Federal authorities continued this month their remarkably harsh, unjust treatment of the nation’s most famous political prisoner.
The U.S. legal jihad against former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman persists even as the Obama administration separately cites “human rights” as the rationale for new U.S. sanctions, bombing, revolutions, and other interventions overseas.
Authorities shackled Siegelman during his Dec. 15 court appearance in the state capital of Montgomery, denied his request for release on bond during appeal, and reportedly are keeping him in solitary confinement over the holidays so far in a county jail while he awaits in a tiny cell without a change of clothes his appellate hearing Jan. 13.
The Obama administration’s hypocrisy is thus displayed as it continues Bush-Clinton policies of citing “human rights” abuses elsewhere around the world as an excuse to foment revolutions, covert paramilitary actions, and propaganda campaigns on multiple continents, including secret intelligence operations to use the media to influence United States voters.
With that context, the Justice Integrity Project today updates our long-running coverage of the Siegelman case to survey recent court and commentary developments.
Several legal experts have recently published powerful analysis documenting the injustice of Siegelman’s imprisonment for 1999 fund-raising of a kind not treated as criminal when performed by other politicians, including President Obama.
Most significantly, Rutgers Law School professor John J. Farmer published on Dec. 24 an oped on Al.com, Alabama’s biggest news site, Obama refuses to pardon Siegelman for acts less egregious than the president’s. Farmer was dean of the school from 2009 until last July. He is a former New Jersey attorney general and acting state governor.
Farmer has been part of a bipartisan, unprecedented — and unsuccessful — petition to the U.S. Supreme Court by 113 former attorneys general from 40-plus states arguing that Siegelman’s actions were not a crime.
Farmer, a Republican, has supervised a student-led research project at Rutgers documenting the injustice. Farmer’s experience includes service as a senior counsel for the 9/11 Commission. Farmer has earned a bipartisan reputation locally in New Jersey as a straight-shooter and is a columnist for the Newark Star-Ledger, the state’s major newspaper.
Separately, the non-partisan, DC-based Project on Government Oversight (POGO) published this month another important column attacking the fairness of the current administration, Justice Department Downplays Evidence of Politics in Probe of Governor. POGO researcher Adam Zagorin is a former Time Magazine reporter who published there in 2007 one the first
exposés on the sordid basis of the Siegelman prosecution.
“New evidence,” Zagorin wrote this month, indicates “that Department of Justice prosecutors, who are supposed to ignore politics, were thinking and acting in partisan terms when they probed the governor’s administration. The same evidence illustrates a systemic problem at the Justice Department: When the Department investigates allegations of misconduct by its own prosecutors, it typically avoids transparency or public accountability.
Last June, Pace University Law School professor Bennett Gershman, author of the unique scholarly work Prosecutorial Misconduct, authored Cruel Justice: The Case of Don Siegelman, a column for the Huffington Post decrying the prosecution.
Most vividly, film maker Steve Wimberly unveiled last month on Kickstarter a powerful 12-minute video, Killing Atticus Finch, illustrating how legal experts from across the country have rallied to Siegelman’s defense. Former Arizona Attorney Gen. Grant Woods, co-chair of that year’s presidential campaign of GOP nominee John McCain (R-AZ), is among those quoted. Atticus Finch is a fictional character of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird. Atticus is a lawyer and resident of a county in Alabama who, as portrayed in a 1962 film starring Gregory Peck, represented black defendants in a highly publicized criminal trial.
Yet, as many other experts and investigators have written and we shall see again below, those willing to operate in a just, humane manner do not seem to include the federal judges who have presided over Siegelman’s case.
Nor do they include Obama, his Justice Department, and his Bureau of Prisons.
Some might argue that Obama, shown at his desk in a White House photo, merely lets the justice system run its course, and has scant role in Siegelman’s ordeal perpetrated by both Republicans and Democrats. Alabama’s Republican Attorney Gen. William Pryor, now a judge on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals that supervises federal litigation in Alabama, Georgia and Florida, promptly began investigating Siegelman in 1999 at the beginning of the four-year term of Alabama’s most popular and otherwise prominent Democrat.
Nonsense. Our more than five years of reporting on the case indicates many ways in which Obama and his close advisors have tipped the justice scales against Siegelman. Most obviously, Obama has not used his presidential pardon power under the Constitution, or similar clemency measures.
Among the administration’s aggressive tactics have been fighting all of Siegelman’s well-merited appeals, including those to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Obama’s close friend Elena Kagan, shown in a file photo, signed a major brief against Siegelman as Solicitor General. The ambitious Harvard Law-credentialed legal scholar, who was Obama’s first selection for the Supreme Court, thus paved the way for her Senate confirmation without serious objection from Siegelman’s longtime Republican antagonists presiding over Obama nominations.
The roll call of Obama administration opportunists and cover-up artists goes on: