RAW STORY investigative reporter Larisa Alexandrovna recently sat down with GoLeft's Mike Papantonio on Air America's Ring of Fire to discuss particulars about the case of imprisoned, White House-targeted former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman.
"So," starts Papantonio, "Larisa, it seems like everywhere that Karl Rove goes he leaves his ugly, dirty little fingerprints. Same story in Alabama, apparently, huh?"
"That's why he's succeeded," says Alexandrovna. "That's why he's called a 'genius.'"
"Apparently," continues Alexandrovna, "a criminal with unlimited funds is a genius these days."
"Filling in some blanks" on Scott Horton's piece in Harpers Magazine, election fraud was a small, but significant, part of what appears to be a hit job on Siegelman by Republican operatives.
Siegelman, then the Democratic incumbent, was running against Republican Bob Riley in the 2002 election, and had by all appearances won the election against Riley, by a margin of roughly 3,000 votes. However, overnight, more ballots for Riley were "found" and counted by an all-Republican panel and subsequently sealed by then-Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor.
A "cabal" of Republicans recounted the votes, determined Riley the winner, and the Attorney General then sealed the ballots. In order for Democrats to even challenge the ballots, they would have to get a court order.
"To this day," says Alexandrovna, "those ballots remain sealed."
"Pryor..." says Papantonio, "everybody understands--that have followed his career at all--he was the guy that gets the midnight appointment during the recess. He's a recess appointment by Bush, because everybody realized what a thug--and he is a thug. I'm down here in the south and I'm very familiar with Alabama--the legal system up there. He is absolutely a thug. And he then gets appointed to the appellate court as a recess appointment."
It is not known if Bill Canary, a long-time Republican operative dating back to the pre-Reagan presidential campaign of George H. W. Bush, and former George W. Bush strategist Karl Rove asked Pryor to seal the ballots, but Alexandrovna and Papantonio freely speculate.
"I believe that's exactly what happened," says Papantonio.
Canary was a Riley campaign consultant who had also managed William Pryor's Attorney General campaign with Karl Rove in 1998. Ballots were also sealed in that campaign, which is said to have been part of a drive to unseat Democratic judges to replace them with so-called "goose-stepping Republicans."
"So, all of a sudden," says Papantonio, "we have Siegelman--is bumped out because Pryor allows that to happen...Siegelman says, 'Well, I'm going to run again.'...What happens when he says 'I'm going to run again, I'm going to run for Governor again against Riley?'"
"I think it's important to mention that Billy Canary's wife is the US Attorney for the middle district," says Alexandrovna, calling the close personal relationship between an ally of Siegelman's opposition, and the United States Attorney commissioned to investigate him, "fairly incestuous."
Whistleblower Dana Jill Simpson, a GOP attorney doing opposition research for the Riley campaign, details in her affidavit and in Congressional testimony of a conference call, after Siegelman's 2002 concession, between the son of Governor Riley and Canary in which they discuss ways to "take care of" Siegelman.
In the first such attempt, a case alleging attempts on Siegelman's part to rig Medicare bids, U.S. District Judge U.W. Clemon cited an assistant US Attorney and an assistant Attorney General for contempt of court in September of 2004. Most of the evidence against Siegelman was barred, and all charges were ultimately dropped.
"So then the next thing that happens," says Papantonio, "is they shop for the judge. The question is: Well, What judge has so little scruples; what judge has so little concern about justice that we could actually get them to go after Siegelman in light of the fact that another judge looked at all the facts and said 'This is ridiculous. This is made up junk'?"
"They had to appoint their own, obviously," responds Alexandrovna.
Bush-appointed judge Mark Fuller was conveniently assigned to the 2005 case, in the district of Leura Canary, against Siegelman, which would have Siegelman ultimately convicted of seven out of 32 charges related to bribery and corruption.
Fuller, as Alabama's District Attorney, was thought to have defrauded the State of Alabama by falsifying payroll records, as Siegelman's successor alleges.
Former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy donated $500,000 to Siegelman's campaign to fund the state lottery, to benefit education. Siegelman did not benefit at all directly. Siegelman, they say, in turn appointed Scrushy to the Alabama Hospital Regulatory Board.
"The irony is," says Alexandrovna, "that Scrushy's been on that board under three other governors."
Continues Alexandrovna, "So that's basically what they got him on."
The trial was marred with suspicious activity. Two jury members were exchanging e-mails during the trial. The foreman, before he was chosen, had already shown himself to be biased by openly expressing his belief that Siegelman was guilty.
44 Attorneys General, in protest, penned a letter to Congress after Siegelman was sentenced to 7 years, 4 months in federal prison. He wasn't allowed out of prison on appeal. Siegelman was given the "Diesel Tour," as Papantonio calls it, meaning he was transported between prisons to hinder his ability to appeal the case. Says Alexandrovna, Siegelman's attorneys were being told he was in Texas when in fact he was "on tour."
"More importantly," Alexandrovna continues, "he's been denied access to journalists. The [Department of Justice] has not allowed him to have access to journalists while in prison, according to his daughter, whom I've interviewed."
In addition, Siegelman's house has been twice broken into, in addition to a break-in at his lawyer's office, possibly in search of the case files. In addition, Dana Jill Simpson's house was burned down, and she once was run off the road.
"That is basically the image of politics in Alabama, and Mississippi, and Louisiana," says Papantonio.
An entire timeline of the Siegelman case is available HERE. The exchange between Alexandrovna and Papantonio is available for viewing and listening below: