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3 deny '02 call to plot against Siegelman

By Bob Johnson
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — Two of three Republicans who reportedly took part in a 2002 telephone conference call to plot against former Gov. Don Siegelman said Friday the phone call never took place and the third called reports of the conversation an "outrageous allegation."

The New York Times and Time magazine reported earlier Friday that they had obtained an affidavit from an Alabama attorney, Dana Jill Simpson of Rainsville, who said she was on a conference call in late 2002 with Republican operative Bill Canary when he made a comment indicating GOP-appoint-ed federal prosecutors would make sure Siegelman was no factor in the 2006 governor's race.

She said the comment was made in a call with Rob Riley, son of Republican Gov. Bob Riley, and former Alabama Su-preme Court justice Terry Butts, shortly after Siegelman lost a bitterly contested election to Bob Riley in November 2002.

Canary is currently the president of the Business Council of Alabama and is married to Leura Canary, U.S. Attorney for the middle district of Alabama.

Remarks in question

According to Simpson's affidavit quoted by the publications, Canary said "not to worry about Don Siegelman" because "'his girls would take care of" the governor.

Canary then made clear that "his girls" was a reference to his wife and Alice Martin, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama.

Both were appointed by President Bush.

Calls to Simpson's law office by The Associated Press were not returned Friday. Attorneys for Siegelman and aides to Scrushy said the sworn statement reportedly given by Simpson was not part of the defense file, they had no copy of it and did not know why it had been given.

Tainted trial?

Leura Canary withdrew from an investigation of corruption in Siegelman's administration in May 2002, but Siegelman and his defense have continued to argue that the federal prose-
cution had been politically poisoned.

Martin prosecuted Siegelman in a Medicaid bid-rigging case in the northern district, where she is U.S. attorney, but those charges were dropped in October 2004 after a federal judge ruled out key evidence.

Siegelman and former HealthSouth Chief Executive Officer Richard Scrushy were convicted last year of bribery, conspiracy and mail fraud in a separate case brought by career federal prosecutors in Montgomery, where Canary recused herself.

Prosecutors said Siegelman appointed Scrushy to a powerful hospital board in exchange for Scrushy arranging $500,000 in donations to Siegelman's plan for a statewide lottery.

Siegelman has said that his conviction was part of a conspiracy by Republican prosecutors to end his political career. Siegelman and Scrushy are scheduled to be sentenced June 26.

Butts, who was one of Scrushy's attorneys during last year's trial, called the allegations "fiction."

"It never happened. I was never in a phone conversation with Bill Canary. The lady that made that affidavit, I had never heard of her," Butts said.

Rob Riley said he did not recall Canary ever making the statements attributed to him, "nor would it be characteristic of him to do so."

Claims denied

"Neither I, nor anyone on our campaign staff has ever spoken with a federal prosecutor, or been involved in a conspiracy to bring a criminal case against Don Siegelman," Rob Riley said.

Bill Canary issued a statement saying he would continue his practice of not commenting on the charges Siegelman has made in the past, but he said, "I will say, however, that his most recent outrageous allegations are simply the desperate act of a desperate politician who was convicted of corruption by an impartial jury of his peers.

Siegelman attorney Vince Kilborn said Friday the affidavit fits what Siegelman has been saying all along.

"The truth always comes out sooner or later," Kilborn said.

Prosecutor Steve Feaga said Friday night that regardless of what is on the affidavit, he and other career prosecutors were not influenced by Republican operatives to pursue an investigation of Siegelman.

"We presented the facts that we dug up during our investigation. A jury of his peers found him guilty of an egregious violation of public trust," Feaga said.

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