This Canary Should Be a Jailbird

From Scott Horton at The Daily Beast:

When a former Alabama governor was convicted for selling public offices, it set off an investigation into improper conduct at the Justice Department that leads directly to the White House.

The most dramatic political prosecution in the 21st century—involving a former governor in Alabama, the U.S. Attorney’s office, and the Bush White House and Justice Department—has been rocked by incriminating new disclosures by a knowledgeable career Justice Department staff member who has provided information charging serious misconduct by the prosecutors.

Among other disclosures shattering the credibility of the case, U.S. Attorney Leura Canary’s “recusal” for conflict of interest is revealed as a sham. Moreover, The Daily Beast has learned, the matter has touched off concerns within the Justice Department over efforts to sweep accusations of unethical conduct under the carpet.

It appears the Justice Department was aware of even more startling allegations of misconduct but it chose to hide this from the court and from opposing counsel.

Original DVD cover.

With the Obama transition in full swing, the Justice Department is rushing to conclude a number of internal probes dealing with serious questions about the conduct of political appointees. One of the most troubling of these comes out of Montgomery, Alabama, where a U.S. Attorney with close ties to Karl Rove and her husband, then advising a Republican candidate for the Alabama statehouse, undertook one of the most audacious political prosecutions in recent history: knocking off the Democratic opponent, former Alabama Governor Don E. Siegelman.


He was convicted more than two years ago on political corruption charges after a jury deliberated nine days and was initially deadlocked. Siegelman is now set to argue his appeal in Atlanta on December 9.

But even before the appeal is argued, the prosecution’s key evidence has been broadly attacked as unreliable and false and the prosecution itself has become the target of a Congressional probe and is the subject of demands for disciplinary action. Remarkably, however, the Bush Justice Department has reacted by covering-up the prosecutorial misconduct, which has connections that lead straight to the Bush White House.

Siegelman accepted a campaign donation from Richard Scrushy, a health care executive he appointed to a state oversight board. The U.S. Attorney, Leura Canary, argued this was tantamount to sale of a public office and brought charges.


Canary’s husband, William Canary, is Alabama’s leading Republican political consultant. At the time Canary launched the Siegelman case, he was advising one of Siegelman’s Republican adversaries for the governorship.


After ethics complaints were brought to the Justice Department, Leura Canary was nominally removed from the case. But in a circumvention of normal Justice Department rules approved by Associate Deputy Attorney General David Margolis, she was allowed to pick one of her deputies to manage the case against Siegelman in her stead. Canary represented to Congress that she removed herself from the case “before any significant decisions” had been reached. Now internal communications have been disclosed within Canary’s own office calling into question these claims.


The judge who tried the case, George W. Bush-appointee Mark Fuller, was revealed to have held a longstanding grudge against Siegelman and been active in Republican campaigns against him—facts Fuller failed to disclose.


A Republican political operative with close ties to Rove, Jill Simpson, disclosed in a May 2007 affidavit that she had been present during a telephone conference at which Canary’s husband, Karl Rove protégé William Canary, stated that he had spoken with “Karl,” that “Karl” had spoken with Justice, and that “his girls” would “take care of” Siegelman.


The House Judiciary Committee convened a series of hearings, but the Justice Department and the White House stonewalled requests for documents and demands that the prosecutors submit to questioning. Then the Court of Appeals intervened with a dramatic and extraordinary order setting Siegelman free.


Now a member of the Siegelman prosecution team has leveled serious charges against her colleagues, specifically challenging the truthfulness of Canary’s claims to have taken herself out of the decision-making process surrounding the Siegelman case. In a series of complaints filed with the Department of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility, Office of Inspector General and the Office of Special Counsel, Tamarah T. Grimes suggests that Leura Canary’s “recusal” from the Siegelman case was a sham and that she continued to direct the case.


Grimes also charges that Canary ran the U.S. Attorney’s office like a personal fiefdom, enlisting federal employees for babysitting, and appointing relatives to positions in violation of federal nepotism rules. Justice Department sources reveal that after bringing these charges, Grimes was subjected to intense harassment by Canary, who at one point threatened she would prosecute Grimes for perjury unless Grimes withdrew her complaints.

Charges of improper communications with jurors figure prominently in Siegelman’s appeal.


[…] one juror, nicknamed “Flipper” by the prosecutors […], was marked as friendly to their case. [She] sought to communicate with the prosecutors about [an FBI special agent, Keith] Baker while the case was pending.


Even more troubling, Grimes quoted the lead prosecutor describing direct interaction with a juror who was about to be questioned by the judge and who was “scared and afraid she is going to get into trouble.” This conduct violated rules guaranteeing the independence of jurors as well as an order issued by the judge in court against dealings between the jurors and the prosecution team.

[…] the Justice Department kept these jury interactions secret from the court and defense counsel in what may constitute a serious act of obstruction.

Two Justice Department staffers assigned to investigate the accusations—drawn from Arizona and Oklahoma—found insufficient evidence to substantiate the allegations of jury tampering, but a close examination of their investigation leaves those responsible for Congressional oversight unimpressed.


The internal probe failed to question the marshals who were on jury duty. This omission suggests that the purpose of the report was not to get at the truth.


House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers wrote Attorney General Mukasey expressing, in his typically understated language, his concerns about the matter: “It is startling to see such repeated instances of Federal prosecutors failing to keep the defense apprised of key developments in an active criminal case.”

A career Justice Department lawyer stated that apprehension about the matter was building within the department. “What happened in this case is a disgrace that threatens the reputation of the Department as a whole and federal prosecutors across the country,” he said. He identified David Margolis as having failed to take corrective measures.


In the meantime, U.S. Attorney Leura Canary is scrambling to find a new job. But her imminent departure serves to highlight a broader problem. As President-Elect Obama works to pick a new attorney general, his transition team is focused on a series of far more complex issues at the Justice Department. Public confidence in the work of the department has fallen to the lowest level since the Watergate scandal […].

Alberto Gonzales and his three most senior deputies were all forced from office in disgrace as evidence mounted that they had abused the Department for political purposes. An internal investigation of this abuse could not be concluded because of obstruction from the White House and the refusal of Bush Administration lawyers to cooperate.


Simply appointing a new attorney general will not resolve these problems, but it would be a significant first step.

Go read the whole thing, kids. Scott Horton rocks!


Filed under Alberto Gonzales, Barack Obama, Chimpy, Congress, Corruption, Democrats, George W. Bush, House Judiciary Committee, humor, John Conyers, Justice Department, Karl Rove, Michael Mukasey, movies, parody, politics, Republicans, Scandals, snark, Wordpress Political Blogs

14 responses to “This Canary Should Be a Jailbird

  1. jeb

    Real change means cleaning out the mess in Justice from this case to the US Attorney scandal. That requires prosecutions. Those who use the law for their own benefit are the worst of the worst and real faith in Justice will only be restored when those who bastardized our concept of “a nation of laws” face the full force of the law that the used for their own nefarious purposes.

  2. jeb,
    i agree 110%. i wonder how many pardons chimpy is going to hand out when he leaves office. even if the numbers are in the thousands, i bet there will still be crimes that he and his buddies can be indicted for. i just hope that we don’t hear a bunch of bull$shit about moving forward and not looking back. they broke a slew of laws, and they cannot be allowed to get away with it.

  3. writechicpress

    Wow, nonnie, you’ve outdone yourself!!!

  4. writechicpress

    I only had a sec to post before. Time’s on my side now. Love the pics!!! I’m particularly moved by this story since I’m an Alabama democrat and was robbed of a governor.

    Now, Rove–f@#kwad that he is–dares to bring up Rezko, the guy who didn’t fear prosecution at one point because he thought Rove would get Fitzgerald fired:

    Some nerve. Some things cannot be forgiven, and the corruption of the DoJ has to be one of those things.

  5. thanks wpc!
    one of your posts was one of the reasons why i looked into this story again.

    i wonder when karl rove will figure out that he is no longer relevant. even the rethugs don’t really listen to him anymore. in fact, i think they are angry with him. his strategery no longer works. he is a relic of the past, and he is a major reason why the rethug brand is $hit now.

    the corruption of the doj, as far as i am concerned, is the end of democracy as we know it. it is the worst thing that chimpy and cheney did. the two of them, ashcroft, gonzo, mukasey, and all of their cohorts should all be subject to the monster they created. let’s hope that eric holder can clean up the mess. let’s also hope that those responsible for turning the u.s. into a banana republic are prosecuted for what they did. i will no longer buy the ‘we have to look forward, not backwards’ philosophy. if you $hit on the constitution, if you break the law, then you have to pay. period.

  6. writechicpress


  7. The Bush administration created so many scandals and crises, sometimes it’s easy to forget how well he managed to dismantle the justice department and turn it into an international joke.
    Did you see Mukasey collapse while giving a speech yesterday? I guess the pressure of working for a disgustingly dishonest lout finally got to him.

  8. karen,
    i just saw on the news that mukasey is fine. he had a bunch of tests at the hospital and went back to work. my guess is that he faked his fainting. he wanted to have all the tests done while the government would still pay for it. he doesn’t want to rely on medicare, because he would wind up with a bunch of copays!

  9. nonnie — we need a movie on the pardons……

  10. dcAp,
    i wonder how many there will be and who will get them. i should start looking for movies that fit the theme.

  11. lulu,
    funny thing about karl rove. no matter how you alter him, he always winds up looking better than he does in real life!

  12. Recomend Wiki listing on Don Seigelman. How he was railroaded with tampered jury, found guilty and shackled in court, thrown into solitary at undisclosed prison, etc. Yep boys and girls, in repub America thats the way it goes down.