Apr 13, 2009
Stevens and Siegelman cases very similar: all but the end result
If you needed any proof that it is a new day in the country with the inauguration of President Barack Obama, we have the case of former Republican Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, whose corruption conviction was thrown out on a technicality.
Stevens was convicted of seven felony counts of lying on Senate financial disclosure forms to conceal hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts and home renovations from a wealthy oil contractor just a week before he lost his bid for re-election. Apparently, the U.S. Justice Department admitted it never turned over notes from an interview with the oil contractor, so new U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder made the decision to disregard a jury verdict and not seek another trial. Steven’s lawyer’s praised Holder as "a pillar of integrity."
This is the same U.S. Justice Department that was the most politicized justice department in history, and U.S. attorneys were hand-picked for their Republican partisanship. Under Bush, it functioned much like the IRS did under Nixon. In 2006 U.S. Attorneys were fired if they did not go after Democrats and actually investigated real corruption by Republicans.
One of the most glaring examples was the case of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. Many people believe Bush’s brain and henchman Karl Rove was behind this persecution, and that’s one reason Rove is fighting subpoenas.
Don Siegelman was not in prison because he’s a criminal but because he belonged to the wrong political party in Alabama. Siegelman was the most successful Democrat in that Republican state. But while he was governor, the U.S. Justice Department launched multiple investigations that went on year after year until, finally, a jury convicted Siegelman of bribery.
He was sentenced to seven years in a federal prison camp in Louisiana. Stevens didn’t do a second behind bars. In fact, Siegelman was denied 45 days to report to prison to give him time to put his affairs in order, an opportunity which is commonly granted to other offenders. Siegelman was immediately taken to a maximum security prison. While in prison, Siegelman endured solitary confinement.
The main charge against Siegelman was that he took a bribe, giving a position on a state board to businessman Richard Scrushy, who had made a big donation to Siegelman’s lottery campaign that would benefit public schools. The position on the state hospital regulatory board was an unpaid position, and Scrushy had served on the same board over the past three Republican administrations.
The evidence was thin at best, and the star witness against him was subsequently convicted of extortion; upon being given 10 years in prison he cooperated with prosecutors to lighten his own sentence by testifying against Siegelman. Although the witness engaged in over 70 interviews with the prosecution against Siegelman, none of the notes detailing these interviews were shared with the defense.
That was the very reason the Steven’s conviction was overturned. Why not Siegelman? The judge in Steven’s case said the prosecutors in the case should be investigated. The same should be done in Siegelman’s case. In fact, in November 2008 new documents revealed alleged misconduct by the Bush-appointed U.S. attorney and other prosecutors in the case. Extensive and unusual contact between the prosecution and the jury appears to have occurred.
Like Stevens, Siegelman was running for re-election during his trial.