Thursday, February 21, 2008

What Are You Watching This Sunday Night?

Might we make a suggestion?

I am advised by CBS News that their long-awaited feature dealing with the trial of former Alabama Governor Don E. Siegelman will air on the next 60 Minutes program, on Sunday, February 24.

This story is related to the politicization of the Justice Department--remember those days, when Gonzales ran things and no one knew what was really going on? What with all of those missing E-mails, and with Mukasey making sure no one holds the Justice Department accountable, we'll probably never know. People who have previewed or seen transcripts say that the 60 Minutes piece is going to wow some people.

Here's why the Don Siegelman case is so important:

BIRMINGHAM, Ala., May 31 — Alabama has a tradition of savage political warfare, but Don E. Siegelman’s fight to stay out of prison is reverberating all the way back to Washington.

Federal prosecutors here are seeking 30 years in prison for Mr. Siegelman, who was the Democratic governor of Alabama from 1999 to 2003 and was convicted last year of accepting $500,000 in bribes from the chairman of the HealthSouth Corporation.

Mr. Siegelman, who is scheduled for sentencing on June 26, says he was singled out by prosecutors with close personal ties to Alabama Republican leaders and to the Bush White House.

Mr. Siegelman’s defenders have tied his plight to the uproar in Washington over the Bush administration’s decision to dismiss eight United States attorneys, but they have produced no firm evidence of political interference.

Now they have an affidavit from a lawyer who says she heard a top Republican operative in Alabama boast in 2002 that the United States attorneys in Alabama would “take care” of Mr. Siegelman. The operative, William Canary, is married to the United States attorney in Montgomery, Leura G. Canary. Mr. Canary, who heads the Business Council of Alabama, was an informal adviser to Bob Riley, a Republican, who defeated Mr. Siegelman in 2002.

Earlier, Mr. Canary worked in the White House under President Bush’s father and has close ties to Karl Rove, Mr. Bush’s top political strategist.

In the affidavit, the lawyer, Jill Simpson, said Mr. Canary’s remark was made in a conference call with her and Rob Riley, Governor Riley’s son and campaign manager.

Ms. Simpson said Mr. Canary assured the younger Mr. Riley that “his girls would take care of” Mr. Siegelman before he had a chance to run for the governor’s seat in 2006 and identified “his girls” as Leura Canary and Alice Martin, the United States attorney in Birmingham.

Neither Mr. Canary nor Mr. Riley responded to requests for comment about Ms. Simpson’s affidavit.

In 2003, Ms. Canary recused herself from the investigation, after Mr. Siegelman’s lawyer accused her of conflicts of interest. She turned the case over to Louis Franklin, a career prosecutor who had served under Republicans and Democrats.

After a nine-week trial last year, a jury acquitted Mr. Siegelman on 25 counts and convicted him on 7, almost all tied to accepting money from Richard Scrushy, the former chairman of HealthSouth. Mr. Siegelman was not convicted of pocketing any money himself. Rather, a jury convicted him of persuading Mr. Scrushy to pay $500,000 to retire the debt of a political group that had campaigned to win voter approval for a state lottery.

Yes. That Scrushy:

Scrushy guilty of bribery in case involving ex-governor
Updated 6/30/2006

By Greg Farrell, USA TODAY
Richard Scrushy, the charismatic former chief executive of HealthSouth who was acquitted last year of masterminding a $2.7 billion fraud, was found guilty of bribery and related charges by an Alabama jury Thursday.

Scrushy, the only CEO to triumph over the Justice Department in the government's recent campaign against corporate fraud, was convicted of funneling $500,000 to former Alabama governor Don Siegelman in exchange for a seat on the state hospital regulatory board.

The jury convicted Siegelman and Scrushy of six charges of bribery, conspiracy and mail fraud. Siegelman was also convicted of obstructing justice. The two men face as much as 30 years in prison each. Both vowed to appeal.

Scrushy's conviction is yet another reversal of fortune for a man who's been riding a legal roller coaster for three years. Throughout the 1990s, Scrushy was a highly respected CEO who helped HealthSouth grow from a regional chain of hospitals into a Fortune 500 company.

So what does it all mean? Tune in and find out. It should be a hell of a show.

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