Dana Siegelman, daughter of imprisoned former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, was recently interviewed by the author about her father’s political and highly suspect prosecution begun by George W. Bush’s Department of Justice (DOJ). Don Siegelman, the only person to ever serve as Alabama’s attorney general, lieutenant governor and governor, was federally prosecuted and imprisoned by political cronies of Karl Rove acting under his direction. The author detailed the events of Siegelman’s politically motivated prosecution in an August 7, 2012 article originally seen in Online Publishing Company.
Dana Siegelman has been actively speaking out on her father’s behalf, raising awareness of his political prosecution
Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman is arguably America’s most high-profile political prisoner
Dana Siegelman was first asked if she believed there was a connection between her father’s 2002 contested bid for re-election and his subsequent prosecutions. She responded affirmatively and then offered the following explanation:
“According to the academics and investigative journalists who have covered my father’s re-election in 2002, e.g. Mark Crispin Miller, Brad Friedman, James Gundlach, Andrew Gumpel, etc., the election was stolen by my dad’s opponent, Bob Riley, and a handful of Republican operatives. My dad was announced the winner and the next morning votes had been shifted in favor of Riley. No other votes had shifted for any other candidates; only the gubernatorial tabulations had shifted. The attorney general at the time, Bill Pryor, threatened to put anyone who recounted the votes in prison. Pryor’s campaign for attorney general had been run by Karl Rove, who Pryor hired for some $200k. Rove also helped with the election of Republican justices for Alabama’s Supreme Court, and my father knew contesting the election was guaranteed to fail. He conceded and promised to run again. Within weeks, an investigation into the governor’s office started by Attorney General Pryor was handed over to U.S. Attorney Leura Canary, who was vetted by Rove and appointed by George W. Bush. She just happened to be married to newly ‘elected’ Governor Bob Riley’s campaign manager, Bill Canary, and was a longtime partner of Karl Rove’s.”
Bob Riley “defeated” Don Siegelman in a highly questionable election in which votes had been “shifted”
Ms. Siegelman was next questioned about how her experience with the federal courts and the DOJ has changed the way in which she views the administration of justice in the U.S. Specifically, she was asked if her experience has diminished her level of respect for the federal criminal justice system in general. She responded as follows:
“The long and painful trial that my dad endured while he was trying to keep his political career alive was frustrating at best and depressing at worst. When he was convicted, I thought the whole world was falling apart. When he was dragged away in handcuffs and shackles immediately after sentencing, I could barely breathe. The shock level is unexplainable. I went two months without talking to my father because they kept moving him from Atlanta, to New York, to Oklahoma, I think Texas, and finally to Oakdale, LA. It was impossible to write him a letter and he barely had time to adjust before he was shipped off again. Journalists agree that the only reason for this harsh treatment was to keep him from speaking out further about the political motivations for his prosecution.
Through the years that I have been mobilizing for my father’s freedom, I have met and discussed his case with hundreds of people, many of whom have experienced prejudice in the courtroom. You could say that this problem has always been a part of the American judicial system. In fact, one reason my father’s prosecution is referred to as a ‘witch-hunt’ is because at one point in our history, women were tracked down and burned alive because they threatened the status quo. There are more people sitting in American prisons than ever before and most of them are targeted, i.e. Black or Hispanic. We have never rid the court of prejudice; we just keep changing the type of prejudice.”
Former Attorney General Bill Pryor threatened to jail anyone trying to recount disputed votes in the election that saw Siegelman mysteriously unseated
The next question put to Ms. Siegelman concerned whether she now views other federal prosecutions differently in light of the injustice experienced in her dad’s matter. Many criminal justice experts have long asserted that one of the dangers of frivolous and unjust prosecutions is the fostering of a mood of general disrespect for the criminal justice system as a whole. Ms. Siegelman replied that she now “absolutely” looks at other prosecutions in a different light. She further explained:
“Now that I am aware that Americans are not granted a fair and speedy trial, I cannot help but question the motivations that brought the prosecution of others. There are very few obvious cases of criminality. Instead we often hear about conspiracy and corruption, and the media fails to give us the greater details of the case. Superficial and one-sided journalism went on for two years in Alabama papers while my dad was on trial, influencing the jurors and the public’s opinion. Only after the case was closed and my dad was imprisoned did national journalists pick and prod through the hogwash that prosecutors had fed to the media. You could say I remain skeptical.”
Bill Canary, longtime partner of Karl Rove, promised that Siegelman would be pursued by the DOJ
Ms. Siegelman was next asked about how others perceive her dad’s legal problems. She was queried about how she explains what has happened and whether there is a persistent belief that her dad “must have done something” resulting from people’s misplaced faith in the System. She acknowledged that many do harbor such beliefs and continued:
“Something about a system that has been in place for hundreds of years, and which is based on fundamentals in the Bible, makes people, religious or not, feel it is sacred and not to be questioned. I was one of those people and even wondered if my father had made a mistake (good men do make mistakes), but a survey of the facts quickly led me to believe that the prosecutors were at fault. Sadly, sworn testimony and several independent investigations show that this was not an isolated case in a conservative state, but a predominant modus operandiamong the Bush-appointees of the Department of Justice. Karl Rove and Alabama Senators vetted loyal, Republican judges, such as Judge Mark Fuller, for the federal bench and prosecutors were encouraged to investigate Democrats over Republicans or pursue voter fraud where Democrats would be disenfranchised from voting in the next elections.”
(insert leura canary and alice martin- Leura Canary and Alice Martin were “Canary’s girls,” entrusted with the task of bringing down Siegelman
The interview then moved to whether Ms. Siegelman believes her father’s case is atypical, or is merely one (albeit particularly egregious) of many tragedies resulting from a broken system of justice in the U.S.
“There are other prominent Democrats across the country, who not only sympathize with my father, but also understand his plight. Had it not been for Georgia Thompson telling the truth in Wisconsin, Governor Jim Doyle might be in prison with my father. Had it not been for David Iglesias coming forward with eight other U.S. attorneys and pushing against the DOJ, more Democrats would have been wrongly prosecuted. These U.S. attorneys were fired for not pursuing political targets. Iglesias testified that orders to fire apolitical U.S. attorneys came from the very top, from U.S. Attorney General Gonzales and Rove. Though Rove and Gonzales ultimately resigned over the scandal, there were absolutely no other consequences.”
Karl Rove, Bush henchman, is believed to be the architect of Don Siegelman’s political prosecution
Don Siegelman’s prosecution began under the Bush administration, but has been pursued with equal vigor by President Obama’s DOJ. Ms. Siegelman was asked about this and whether there was an initial hope that a change in administration would bring relief.
“President Obama’s DOJ is really still Bush’s DOJ. Unlike Clinton and Bush, Obama was unable to replace appointees from the previous administration with the same ease. Additionally, he sought a bipartisan administration that would prove to the American people that he could work across party lines to get things done. He left hundreds of judicial appointments unfilled, either because he felt he could not fill them with the approval of the Senate or because he did not want to be perceived as a progressive politician looking to benefit friends within his own party. For that reason, he has lost control of the DOJ, which continues to prosecute some people, unchecked.”
Obama’s Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer has pursued Siegelman’s case as aggressively as the Bush prosecutors who initiated it
The American legal system is supposed to be one of checks and balances. The next question put to Ms. Siegelman asked whether she had at one time believed that “something” would happen prior to her father’s incarceration to intercede on his behalf. Her answer cites a faith in the average person’s sense of right and wrong.
“Yes, the American people (I believed would intercede). I thought that if enough people were educated, no one would stand for Don Siegelman to go to prison. I still believe that. I’m collecting signatures at www.FREE-DON.org for a presidential pardon and I am hopeful that people, once educated, will add their names to free my dad!”
AUSA Louis Franklin sought the maximum sentence for Siegelman, ignoring all evidence of the case’s illegitimacy.
The questioning next moved to the federal prosecutors and their relationship with the trial judge, who appeared to be very much pro prosecution. Ms. Siegelman’s take on the supposedly impartial judge is both edifying and fascinating.
“There is sworn testimony implicating Rove’s involvement in directing the Department of Justice to pursue my father. This testimony also alleges that the judge was handpicked by my dad’s political opponents at the time, who were working for Bob Riley. Dana Jill Simpson, a Republican operative who worked for Rove and my father’s opponent, Riley, had conversations with Riley’s son Rob, who claimed Judge Fuller would ‘hang Don Siegelman’ before anyone else knew who the judge was. The House Judiciary Committee pulled her phone records to prove that she had indeed been in contact with the people she claimed.
Furthermore, the judge, Mark Everett Fuller, was a known adversary of my father and should have recused himself. In fact, he should have never been appointed as a judge. He had, in 2002, been caught spiking the salary of his chief investigative officer. In fact, Fuller had doubled his salary and the man was making more than my father was as governor! My dad replaced Fuller with a new district attorney, Gary McAliley. McAliley took Fuller to court and won. Fuller was embarrassed but remained a federal judge, having been appointed the same year by President George W. Bush.
Furthermore, Judge Fuller owned Doss Aviation, a company that provided soldiers uniforms, trained pilots, and refueled planes. Shortly after my father was convicted, Fuller was rewarded with a $200 million defense contract with the Bush Administration. The man who put my father behind bars for raising money for an education referendum campaign to give Alabama children a higher education and reappointed a man who had resigned to the same non-paying board he sat on under three other governors (whom he contributed to) was reaping millions from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, thanks to his loyalist Bush connections!”
USD J Mark Fuller was handpicked by Rove’s cronies to “hang” Don Siegelman
Don Siegelman is currently in a federal prison camp and the questioning next turned to how he isfaring. Specifically, Ms. Siegelman was asked about how his spirits are holding up and whether he remains generally upbeat.
“Five years ago when Dad was first sentenced, he was dragged away in handcuffs and leg manacles, without time to say goodbye to his family or put his affairs in order. He was fairly petrified of what was in store for him. He was held in solitary confinement for a month and moved around like a fugitive. First to Atlanta’s maximum security prison, then to New York, Oklahoma, I believe Texas, and finally Oakdale, Louisiana. After arriving at Oakdale and being taken out of solitary, his spirits lifted and he realized how much support he had. He was positive the courts would do the right thing and exonerate him.
Fast-forward five years. He is re-sentenced by the same corrupt, despicable judge who had him dragged away the first time. This time his report date is September 11th, a strategic move by Judge Fuller to suppress any national media his re-sentencing would have garnered. Only local and progressive news agencies thoroughly covered the ridiculous failure of the Supreme Court to hear this case. His re-sentencing was a disgrace and publicly displayed the judge’s hatred for my father. He was given an upward sentence (departure) of a year and a half for speaking out against his prosecution and for not showing remorse.
When my father’s lawyer, Susan James, jumped up to object to the ruling, she proclaimed, and I paraphrase, ‘Your honor, what is the point of maintaining your innocence, pursuing your appeal, which is your right as a citizen of this country, if you are just going to be punished more for speaking out against what you believe to be wrong?’ The judge hit the gavel, ‘Objection denied.’ It was at that moment that my anger boiled over, and I promised myself I would be speaking out for my father, no matter the costs. My dad, on the other hand, hides his frustrations and tries to convey hope anytime we talk, though I know his spirit is breaking.”
Siegelman attorney Susan James was outgunned by a team of corrupt adversaries that included the judge and prosecutors
Dana Siegelman has been working tirelessly getting her dad’s story out in the media. Having exhausted his appeals, the most viable avenue for relief is now a presidential pardon or commutation of sentence. She was asked to assess the likelihood of obtaining such relief.
“Life is full of fifty-fifty chances. Most of the time people wait for those opportunities because they don’t want to risk ‘losing,’ which they risk anyway by not trying. I was raised to stand up to injustice, whether it was someone being bullied on a playground or whether it was a disproportionate favoritism because I was the ‘governor’s daughter!’
Dad turned down extravagant gifts, refused to take millions on a case he had won and worked hard on, and even cut his salary as governor so that the funds could be re-directed toward education because he believed that he should not be more privileged than those he represented. My father is a wonderful man and has worked tirelessly in public service to better life for those less fortunate than him. He always understood that he worked for the people. I hope we can mobilize enough people to stand up for him.
Finally, I’m not worried about the President’s decision. I’m worried about the education of Americans and the future generation. If we do not educate, no one will hear, learn or act to change the injustices of our past. My purpose is to empower those without a voice, including my father, by educating those with one. I encourage all those reading this to exercise that power by signing the petition at www.FREE-DON.org!”
Dana Jill Simpson’s sworn affidavit detailed the political plot against Siegelman that culminated in his trial and imprisonment
Siegelman’s prosecution was initiated by Bush’s DOJ, but pursued just as harshly by Obama’s prosecutors. Where’s the hope and change?
Lastly, Ms. Siegelman was asked what she would like to say to President Obama, assuming she had his ear for 15 minutes. What would be her best argument for her father’s pardon or commutation?
“I would tell the president that one of the greatest honors he has is being the last voice for justice when the justice system fails us. I would impress upon him the need to personally review this case, particularly as a constitutional law scholar. I would ask whether he felt all politicians and contributors guilty of an implied quid pro quo should be prosecuted and punished. His answer, of course, would be’No.’ If there is no explicit agreement and no self-enrichment scheme and no benefit to the ‘bribed’and no victim, then there can be no crime.”
As Ms. Siegelman explains above, her father has committed no crime. Nevertheless, he is sitting in federal prison with a 78 month sentence, the victim of a political hit job by Karl Rove and the DOJ. President Obama has thus far failed to correct this injustice and in fact it is his DOJ that has perpetuated the matter. Don Siegelman does, however, have a most vocal and capable advocate in his daughter, Dana and she has been performing brilliantly at getting out the details of this outrageous travesty of justice. She and her growing ranks of supporters hope that justice for the former governor will ultimately prevail.
(Originally published in Online Publishing Company, www.onlinepublishingcompany.com)