still some heroes among the ranks of the GOP, however dwindling that number may be. By the way, when the report was sent out over the airwaves, for some strange reason it went black in the state of Alabama. The CBS affiliate in that state told its viewers that the technical problem was the fault of the transmission from CBS headquarters in New York. The technicians at Black Rock said that Alabama received the same feed that was transmitted to the rest of the country. I'm sure it was just a coincidence.
One of the Bush Mob's operatives in dear ol' Alabamy was a woman named Jill Simpson. Her job was "opposition research". Apparently, she has been suffering from a severe pang of conscience of late. She testified in front of the House Judiciary Committee, and repeated on 60 Minutes, that she was personally approached by Karl Rove and was instructed by him to spy on Governor Siegelman and ordered to try and find him in some kind of - any kind of - sexually compromising situation. Months of heavy duty, undercover surveillance by Ms. Simpson turned out to be of no avail. It seems that Mr. Siegelman is faithful to the little woman. Dang!
So what was it that sent so honorable a man as Don Siegelman to the slammer? It was the testimony of a little gnat by the name of Nick Bailey. Bailey, a former assistant to the Governor, had been convicted of extortion and was facing the very real possibility of a ten-year sentence. He was approached by Alberto Gonzalez and Karl Rove's Brownshirts and told that his sentence would be drastically reduced if only he would turn on his former boss. That was all Bailey needed to hear. He told prosecutors that he witnessed Siegelman emerge from his office with Scrushy in tow, and a check for five-hundred thousand dollars in his hand. The only problem with Bailey's story is the fact that the check which eventually emerged as evidence, was cut several days after the alleged meeting took place.
After snooping on Governor Siegelman for months, super-sleuth Simpson was told by Bill Canary that she could end her spy program. "My girls can take care of Siegelman." Canary is described as "the most important GOP campaign advisor in Alabama" and was the campaign manager for Siegelman's Republican opponent, Bob Riley. His "girls" are US Attorneys in Alabama, both of whom were appointed by the First Fool. One is his wife, Leura Canary! The other, Alice Martin, is a disgusting political hack who, according to this morning's report on AlterNet, "is known for her abusive prosecutions." Nice.
"Compassionate Conservatism". Remember that one?
When the details of the first investigation of Siegelman (an alleged Medicaid scam) were leaked to the public, he lost in the Democratic primary. The case against him was so pathetic that the judge threw it out of court on day one without a single witness being called. When the Siegelman announced to the press that he would seek vindication at the polls in the next election, Rob Riley, the son of the new Governor, told Jill Simpson that they just couldn't "allow that to happen". Siegelman was indicted yet again.
At the end of his second trial, after twice arriving at a deadlock, the jury voted to convict Don Siegelman. Instead of granting him the usual forty-five days to get his affairs in order, the judge in the case, Mark Fuller, had the former governor shackled in chains and immediately carted off to prison - unheard of for a white collar criminal.
And remember that he did not personally gain a dime for the "crime" he was convicted of. He is today rotting in prison because he accepted a check that was made out to the state of Alabama that went to a fund for educating its children. As was pointed out on Sixty Minutes last week, that's the equivalent of granting an Ambassadorship in exchange of a donation to a presidential campaign. That's politics!
As the late Molly Ivins once said, "This is Karl Rove 101". As a hard ball player in the Texas political scene under former governor George W. Bush, the persecution of hapless Democrats who wondered into Rove's cross hairs was not an uncommon thing. For more on that, I would strongly suggest to you the excellent book, "Bush's Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential" by James C. Moore and Wayne Slater.
And now this same type of yahoo, frontier justice, Texas style, has gone national. One would have expected this behavior from the regimes of Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin or Saddam Hussein - not from an American administration. That George W. Bush and company have been able to pervert the Constitution of the United States of America for their own, cynical political gain is a danger to the freedom of every man and woman in this country. If it can happen to a respected and much-loved statesman like Don Siegelman, it can happen to you - or me.
Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
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UPDATE, 4/18/13, 9:05 AM:

I wrote this piece five year, one month, two weeks and one day ago. Don Siegelman still rots in a federal prison in Louisiana.


At 2:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


The Siegelman story has been suppressed in Alabama mainly because of the three largest newspapers which are owned by Newhouse Publications which are part of Bush's left wing attack machine. Some of the smaller Independents newspapers have done a really good job of reporting the truth.

Alabama is controlled by corrupt politicians, top elected state judges and Bush appointed federal judges.

Siegelman had to be taken care of so Bob Riley could become governor of Alabama. Riley is being groomed as a future GOP candidate for vice president. Being a past congressman wasn't enough, he needed to have experience as a governor. To give him a record of success Bush's left wing supporters mainly U.S. senators and congressmen have allowed Riley to take all credit for the millions of dollars of large government/military contracts and government grants that have magically flowed into Alabama.

At 12:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ahh...the "ghost of Rove"...
The frightful untruthfulness of Karl's mentor, Goebells, is indeed a tragedy that one should attend, rather than dare repeat.
The consequences for those that ignore the lessons of history are that we are condemned to repeat them. TRAGIC!
Is there any wonder as to why the beautiful lady holding the scales of justice wears a blindfold?
And now Hillary and her advisors have had the "torch" passed to them, to our mutual detriment.
They have learned well from Karl and Hermann.

At 1:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

spelling correction: Joseph Goebbels.
Same act, different stage.


At 3:18 PM, Blogger charles moore said...

The sad thing is that we can not comfortably be rid of Lil' Dubya and his rotten crew until he is back in Texas chopping brush, something I hope that he does better than trying to play at being president. We know that he will never be held responsible for his criminal actions OR the actions of the handlers and flunkies around him. But the game is NOT over until they are out of office and that is something we still have to worry about.

At 6:04 PM, Anonymous Dr. Rick Lippin said...

Siegelman got screwed but I have little respect for Richard Scrushy-a health care "leader" with very dubious ethics. Now Scrushy is hawking his Christian fundamentalism.

Rick Lippin

At 3:13 AM, Blogger larkrise said...

Why isnt KKKarl "Pig-F.....r" Rove in prison? He is nothing more than a massive load of human excrement. His stink wafts out from every filthy, vile act that Bush/Cheney have dumped on this country. I cancelled my subscription to Newsweek, when they announded they had hired KKKarl as a columnist. He is an obscenity. I wont have his BS in my house. Rove and the Republican Party are as disgusting and depraved as it gets.

At 4:46 AM, Anonymous Mike Hale said...

An elite group has organized within the GOP. This elite group of high ranking state and federal government officials place their allegiance to their group above their allegiance to the Constitution of The United States.

The idea of this elite group evolved under Nixon, but it was not organized until Nixon's old cabinet and staff members returned to the White house in 2000 under Bush.

The rules to become a member are similar to the rules that organized crime use. Only top ranking Republican officials are approached. The majority of government officials are not included in this unique group, but in order to get campaign support/aid they must back the group in the way that they are told to vote, awarding contracts, spending, filibustering etc.

Before presidential appointments are made Bush demands that appointees pledge their allegiance to him and his elite group. This includes all heads of government (Department Secretaries, directors, judges, U.S. attorneys. etc.)

I believe that most of our U.S. congressional representatives in Alabama aren't part of this unique group, but several are being controlled by it. However, I can name a few federal attorneys, federal judges and a governor that have sold their souls to the devil.

At 9:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, Tom;

I appreciate your pushing the Siegelman story. I'm in Alabama, probably just above average intelligence, and pushing for justice in this as well.

Siegelman is not a half-ass liberal as you suggest though. That's exactly why he was a target.

Rant on, Bro. He's free for now, because people like you helped keep a fire under Congressional and attorney asses ranting. Thank you.

Best, Melissa

At 11:21 AM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

AFTERTHOUGH, 7 August 2012

Yesterday, former Alabama governor Don Siegelman stood before an appeals judge in an effort to get his sentence commuted. Instead he was ordered back to prison for another seventy-five months.

I wrote this piece over four years ago, never dreaming the saga of Don Siegelman would still be playing itself out nearly half a decade later.

And to think, Karl Rove is a free man.

Tom Degan


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