Abuse of Power? NO-WAY! (Shaking my head)
Freed Ex-Governor of Alabama Talks of Abuse of Power
MONTGOMERY, Ala. —
Former Gov. Don Siegelman of Alabama, released from prison Friday on bond in a bribery and corruption case, said he was as convinced as ever that politics had played a leading role in his prosecution.
Speaking by telephone in his first post-prison interview, shortly after he had left the federal penitentiary at Oakdale, La., Mr. Siegelman said there had been “abuse of power” in his case, and repeatedly cited Karl Rove, the former White House political director.
“His fingerprints are smeared all over the case,” Mr. Siegelman said, a day after a federal appeals court ordered him released on bond and said there were legitimate questions about his case. He was sentenced to serve seven years last June after a guilty verdict on bribery and corruption charges a year earlier.
In measured tones after spending nine months at the prison, the former governor, a Democrat, said he would press to have Mr. Rove answer questions to Congress about his possible involvement in the case.
“When Attorney General Gonzales and Karl Rove left office in a blur, they left the truth buried in their documents,” Mr. Siegelman said, referring to Alberto R. Gonzales. “It’s going to be my quest to encourage Congress to ensure that Karl Rove either testifies, or takes the Fifth.”
Mr. Rove, who once ran judicial campaigns here and has long denied any involvement in the Siegelman case, could not be reached for comment Friday, but his lawyer, Robert Luskin, dismissed the accusation.
“There’s absolutely, positively, no truth to any of the allegations and literally no evidence for any of it,” Mr. Luskin said.
The House Judiciary Committee has already held a hearing on Mr. Siegelman and has called the former governor to testify at another.
On Thursday, the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta, ordered Mr. Siegelman released while he appeals his conviction, overturning an earlier decision by an Alabama federal judge who had ruled that the former governor should remain in jail. State Democratic officials have accused that judge, Mark E. Fuller, of playing politics because of his close ties to Republicans.
The investigation, trial and conviction of Mr. Siegelman, a veteran politician, has become a flash point for broader Democratic contentions that politics has influenced decisions by the Justice Department under President Bush, including the firings of several United States attorneys, and other federal prosecutions besides Mr. Siegelman’s.
In June 2006, a federal jury here convicted Mr. Siegelman of taking $500,000 from Richard M. Scrushy, the former chief executive of the HealthSouth Corporation, in exchange for an appointment to the state hospital licensing board.
The money was to retire a debt from Mr. Siegelman’s campaign for a state lottery to pay for schools, and his lawyers have insisted it was no more than a routine political contribution. They also cited the fact that Mr. Scrushy had served on the licensing board under three previous governors, as an indication that appointment to it could not have been deemed a reward.
Federal prosecutors say Mr. Siegelman was liable on the loan, and thus had a personal interest in the money.
The appellate court ruling said Mr. Siegelman had raised “substantial questions” in his appeal. That was seen by the former governor’s lawyers and other supporters as a signal that their central contention — that he was wrongly convicted for ordinary political activity — has hope of prevailing.
At least one legal expert, previously skeptical of Mr. Siegelman’s arguments, said he was “surprised” by the new ruling, which he characterized as unusual.
“It’s quite rare for the appellate court to substitute its view and displace everything that came before,” said the expert, Stephen Gillers, a professor at New York University School of Law.
The ruling was “not a promise of reversal, but it should give him great confidence,” said Mr. Gillers, suggesting that the ruling could have been influenced by “contextual” factors like the firings of the federal prosecutors.
Speaking by telephone outside the prison, Mr. Siegelman said he had confidence that the federal appeals court, which now considers his larger appeal, would agree with his view of the case.
Otherwise, he said, “every governor and every president and every contributor might as well turn themselves in, because it’s going to be open season on them.”
In Alabama, the Siegelman case has inflamed partisan passions, with Republicans describing Mr. Siegelman’s term from 1998 to 2002 as deeply corrupt, and Democrats furious over what they depict as a years-long political witch hunt.
In a sworn statement, a Republican lawyer and political operative, Jill Simpson, told of hearing one of Mr. Rove’s allies here, William Canary, discussing Mr. Siegelman during the 2002 governor’s race, and saying “that he had already gotten it worked out with Karl and Karl had spoken with the Department of Justice and the Department of Justice was already pursuing Don Siegelman.” The United States attorney here, Leura G. Canary, is married to Mr. Canary.
That statement has been the basis for a tide of speculation about possible conspiracies that continues to swirl here.
Mr. Siegelman has been one of this state’s most visible political figures for decades, having also served as secretary of state, attorney general and lieutenant governor. He was elected governor in 1998, but was narrowly defeated by a Republican in 2002, while he was under a much-publicized investigation.
Early Friday, the former governor completed his prison chores for the day — mopping a barracks area — and waited for his wife and son to pick him up for the eight-hour drive home to Birmingham, Ala.
“I was in prison,” Mr. Siegelman said afterward, when asked about his life at Oakdale. “I was treated like a prisoner. I’m not going to complain about the way I was treated.”
He added: “It feels great to be out. I wish I could say it was over. But we’re a long way from the end of this.”
Original Article -
Freed Ex-Governor of Alabama Talks of Abuse of Power - New York Times