Siegelman case stirs souls of Republican, Democratic partisans
By By Steve Flowers
The recent decision by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals to release Don Siegelman pending appeal has added fuel to the fire ignited by the CBS 60 Minute documentary featuring Siegelman's case and imprisonment. Even though it has been six weeks since the documentary was broadcast, the coffee shop and internet chatter continues. It seems to have stirred the souls of partisans on both sides.
The hardcore Republicans and hardcore Democrats have come out of the closet and gone to the wall on this topic. Both sides have legitimate arguments, but at the end of the day nothing changes about Don Siegelman's dilemma. He still faces seven years in a federal prison. However, the appeals court language in the ruling gives hope to Siegelman. It will be a year before the final adjudication of the appeal is rendered.
After the program aired, Siegelman's attorney called for the Justice Department to bring in a special prosecutor to retry the case. The motion was based on Siegelman's former aide, Nick Bailey, saying prosecutors coached him and coaxed him into writing out his testimony 70 times in order to get it right. The defense was not privy to these notes as is required by law.
Those who know Nick Bailey suggest that his propensity for truthfulness and honesty are not something you should hang your hat on. Siegelman was convicted in large part because of Bailey's testimony. Bailey has now changed his story several times while in prison. In fact, the female attorney who was interviewed in the feature and stated that she was asked by Karl Rove to photograph Siegelman in a compromising position appeared to also lack credibility. The Republican Party quickly debunked her credentials and veracity. However, the former Republican Attorney General of Arizona gave the story some legs. He appeared steady, somber, and credible when he said Siegelman's conviction and prosecution had red flags all over it. When he stated that Siegelman was prosecuted for political reasons it gave some gravitas to the story. That is not an earth shattering revelation. It was obvious that the Republican administration had targeted Siegelman for scrutiny. He was under investigation constantly for eight years. It is surprising that he was not indicted more than he was. The bar for indicting someone is a lot lower legally than for conviction. It is often said that you could indict a potato if a prosecutor wanted to badly enough.
Was it wrong to go after Siegelman legally for political reasons? The answer is yes, but unfortunately that is the nature of the political game today. The acrimony is vitriol and mean. It is not enough to defeat your opponent, today they want to destroy their opponent. It goes on in both parties. The Republicans have had the upper hand the last eight years having had control of the Justice Department. You can bet your boots that the Democrats are chomping at the bits to get back and get even if they take the White House next year. You will see wide ranging probes, indictments, and convictions of Republican politicians in Alabama based solely on politics. I would not be surprised if you did not see a presidential pardon for Don Siegelman if a Democrat is elected President.
The Republicans have a valid point that the media appears to have a tendency to gravitate to a Democratic slant. The 60 Minutes broadcast was definitely slanted against Rove, the White House, and the Republican Justice Department. However, the worst case of a smear campaign was illustrated by the New York Times in their sensational front page ambush of John McCain in February after he became the apparent Republican nominee.
The New York Times is renowned for being overly liberal and Democratic, but their article was way beyond philosophical prejudice. Their implication that McCain was having an improper affair with a female lobbyist was based on eight year old rumors that had no basis of fact. In fact, McCain's office proved that they had not even gone too bat for the lady's firm. All McCain had done was write a perfunctory letter asking the FCC to expedite a decision that should have been made six months earlier. This story was more than overzealous partisan journalism. It smacked of yellow journalism and makes them appear to be nothing more than a tabloid. It puts the New York Times in the category and league with the National Enquirer. You should take all political attacks with a grain of salt and a jaundiced eye.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama's leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 70 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the State Legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.