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Timeline: The prosecution of Don Siegelman
Muriel Kane and Larisa Alexandrovna
Published: Monday November 26, 2007

This timeline adjoins a longer article, "The permanent Republican majority:
How a coterie of Republican heavyweights sent a Democratic governor to jail." Click here to read the article.

The Rove-Canary-Pryor Connection

Karl Rove became involved in Alabama politics in 1994, when he joined with veteran GOP operative Bill Canary to help elect pro-corporate Republican judges to the Alabama state supreme court.

A further ally of Rove's and Canary's was Alabama Attorney General William Pryor.  Both Rove in Texas and Pryor in Alabama tried to discourage their respective states from actively pursuing the 1996-97 state lawsuits against the tobacco industry, which formed an important aspect of their pro-corporate agenda.  However, Alabama's Democratic Lieutanant Governor Don Siegelman was a strong supporter of the tobacco lawsuits.

In November 1998, Siegelman was elected Alabama governor, defeating the Republican incumbent, at the same time that Pryor was re-elected attorney general.  Just a few weeks after Siegelman took office, Pryor began an investigation of his administration.  It was this investigation that would lead many years later to Siegelman's conviction and imprisonment.

1994 Karl Rove is hired by the Business Council of Alabama to work with veteran GOP operative Bill Canary on winning races for the state supreme court.  Rove brings with him from Texas the strategy of successfully demonizing Democratic judges by painting them as pawns of "wealthy personal-injury trial lawyers."   Atlantic
1996-97 A series of states brings lawsuits against the tobacco companies, with the support of the National Association of Attorneys General.  In Texas, Karl Rove, by then the top political consultant to Governor George W. Bush, strategizes with the pro-smoking forces.

In Alabama , Republican Governor Fob James and Attorney General William Pryor resist joining in the lawsuits.  Democratic Lieutenant Governor Don Siegelman accuses Pryor of being too close to the tobacco industry and privately urges two universities to sue the tobacco companies on their own.
Texans for Public Justice (pdf)
November 1998 Democrat Don Siegelman is elected Alabama governor, defeating incumbent Fob James.  Among his campaign issues is a state lottery to fund public education.

At the same time, William Pryor is relected attorney general, in a campaign managed by Karl Rove and Bill Canary.
Locust Fork Journal
late March 1999 Attorney General William Pryor opens an investigation into the administration of newly-elected Governor Don Siegelman. Locust Fork Journal

The Abramoff-Reed-Riley Connection

Lobbyist Jack Abramoff had his own reasons for being opposed to Governor Don Siegelman.  Not only had Siegelman campaigned in 1998 on the issue of setting up an Alabama lottery to help fund public education, but he also supported Indian gambling in the state.  Abramoff saw both of these initiations as threatening the casino revenues of his own tribal clients, and early in 1999, he arranged for Ralph Reed to run a stealth lobbying campaign against them, using his connections in the religious right.  Reed was a long-time associate of Abramoff's, going back to their College Republican days in the early 80's, and also an ally of Karl Rove, who had helped him get into the lobbying business when he left the Christian Coalition in 1997.

Abramoff and Reed were aided in their lobbying campaign by then-Congressman Bob Riley, whose former press secretary, Michael Scanlon, had recently gone to work for Abramoff's ally Tom DeLay and would become an associate of Abramoff's the following year.  Riley wrote a fundraising letter for the campaign on the stationery of a group headed by former DeLay chief of staff Ed Buckham, and Abramoff and his wife donated to Riley's re-election campaign in 2000.  It was Bob Riley who would run against Siegelman for the governorship in 2002.

At the same time as their anti-lottery campaign, Abramoff and Reed were also running a stealth lobbying campaign in Alabama on behalf of their client, Channel One, carried under the name of a front group whose leader was apparently employed by either Bill Canary or his business partner.

April 1999 Ralph Reed begins a lobbying effort against Governor Don Siegelman's state lottery and Indian gambling initiatives, using funds from Jack Abramoff's tribal clients.  The lottery plan will be defeated in October 1999.

Alabama Congressman Bob Riley writes a fundraising letter in support of Reed's campaign on the stationery the U.S. Family Network, headed by Ed Buckham, formerly the chief of staff to Texas Rep. Tom DeLay.  Riley's former press secretary, Michael Scanlon, was on DeLay's staff at this time and would go to work for Abramoff the following year.

Reed would lobby in Alabama again in early 2002, using funding from both Abramoff and Scanlon.
Common Dreams
Gambling and the Law

Washington Post
The Nation
May 1999 At the same time as their anti-lottery campaign, Jack Abramoff and Ralph Reed are also conducting a stealth campaign in Alabama on behalf of their client Channel One, which is threatened with Senate hearings into its educational programming.

This campaign includes a series of radio ads produced by a fictitious front group, which Reed eventually acknowledged having been behind.  The nominal head of the front group, Dax Swatak, would be described in 2002 as a business partner of Bill Canary.  As of 1999, Swatek appears to have been working either for Canary or for Pat McWhorter, a business partner of Canary's.
Russ Baker
McWhorter Group
Obligation, Inc.
Alabama Public Records
Associated Press, 5/2/02
May 2000 Jack Abramoff and his wife donate $1000 to Bob Riley's congressional campaign. Decatur Daily

The 2002 Election -- Siegelman's Enemies Join Together to Work for His Defeat

In August 2001, Bill Canary's wife Leura Canary was appointed a US Attorney for Alabama by President George W. Bush.  She quickly federalized William Pryor's long-running state investigation of Governor Don Siegelman, and even though she was obliged to recuse herself in May 2002 because of her husband's connections, she appears to have continued running things from behind the scenes.  When Siegelman was up for re-election in 2002, the ongoing investigation became an issue in the campaign.  

Siegelman's opponent in the 2002 election was Congressman Bob Riley, who enjoyed both the support of Bill Canary and funding from Jack Abramoff and Michael Scanlon which allegedly amounted to millions of dollars.  The Riley campaign was also backed by Judge Mark Fuller, who had recently been nominated to a federal judgeship by George W. Bush after serving as a local district attorney.  After Fuller left the district attorney's office, his Siegelman-appointed successor announced that he had found evidence of fraudulent accounting practices, which led Fuller to work for Siegelman's defeat.  In 2005, Fuller would refuse to recuse himself from judging Siegelman's bribery trial.

On election night Siegelman was leading in the tally until a midnight recount abruptly shifted 6000 votes over to Riley.  The change was officially blamed on a computer glitch, but no other races were affected, which is considered statistically implausible.  There have also been anonymous allegations that the tally was altered electronically by a Riley campaign advisor, Dan Gans.  Gans soon thereafter joined the Alexander Strategy Group headed by Ed Buckham, the Abramoff ally for whom Bob Riley had written a 1999 fundraising letter.

However, what decisively determined the outcome of the election was that Attorney General William Pryor refused to allow a recount, saying that state law required ballots to be kept sealed. A few months later, in April 2003, Pryor was nominated by George W. Bush for a federal judgeship.  The Democrats in Congress stalled his confirmation -- in part over his role in questionable fundraising practices -- but he was recess-appointed to the position by George W. Bush in February 2004.

August 2, 2001 Leura Canary, wife of Bill Canary, is appointed a US Attorney by George W. Bush and federalizes the ongoing Alabama investigation of Don Siegelman's administration. Auburn Plainsman
September 29, 2001 Alice H. Martin is appointed a US Attorney in Alabama by George W. Bush.  She would also become involved in attempts to prosecute Don Siegelman. Auburn Plainsman
May 2002 US Attorney Leura Canary recuses herself from the Siegelman investigation, acknowledging her husband's political connections.  However, sources indicate that she continues to oversee it, keeping the investigation in her own office and under the control of prosecutors close to her and fighting the advise of her professional staff to drop it. Department of Justice
Pacific Free Press
August 1, 2002 Alabama district attorney Mark Fuller is nominated to a federal judgeship by George W. Bush.  Governor Don Siegelman appoints a new district attorney who investigate's his predecessor' accounting practices and accuses Fuller of attempts to defraud the retirement system.  Fuller dismisses the allegations as "politically motivated" and works to defeat Siegelman in the election. Alliance for Justice
Fall 2002 Alabama governor's race between Democratic incumbent Don Siegelman and Republican Congressman Bob Riley.  Bill Canary is working for the Riley campaign, and the continuing William Pryor-Leula Canary investigation of Siegelman is used as a campaign issue. Locust Fork Journal
October 2002 Jack Abramoff and Michael Scanlon pour millions of dollars in tribal money into the Alabama governor's race.   Harpers, June 2007
Harpers, July 2007
November 5, 2002 Bob Riley narrowly beats Don Siegelman after a midnight recount in Baldwin County in which 6334 votes move to Riley.  This is attributed to a computer glitch, but no other race in the county is affected.  An unidentified source alleges that Riley's former chief of staff and campaign senior advisor, Dan Gans, changed the votes electronically. Harpers
Locus Fork Journal
November 2002 Attorney General William Pryor denies Siegelman's demand for a statewide recount, saying that a state law requires ballots to be sealed except under limited circumstances.  No judge issues an order to break the seal and the federal Department of Justice also takes no action. Harpers
USA Today
November 18, 2002 Don Siegelman concedes "for the good of the state of Alabama."  A 2007 affidavit and testimony from Reublican attorney Jill Simpson (see below) would suggest that this concession had been coerced by Bill Canary and Bob Riley with the support of Karl Rove. The Crimson White
by February 2003 Dan Gans joins the Alexander Strategy Group, headed by former DeLay chief of staff Ed Buckham. NewsMeat
April 9, 2003 William Pryor is nominated as a federal judge by George W. Bush but Democrats stall his confirmation.  He will finally be recess-appointed on February 20, 2004.
New York Times

Siegelman is Tried for Corruption -- and Then Tried Again

In 2004, Don Siegelman was charged with attempted bid-rigging in a case brought by US Attorney Alice H. Martin   After many twists and turns, the case was thrown out by a clearly exasperated judge on grounds of insufficient evidence.

A year later, in October 2005, as Siegelman prepared for an attempt to take back the governorship, he was indicted on fresh charges of bribery, conspiracy, and other crimes stemming from the long-running Pryor-Canary investigation.  The case was assigned to Judge Mark Fuller, who refused to recuse himself on the grounds of either his business ties as a federal contractor or the possibility of his holding a grudge against Siegelman.

The indictment and trial helped ensure Siegelman's defeat in the Democratic primary in June 2006.  This was followed three weeks later by his conviction on 7 out of the 32 counts brought against him.

May 27, 2004 Don Siegelman, his former chief of staff, and a physician are indicted on charges of attempting to rig Medicaid bids in 1999.  Three judges recuse themselves from the case over the next few months. Montgomery Advertiser
New York Times
July 13, 2004 The Spegelman case is assigned to US District Judge U.W. Clemon.  On August 16, prosecutors ask that Clemon recuse himself, citing indirect ties to Siegelman, but he refuses.  On September 29, a federal appeals court will refuse to remove Clemon from the case. Montgomery Advertiser
Crimson White
September 10, 2004 One charge in the case is thrown out by Judge Clemon, who also cites an assistant U.S. Attorney and an assistant state attorney general for contempt of court. Montgomery Advertiser
Decatur Daily
October 5, 2004 All charges against Siegelman and his co-defendents are dropped after Judge Clemon bars most of the prosecutors' evidence. Montgomery Advertiser
October 26, 2005 As Don Siegelman begins his campaign to return to office, he is indicted by a federal grand jury in Leura Canary's district on 32 counts of bribery, conspiracy, mail fraud, and obstruction of justice.  

The charges stem from accusations that in 1999 former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy donated to a political fund that was lobbying for Siegelman's lottery plan in exchange for being appointed to a key medical licensing board.  

The case is assigned to Judge Mark Fuller, who refuses to recuse himself, despite having federal contracting connections and a history of opposition to Siegelman.
Decatur Daily
June 6, 2006 Don Siegelman is defeated in the Democratic primary. Hartselle Enquirer
June 29, 2006 Don Siegelman is acquitted of 25 of the counts against him but is found guilty of the other 7 after the jury deadlocks twice and is sent back by the judge.  There have since been allegations of jury-tampering.
Speaker of the House blog

Accusations of Political Interference

In May 2007, one month before Don Siegelman was sentenced to an extended prison term, an Alabama Republican attorney,
Jill Simpson, issued an affidavit claiming political interference in the outcome of the 2002 Alabama governor's race and naming Karl Rove as having taken an interest in the matter. 

Because this accusation came out at the same time that the US Attorneys scandal was breaking, and because Siegelman had been prosecuted by two Bush-appointed attorneys, there was immediate speculation that the prosecution might have been the product of a politicized Justice Department.

May 21, 2007 Alabama Republican attorney Jill Simpson states in an affidavit that Don Siegelman conceded in 2002 because he was threatened with the release of photos of one of his supporters planting Riley signs at a KKK rally.  She also says that Bill Canary stated Karl Rove was taking an interest in the matter.  

Prior to Simpson's signing the affidavit, but after she began communicating with Siegelman's lawyers, her house had burned down and her car had been run off the road.
Locust Fork Journal
June 1, 2007 The New York Times draws attention to the Siegelman case, citing the Simpson affidavit and noting the possible connection to the US Attorneys scandal. New York Times
June 28, 2007 Siegelman and Scrushy are sentenced to extended prison terms by Judge Mark Fuller, who refuses to allow them to remain at liberty while they appeal the sentences. Birmingham News
July 1, 2007 Siegelman's lawyer's office is broken into.  Files are rifled through but not taken.  However, the Siegelman files are not in the office at the time. Daily Report
by July 11, 2007 Siegelman is moved from the federal prison in Atlanta, GA to Texarkana, TX. WKRG
July 16, 2007 Forty-four former state attorneys general ask Congress to investigate  whether the prosecution of Siegelman was politically based. Huntsville Times
July 17, 2007 Siegelman is moved again, to Oakdale, LA. Auburn Plainsman
July 17, 2007 The House Judiciary Committee asks then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for documentation on the Siegelman matter. Speaker of the House blog
August 21, 2007 Federal prosecutors recommend leniency for the key witness against Siegelman, an aide who had admitted to taking bribes without Siegelman's knowledge.  Siegelman's lawyers call this "deplorable." Florida Times-Union
September 14, 2007 Jill Simpson expands on her May affidavit, telling House Judiciary Committee lawyers that she heard Bill Canary say in a conference call on November 18, 2002 that "his girls" -- US Attorneys Leula Canary and Alice Martin -- would "take care" of Siegelman.  She says Siegelman was promised that the federal investigation of him would end if he would both concede the election and agree to stay out of politics.

Simpson also states that on the same occasion, Canary told Governor Riley's son Rob that he had worked it out with "Karl" -- which she took to mean Karl Rove -- and that Karl had already spoken to the Department of Justice.  

She says further that Judge Mark Fuller was deliberately chosen for the Siegelman case in 2005 and that Rob Riley had told her Fuller would "hang" Siegelman.
Washington Spectator
Auburn Plainsman
October 23, 2007 A subcommottee of the House Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on“Allegations of Selective Prosecution: The Erosion of Public Confidence in Our Federal Justice System,”  featuring the Siegelman case.

This timeline adjoins a longer article, "The permanent Republican majority:
How a coterie of Republican heavyweights sent a Democratic governor to jail." Click here to read the article.