Under the long shadow of a years-ago recusal of the US Attorney from the Middle District of Alabama, and just days away from the commencement of a Congressional hearing, Louis Franklin has yet again stepped up to defend and explain the integrity of his District. Almost two years since the indictment was unsealed, over a year after the District won a conviction and months after the defendants have been sent to prison, the prosecutors continue to defend their actions with denials and now childish name-calling instead of open, honest and forthright answers to legitimate questions. The latest proclamation takes aim at a broad range of the questioning voices, but Franklin’s statement is most likely meant to coincide with the publication of national print coverage in Time magazine. The tone and tenor of the various District proclamations has evolved over time regardless of who’s name appears at the top or bottom of the documents, and they appear to be the work of multiple authors. Just as reliable sources have said that the case was pushed from Washington over the early objections of the Middle District prosecutors, there now appears to be an unseen hand pulling the strings and speaking through Mr. Franklin.
Like one of the last soldiers on the rampart, defending the indefensible, it is not that difficult to have some sympathy for Louis Franklin and what lies ahead for him. It is so much better to be on top of the mountain than to be underneath it. And if we look at the piles of unreleased documents, the unanswered questions, the mounting denials without proof, that mountain is becoming formidable and it must be a great weight looming over justice as it is being played out in the Middle District of Alabama. But it is not only Siegelman. Franklin’s lone howling voice, coming from a proclamation of dubious authorship, is even more plaintive, more alone, more weak, more hollow when taking into consideration that Siegelman-like prosecutions seem to be breaking out all over the country. There is Georgia Thompson in Wisconsin; Paul Minor in Mississippi; Geoffrey Fieger in Michigan, and Don Siegelman in Alabama. That is the growing mountain that Louis Franklin and Steve Feaga and Leura Canary find themselves under. There will be more written on The Mountain in coming articles, but all four of these cases share more than a few common threads. (For instance, Noel Hillman’s fingerprints are liberally slathered over all four cases; the cloud created by the Thompson case featured a familiar blueprint of a Republican Congressman running against the Governor on an ethics platform. Before their indictments, Fieger, Minor and Siegelman had all recently taken high profile stands against the current administration, and had demonstrated support for opposing candidates.) This is ultimately not about Republicans or Democrats, because when the already high price attached to the blood sport of politics and public service has been elevated to an individual’s complete destruction, a ruined career, and imprisonment, everyone loses. Everyone.
In this climate, when the denials are backed up with foot-dragging, withheld documents and obfuscation, it is difficult to believe Franklin’s repetitive rhetoric even while it is easy to be sympathetic with the plight he is in, and with his career and professional integrity swaying in the balance. Even though the notes on this site are not likely to show up on the radar, and even though Franklin was most likely taking a preemptive shot at Time Magazine, I still say that it is easy to by sympathetic with the prosecutor even after his latest proclamation has called me an ignorant liar.
The mantle of the “Siegelman supporter:” The observer characterized by Mr. Franklin as the Monday Morning Quarterback or a person who doesn’t have all of the facts. (I generally and usually try to leave myself out of these notes, as I prefer to let the story tell itself. But as Louis Franklin has found it necessary to [repeatedly] respond to what he perceives to be an attack on himself, I likewise feel the need to respond to his attack.]
As before, I feel certain that Louis Franklin has little regard for whatever has been said in these notes, and that his comments were directed more at Scott Horton, writing for Harper’s, and at the coverage and attention that the case has been given by Time Magazine (both print and online versions) and perhaps some of the wide-circulation blogs like the Daily Kos. But nonetheless, I have written some articles critical of DOJ’s efforts in the Middle District of Alabama, and especially as it relates to what appears to be a deliberate effort to blur the lines and to avoid a revelation of the whole truth, in this manner. The media and the Middle District often refer to comments and articles that are published in various places, as being put out by “Siegelman supporters,” with the implication that contrary facts or truth would be overridden by their support for Don Siegelman.
Unlike some people whom Franklin is more likely directing his comments toward, I was at the trial, in the courtroom, every day, including the empanelling of the jury and the sentencing hearing. As some people know, who have frequently read or have stopped by this site for the almost three years that it has been in existence, my original interest was Richard Scrushy, and I have been tracking the twists and turns in his case for over four years now. I came to Montgomery not because there was a political prosecution going on or because Don Siegelman was on trial, but because Richard Scrushy was there. And when I came to Montgomery, I had a completely open mind, and was perfectly willing to listen to the cases of the prosecution and the defense, to see what the outcome would be. Not only was I willing to except a strong prosecution case and a guilty verdict, I expected nothing less. I was aware that Siegelman had been claiming that the case was politically motivated and that Scrushy was likewise claiming that he had been swept into a Siegelman witch hunt, but quite frankly, I was skeptical. I do not easily buy into wild-eyed conspiracy theories as I have a tendency to generally believe our government is on-the-level and honest, even if I don’t always agree with some officials. Politicians often, if not always, claim that charges are politically motivated and in the fast-and-loose unraveling days of HealthSouth, I thought Scrushy could have done something like what he was being charged with.
It was only days into the trial when I first became appalled at the sheer lack of evidence that was being presented against Siegelman, Scrushy and the others. This was the first red flag that went up the pole. It wasn’t the claims of Siegelman or his supporters, it wasn’t any preconceived animosity against Feaga, Franklin, Gonzales or the DOJ, it certainly wasn’t any firm belief in the innocence of Scrushy; but it was the evidence and the manner in which the trial was being conducted. I have always said that I’m not a journalist who needs to sell papers in the morning or next week, but I am more interested in the whole story as it plays itself out. So I then went and read everything I could find about Siegelman—all the Eddie Curran articles, all the articles and legal documents about the first indictment against Siegelman, Hamrick and Bobo, all of the editorials for and against Siegelman—and I found a governor that made mistakes, there is no denying that, and a governor who’s mistakes may have been legitimate campaign issues that would have to be decided by the people. I also found a lot of good things that Siegelman had done, and in a fair and honest election, the people would have to make an informed choice by evaluating his mistakes along side of the positive things he had done for Alabama. But was there anything in these matters that should be elevated to ruining a man’s life and career and putting him in prison? I couldn’t find that. Anywhere. Not in the issues past and present, and not in the evidence presented at the trial. And as the trial wore on, it became painfully apparent and obvious that Hamrick, Roberts and Scrushy were all being used as tools to culminate a six-year investigation with the goal of finally bringing down a governor; it became clear that Nick Bailey was just another tool, and that his misfortunes were being shaped, contrived and molded in order to craft an alternative version of the truth. And once again, I was appalled that our government, my government, would recklessly and malignantly use individuals to satisfy their own selfish goals. In the military, they call this collateral damage and a risk factor is usually assigned that sets a level on how much collateral damage is acceptable, depending on the value and need of taking out a particular target. In Alabama, the lives of at least four people were ruined or seriously harmed. What value did this reckless action have to justice and our country?
In the aftermath of the trial, questions continued to be asked, and more red flags were running up the pole. Besides the wanton use of human collateral damage, and besides a lack of evidence in a case that appears to have been a strident crusade against a former governor, there were many other questions that heightened the suspicion-factor. There was the refusal of the recused US Attorney and the DOJ to turn over supporting documents behind her recusal. US Attorney Leura Canary recused herself because she was involved in the early stages of the investigation, but there are lingering questions effectively hidden by withheld documents about the exact nature of the nascent prosecution. Canary’s husband, Bill Canary, is an associate and one-time partner of Karl Rove, and he has spindly relationships to several people who were either political opponents of Siegelman or were involved in his prosecution, including Bill Pryor, Alabama’s former Attorney General, and Bob Riley, the current governor. Instead of coming clean with the documents behind her recusal, the District is instead relying on the unbacked-up denials of the Acting US Attorney. There is the DOJ’s refusal to turn over any documentation about the process and procedure behind bringing these charges. There is the DOJ’s refusal to investigate documents that could indicate the jury was improperly and illegally in collusion before returning a verdict. There is the judge who has exercised his discretion to make sure the defendants are punished even if they mount an effective and creditable appeal. And with all of these issues outstanding, it is simply difficult not to continue to raise questions over the hollow denials and self-righteous indignation of the Acting US Attorney.
Knowing about the Scrushy situation as well as I did (and having sat through his six month trial in Birmingham) it became apparent that from the DOJ’s perspective, the linking of Scrushy to Siegelman was a brilliant move, and the hopes of the prosecutors were being pinned on parlaying the anger against Scrushy’s acquittal into a cobbled together conviction of an ex-governor. I had this thought throughout the trial, and when it was confirmed by the juror’s emails that Louis Franklin or Leura Canary, or whoever is in charge in the Middle District, refuses to investigate, then the flag pole was getting crowded with all of the red flags fluttering in the breeze.
I am a citizen of this country who is as interested in the truth as Louis Franklin claims to be, and I resent being called a liar and yes, it is difficult for me to accept his version of the truth based on unsupported denials when there is all of the racket from the banners that are fluttering over my head.