Alabama Babylon: Karl Rove and The Ordeal of Don Siegelman

Daughter of jailed governor sees White House had hand in her father's fall

Mittwoch, 28. November 2007

Larisa Alexandrovna - In Part II of the RSI special investigation, The Permanent Republican Majority, the daughter of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman sits down for an exclusive interview about the family’s ordeal and her father’s case.

To fully understand what the Don Siegelman case is about, please see “Part I – The Political Prisoner” of this series.

Throughout a week of phone and email discussions, Ms. Siegelman spoke and wrote about her father’s conviction and imprisonment on bribery and conspiracy charges and about the continued harassment of the family and those around them. The family home was broken into. Her father’s attorney had his office ransacked. Even the key whistleblower in the case – Dana Jill Simpson – had her house burned down and her car run off the road.

She maintained throughout all of these communications that Karl Rove – the former White House Chief of Staff – helped engineer her father’s fate with the help of two judges and two US Attorneys.

Indeed, Republican attorney and whistleblower Simpson testified that Bush-appointed Federal Judge Mark Fuller, who presided over Siegelman's trial, was selected in advance by Alabama Republican operatives working in concert with the US Justice Department. That department was then headed by Alberto Gonzales, who has recently resigned in disgrace.

The other federal judge with an involvement in the case is Judge William Pryor, who as Alabama attorney governor began the investigation of Governor Siegelman that eventually led to his indictment.

Dana Siegelman believes strongly that the two US attorneys and two federal judges appointed by George W. Bush were taking orders from Washington to go after her father.

“What I mean by pressure is the prosecutors knew that in order to please Gonzales, Canary, Pryor, Riley, and the White House, they needed a conviction,” Siegelman said. She added: “Even if he were guilty of what they accused him of, there wasn’t enough evidence to put him away. The entire trial was corrupted by politics.”

Siegelman asserts that her father is only allowed to have visitations in prison with his family and his attorneys and is being denied access to the media and communication with the outside world. She notes, however, that this appears to be prison policy. What is unclear is whether Siegelman is being denied access to reporters. Dana Siegelman says that some reporters have attempted to reach out to her father, but were denied access.

Larisa Alexandrovna: Let's go back to the election of 2002, ultimately where this story begins, and the strange turn of events. Your father was governor from 1999-2003. He was leading in the polls against Republican opponent Bob Riley and it was widely believed your father would win. But something happened on the evening of November 5 [2002]. Can you take us back to that night?

Dana Siegelman: It was a strange two days, really. Our family stayed at the RSA building in Montgomery, Alabama for the result proceedings on November 5th. Late into the evening, around 11pm, my dad was winning. My brother and I were exhausted, and our parents had us taken home to go to bed. When we got home, we couldn't sleep, so we sat in the kitchen until the final results were in...Dad had won.

RS: At that point, anyway, that was the belief. Is that correct?

DS: Yes. We ran upstairs, threw on our nice clothes, and ran outside to security and asked them to take us back to the RSA tower quickly. My dad was already onstage saying his thank-yous, when we came up to join him. It was a very special moment for the Siegelman family. We were just so happy for him.

RS: But something changed overnight, is that correct?

DS: Well, the next morning, November 6th, my dad's opponent, Bob Riley, came on Alabama statewide television announcing that he had won, and that there had been an error with the ballots in Baldwin County. How he had news of this and my dad, the governor, did not, is beyond me.

RS: How close was the election?

DS: Close enough for there to be skepticism with Bob Riley's proclamation.

RS: So your father wanted a recount?

DS: My dad wanted a recount because it was blatantly obvious that the ballots had been tampered with.

RS: Blatantly obvious?

DS: They announced that my dad was the winner when there were enough votes accounted to accurately state that. For new votes to mysteriously appear the next morning, it seems clear that they had been tampered with one way or another.

RS: Have you heard of a man by the name of Dan Gans?

DS: I don't know of Dan Gans, but I do know that someone, or some people, are to blame. Baldwin County had always voted predominantly Democrat. For them to suddenly change their mind, in the percentage that was shown, is nearly impossible. Specialists have analyzed this election, and all of them have come to the same conclusion: The ballots were forged in the middle of the night.

RS: First let me tell you the allegations surrounding Mr. Gans. This is from the Baldwin County Now website: “Glynn Wilson, a former Christian Science Monitor correspondent who now publishes and writes for his news site locustfork.net, posted a piece in June stating that Dan Gans – Riley's chief of staff during the would-be governor's time as a U.S. Representative for Alabama's 3rd District – electronically changed the results, giving a razor thin edge to Riley, who went on to win the state by 3,120 votes." Is this what you mean about the ballots being tampered with or are you talking about something else?

DS: Absolutely. Like I said, someone is to blame for swinging the election.

RS: Just to be clear, I am not saying Mr. Gans was behind anything. I was just curious about this allegation and if you had heard of it. Let’s move on to the recount. Governor Siegelman – your father – wanted a recount. What happened next?

DS: I am not sure if a legitimate recount was ever performed. Needless to say, my dad conceded the election to Bob Riley. The reason for this has a lot to do with who was in the attorney general's office during this time. That much, I do know.

RS: Are you talking about William “Bill” Pryor?

DS: Yes. He put my dad in a catch-22. Either my dad asked for another recount, in which he knew Pryor would reward Riley and therefore make my dad look like a schmuck, or my dad had to concede the election with his dignity.

RS: What about him as the attorney general?

DS: The attorney general assumes control in an overtime election such as this. For two months the attorney general manipulated the situation on Riley's behalf. There was little my dad could do.

RS: How did he manipulate it?

DS: He had decision-making power. As for the logistics, I don't know.

RS: What happened after he had the ballots sealed? Specifically, what happened with the investigation into your father?

DS: Leura Canary and her husband Bill…

RS: Let me make sure everyone knows who we are talking about. Leura Canary is the US Attorney for the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama and William “Bill” Canary is her husband, a close friend of Karl Rove and GOP operative who during this time was advising the now governor Bob Riley.

DS: That is correct. The prosecution came out of Leura Canary's office and a few months later was thrown out by a judge who thought the indictment was completely contrived. [Editor's note: This prosecution came out of Alice Martin's office. The second indictment was the one from Leura Canary's office.]

RS: This was the first indictment for Medicaid big-rigging, the one Judge U.W. Clemon threw out for lack of evidence, with prejudice, correct?

DS: Yes.

RS: Then there was the second indictment. Tells us about this indictment.

DS: Yes. The second indictment came out of Washington with more pressure behind it.

RS: What do you mean “pressure?” From whom?

DS: What I mean by pressure is the prosecutors knew that in order to please Gonzales, Canary, Pryor, Riley and the White House, they needed a conviction. In other words, it was going to take more than a scolding from a judge to get the prosecutors to drop the case the second time. Karl Rove and Bill Canary regained their prosecutorial power.

RS: But when you say pressure from Washington, are you saying pressure from the White House?

DS: I mean Washington put pressure on these prosecutors to go after my dad a second time because they failed the first. Rove and Canary's prosecutorial power is the prosecutors, who were, quite literally, just puppets for the Republicans after my dad.

RS: What else can you tell us about this indictment?

DS: A whole new selection of charges that had been conjured up, and a new team of prosecutors to boot. The first indictment had been thrown out, but my dad was already a political target for Karl Rove. My dad was the first governor to endorse Al Gore in his campaign against Bush, and that was enough to keep Rove's prosecutors after my dad. It is obvious that these indictments mean nothing in terms of going after a criminal but mean everything in going after a man.

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