In the waning moments of Lanny Young’s turn on the stand, it was show and tell time for the prosecution. They admitted one foreign made tee shirt (with the label missing so as not to offend the convention of AFL-CIO people where the shirts were bound for) they admitted another shirt from a labor day event, and they admitted some exhibits that could have come from the Siegelman photo album. There was Don Siegelman standing next to Ronnie Musgrove, the governor of Mississippi, along with Siegelman’s son (who was in the courtroom) Lanny Young’s son, a couple other people and Miss Winston Cup. It wouldn’t be an effective piece of criminal evidence without Miss Winston Cup, would it? And then there is a picture of Siegelman with Dale Earnhardt, and another one of Governor Siegelman climbing out of the familiar #3 car, with Richard Childress, the owner of the team. After show and tell, at the break, Siegelman said, “Heck, I probably just picked up 100,000 votes. You can put me at Talladega any day. Hey that was Dale Earnhardt.” And for a minute there, we were drifting back in time to that day in 1998 when we’re taking a lap around the Talladega Super Speedway, for just a minute we weren’t standing in the aisle between rows of dark brown benches and guys in suits and the nearest cameras were roped off in the courtyard below, in that minute you could almost smell the grease and hear the roar of the cars coming out of the turn and down the straightaway. “They had that car geared for Bristol, and when I get done it was smoking. Earnhardt says what did you do to my car? I tell him you had it geared wrong. Earnhardt says that’s what they all say.” And the moment was gone. The prosecutors tell the reporters who will dutifully tell us that they have a good case at three weeks, and Governor Siegelman heads out for another weekend on the campaign trail.
_____________The Day in Court________________________________________________________________________
Lanny Young is done. But not before admitting to at least one more lie in a lifetime of living in the shadowy world of getting by on lies and half-truths and un-truths. Young never graduated from college but he fabricated a degree in order to get into an ROTC cadre. I don’t mean to belabor the point, and exactly what Young’s role in the alleged conspiracy is still an evolving set of truths and is still open to possible corroboration, but some witnesses, or just people we know, can be discredited when we find they have made some little lies, enough to not be sure if we can rely on them to always tell the truth. An interesting thing with the dishonesty of Lanny Young, is that most of his lies are big ones, important ones. For instance, to get into the ROTC cadre, he lied to the US Military, he would later lie to federal judges, to federal investigators, to the IRS and to his friends. Even if you want to believe the truth or have faithfully kept an open mind, this much lying makes it extremely difficult.
The motorcycle incident was revisited briefly, the same motorcycle that Nick Bailey was clinging to as the sole benefit that he said Governor Don Siegelman got out of the “absolute agreement.” Young didn’t know that the motorcycle had already been bought, and said he thought the money was to go directly toward its purchase. He also didn’t know the check he gave Siegelman would not cover the price of the motorcycle.
And as his final lie, there was the matter of NAFTA, and this one was a little one, but it might be indicative of the kind of life Lanny Young has lead on the way to courtroom 2F, in Montgomery. He said his business went bankrupt because of the NAFTA agreement, which made more cheap foreign textiles available. The problem is that NAFTA wasn’t passed and implemented until a couple of years after his bankruptcy. But on further questions from Feaga, it was revealed that the effects of what would eventually become NAFTA, were felt long before the agreement was actually implemented. So he has some wiggle room on this one, but the problem is that he probably knew that it wasn’t directly the result of NAFTA, but it was due to changes in the textile industry that were occurring at the time, So to make what might be a good guess, he’s been telling people that the bankruptcy was caused by NAFTA for so long, to people who aren’t in court, to people who won’t check, that he’s adopted his little lie as the truth. The point is that Young is apparently so used to lying that he doesn’t even use the truth when it is available to him.
Tomorrow, I will do a weekend edition that will have a retrospective of what each side has gained and lost as a result of Nick Bailey’s and Lanny Young’s testimony.
Update: The Fix Is In.
It is nice to know that the prosecution believes they have a good case despite the Bailey and Young duo making a weak case appear to be weaker than we could have imagined. But if nothing else, if the case looks even half as bad from the jury box as it does from the gallery, then it would be nice to know and believe that the government’s position is more delusional than it is intentional. If we believe in the United States of America, we need to believe that so very much. In some of my pre-trial entries, I made references to something I called tantrum-by-motion, which referred to several over-the-top motions where the government was arguing against extraneous issues that were not even germane to what was to be decided in the courtroom, and at the time, I said that without knowing much else, or seeing the witnesses they were yet to put on, these written tantrums appeared to underscore a lack of confidence in their own case. Why? Because they were not appealing to the truth or the facts of the case, but instead, they were going outside of the courtroom in order to salvage a victory or to gain a tactical advantage by neutralizing their deficiencies. The pre-trial question might have been: Could the prosecution shore up these problems, gain some confidence in what they were about to present, and not let these tantrums spill into the courtroom? And today, three weeks into the trial, we have the answer. The tantrum-by-motions have become tantrum-by-colloquy. Early in the trial, the defense objected to some documents being admitted into evidence because they had not been previously authenticated. And Stephen Feaga said rather pointedly that they would bring in a witness who would authenticate these documents. And then came the foot-dragging, the what can now be considered intentional foot-dragging. The direct examinations of Bill McGahan and Leif Murphy were too long and had little probative value (Murphy did more for the defense) and there was the extraneous and mostly unnecessary testimony of Raymond Bell and Josh Hayes; there was the mostly extraneous Charles Pickett and the debacle of John Morrow, who’s testimony was thrown out after wasting two hours of court time. And by the third week, the defense was readily willing to stipulate the admission of any documents the prosecution wanted to throw into evidence if it would mean moving the trial along. As a sub-thread to this apparent intentional foot-dragging, the attorneys for Siegelman have repeatedly expressed a desire to get this thing done so they can get back to the campaign which has caused friction from the prosecution because they do not want to be embarrassed by an acquittal on the eve of the primary. In spite of the defense’s stipulation that they will accept all of the documents from Cherokee County, Stephen Feaga intentionally put on a witness that had absolutely no value even when giving them every benefit of a doubt possible. This official obstinance became apparent the afternoon before when the defense was putting in most of the documents the government had requested, and out of the blue, Feaga said that he wanted to have their witness authenticate the documents even though the defense had said they had no problem with these being put into evidence. This morning, that witness took the stand over a number of objections that the prosecution was wasting the court’s time. It was a surreal event surrounding a very minor witness, because they actually introduced two documents that were already in evidence, saying they wanted their “version” of the same document, which essentially was a “version” that had a yellow as opposed to a green sticker. But even if this sticker was actually that important to the prosecution, the defense certainly would have stipulated slapping a yellow one on in a heartbeat. But the prosecution’s strategy after three weeks is to keep the heart beating through the primary. As a sideshow to the matter, and entering this pressure-cooker situation, was the junior member of the prosecution team, Joseph Fitzpatrick. He was obviously chosen to handle this direct examination to get him some experience talking to a witness in front of the jury. A legal source told me that Judge Fuller probably picked up on this and most likely would not have allowed this obvious waste of time if it had been argued by Stephen Feaga, but realizing that the time factor probably wouldn’t have much impact on the trial as a whole, he allowed The Fix to continue. To his credit, Joseph Fitzpatrick handled himself very well in a situation that turned out to have more pressure than they had bargained for. The first thing he said to the Judge was that the United States of America would respond to every objection. The young lawyer was not going to let the defense push him around even while Feaga and Franklin are mounting a unified effort to push the defense around, in our name. The fix is in.
There was also some Siegelman-intrigue, involving ties to the legal circles from Mobile to Birmingham. A few entries ago, I related a story about Governor Siegelman’s encounter with a class of kids, where he used his hand to illustrate the two sides of a story. This is the same device that is apparently used by a Mobile attorney and it came north to Montgomery via the contingent of lawyers from Mobile. It was then relayed to Governor Siegelman. Lawyers swapping stories. And it was subsequently used with good effect on some kids visiting the courtroom. However, there has been some concern over the Governor’s delivery. He is an imposing man which is one of the attributes that makes him a charismatic presence in any room that he is in, so picture this big guy holding up his hand and demanding, “See the hand?”