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Panel to question former Riley worker

By Bob Johnson
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — Attorneys for a congressional committee will question an Alabama lawyer under oath next week about her claims that a Republican campaign operative talked about White House influence over the investigation of former Alabama Democratic Gov. Don Siegelman.

Rainsville attorney Jill Simpson, who was a campaign worker for Republican Bob Riley when he defeated Siegelman in 2002, will be interviewed privately Sept. 14 by two staff attorneys in the office of the House Judiciary Committee in Washington, Simpson’s attorney, Priscilla Duncan, said Friday.

In an affidavit made public in May, Simpson said she was a campaign worker for Riley
in northeast Alabama and heard the GOP operative’s statement on Nov. 18, 2002, during a conference phone call. She said it was made with Riley’s son and campaign manager, Rob Riley, campaign adviser Bill
Canary and attorney Terry Butts.

Simpson quoted Canary as saying Siegelman would not
be a political worry in the future because Canary “had gotten
it worked out with Karl and
Karl has spoken with the
Department of Justice and the Department of Justice was already pursuing Don Siegelman.”

Simpson has said Canary was referring to Karl Rove, the White House political adviser with whom Canary had worked.

Bill Canary and Rob Riley have said they have no recollection of the conversation with Simpson. Butts has denied that the conversation occurred.

Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy were convicted last year of bribery and other charges in a political corruption case. Siegelman is serving a more than seven year prison sentence in the federal prison in Oakdale, La. Scrushy is serving an almost seven year sentence in the federal prison in Beaumont, Texas.

Siegelman has said that Simpson’s affidavit proves his claims that his prosecution was the result of a political vendetta by Republicans.

Duncan said Friday that the scheduled interview by congressional investigators shows that Simpson’s claims are being taken seriously.

Duncan noted that more than 40 former attorneys general have called for an investigation of the Siegelman prosecution and that Conyers and U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, D-Ala., have asked the Justice Department to turn over documents related to the Siegelman probe.

“She has gone from being a lone voice to one of several dozen,” Duncan said.

A spokeswoman for the Judiciary Committee said Friday that staffers are talking to a “broad range” of people involved in the Siegelman case but that Simpson is now the only person scheduled to come in for a formal interview. The spokeswoman declined to name the others.

Duncan said it’s routine for congressional staff members to conduct preliminary interviews with witnesses in private before holding public hearings. She said committee staff members have already talked to Simpson for more than four hours by phone.

At the time of the phone call described by Simpson, it had been known publicly for 10 months that federal and state prosecutors were investigating corruption in the Siegelman administration. Canary’s wife, Leura, is the U.S. Attorney in Montgomery.

After Siegelman’s attorneys objected to the connection between Leura and Bill Canary, Leura Canary recused herself from the case in May 2002 and career prosecutors set up a separate office to finish the investigation.

Chief prosecutor Louis Franklin has denied repeatedly that there was any political interference in the Siegelman prosecution.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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