Lawyer says she feared injustice for Siegelman
Republican’s affidavit implicates White House aid Karl Rove in prosecution of ex-governor
By Bob Johnson
Associated Press Writer
MONTGOMERY — A Republican lawyer who supports Alabama’s Ten Commandments judge said Wednesday she implicated White House aide Karl Rove in the federal prosecution of former Democratic Gov. Don Siegelman because she feared justice had not been served.
Rainsville attorney Jill Simpson said in an affidavit that Republican operative Bill Canary told her and others in a telephone conference call in November 2002 that he had spoken with Rove, referred to in the sworn document as “Karl,” and had been assured the Justice Department was pursuing Siegelman.
Canary and others said to be on the phone call have denied any such conversation taking place. Rove has been a key figure as congressional Democrats contend the Justice Department has been politicizing investigations under the Bush administration.
Siegelman said he was not surprised to learn Rove had been “plotting for my political destruction.”
White House spokesman Blair Jones on Wednesday evening declined to comment on the claims.
“We have not seen the affidavit,” he said. “So we cannot comment on something we have not seen.”
At the time of the call cited in the affidavit, Siegelman was seeking a recount in his re-election bid, which he narrowly lost to Republican Bob Riley. Last year Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy were convicted on federal bribery, conspiracy and mail fraud charges following a lengthy investigation that began in 2002. Siegelman also was convicted on a separate obstruction of justice charge. Both await sentencing.
Simpson said in the affidavit that she was a campaign worker for Riley in northeast Alabama and that the conference call occurred on Nov. 18, 2002, amid concerns about the recount, a possible Democratic dirty trick in her area and Siegelman being a future problem for Riley
Simpson told The Associated Press on Wednesday that she gave the affidavit in front of a notary public on May 21 because she was concerned the convictions of Siegelman and Scrushy might have been a miscarriage of justice. It has not been filed with any court.
“I believe honestly that every defendant, rich or poor, has a right to a fair trial. That’s why I did what I did,” said Simpson.
She said she has been a Republican for years and, although she worked for Riley in 2002, last year worked in the campaign of former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore. Known as Alabama’s Ten Commandments judge, Moore has been a critic of riley and mounted an unsuccessful challenge against Riley in the Republican Primary last year.
In the affidavit, Simpson says Riley’s son, Rob Riley, asked about Siegelman being a problem in the future and was told by Canary “not to worry about Don Siegelman that `his girls would take care of him.”’ The affidavit says Canary identified “his girls” as his wife, Leura Canary, the U.S. attorney for the middle district of Alabama in Montgomery, and Alice Martin, the U.S. attorney in the northern district in Birmingham.
“Rob Riley then asked if he was sure `these girls’ could take care of Don Siegelman and William `Bill’ Canary told him not to worry that he had already gotten it worked out with Karl and Karl had spoken with the Department of Justice and the Department of Justice was already pursuing Don Siegelman,” the affidavit said.
Simpson said she was certain “Karl” was a reference to Karl Rove. She said Canary had mentioned him often.
Robert Luskin, an attorney for Rove, did not immediately return calls seeking comment Wednesday.
Martin’s investigation of Siegelman in a Medicaid fraud case in the northern district ended in October 2004 when charges against him were dropped after a federal judge ruled out key evidence. After demands for her recusal by Siegelman’s attorneys, Leura Canary stepped down from involvement in a separate Siegelman investigation in May, 2002, about six months before the alleged phone conversation.
Rove role denied
“Karl Rove had no role whatsoever in bringing about the investigation or prosecution of former Governor Don Siegelman,” said Louis Franklin, the chief prosecutor in the Siegelman and Scrushy case. “It is intellectually dishonest to even suggest that Mr. Rove influenced or had any input into the decision to investigate or prosecute Don Siegelman.”
Franklin, a career prosecutor, said he made the decision to continue with the investigation.
“Our decision was based solely upon evidence in the case, evidence that unequivocally established that former Governor Siegelman committed bribery, conspiracy, mail fraud, obstruction of justice, and other serious federal crimes,” Franklin said.
Canary said Wednesday he had no memory of the phone conversation or of meeting Simpson.
“As far as I know, I’ve never spoken to her in my life,” said Canary, president of the Business Council of Alabama. “I have never spoken to Karl Rove or to his office or the Department of Justice about prosecuting Don Siegelman.”
Rob Riley said he did not recall Canary ever making the statements attributed to him.
Simpson said Wednesday that she has phone records from the period Nov. 13 to Nov. 18 to help support her affidavit. It was first reported June 1 by Time magazine and The New York Times.
According to the affidavit, also obtained by the AP, the phone call came after she had been asked to find out about a possible Democratic dirty trick in Jackson County.
Simpson said in the affidavit that former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Terry Butts, who was Riley’s attorney on the recount issue, was also on the conference phone call. She said Butts told Rob Riley he would confront Siegelman with evidence exposing the trick and get him to concede the election to Riley.
Siegelman did hold a news conference at 6 p.m. that night announcing he would end his challenge to the vote. But Butts denied that the conference call ever took place and said he did not have a conversation with Siegelman about dropping his election challenge.
“That never happened. I never had a conversation with Governor Siegelman,” Butts told the AP. “This affidavit sounds like it was written by a drunk fiction writer.”
Siegelman, asked by e-mail for his response to Butts’ statement that the conversation didn’t take place, did not mention it in his brief reply to the AP. He said he has been on the opposite side of Rove politically for more than a decade “so it does not surprise me at all that he has been placed at the scene of the crime plotting for my political destruction.”
Mark Bollinger, a former aide to a Democratic attorney general and a friend of Simpson’s, also has signed an affidavit stating that Simpson has told him of the phone call. He said he understands why Simpson waited to reveal details of the call.
“If she had said it in 2002, nobody would have believed her,” Bollinger said. He said that has changed with the prosecution of Siegelman in Birmingham and Montgomery and events in Washington, where the Bush administration has been accused of trying to politicize Justice Department investigations.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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