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GOP attorney testifies about possible Rove role in Siegelman prosecution

By Ben Evans
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON — A Republican lawyer who says Karl Rove may have been involved in the prosecution of former Gov. Don Siegelman, a Democrat, emerged without comment Friday from four hours of questioning at the House Judiciary Committee.

Jill Simpson, from Rainsville, was called to the Capitol to provide sworn testimony about her claim that she heard discussions in 2002 suggesting that Rove may have played a role in the corruption case against Siegelman. At the time of the alleged conversation, Simpson was a campaign worker for Republican Gov. Bob Riley, who defeated Siegelman in that year's gubernatorial race.

"We answered their questions," Simpson attorney Priscilla Duncan told reporters after the deposition, declining to elaborate.

Siegelman, elected in 1998, was convicted last year on federal bribery, conspiracy and mail fraud charges following a lengthy investigation that began in 2002. He recently began serving a prison sentence of more than seven years.

In an affidavit made public in May, Simpson said she heard a Republican operative during a 2002 telephone conference call say he had spoken with Rove, referred to in the document as "Karl," and had been assured the Justice Department was pursuing Siegelman.

2002 conference call

As part of a broader investigation into political influence at the Justice Department, the Judiciary Committee recently asked the department to turn over its documents involving the case. Forty-four former state attorneys general also have asked Congress to investigate.

In a letter to the committee last week, the Justice Department said it has not found any communications regarding the case with the White House, members of Congress, or political party officials. The department denied the committee's request for internal documents, however, saying an appeal is pending in the case and that releasing internal communications about prosecutorial decisions would undermine the legal system.

The department — and the career prosecutors who handled the Siegelman case — have insisted that politics played no role in the decisions to pursue the case and have emphasized that he was convicted by a jury.

A Judiciary Committee spokeswoman said it could be weeks before the parties decide whether to release a transcript of Friday's interview, conducted by Democratic and Republican attorneys for the committee.

Duncan called the session "satisfactory" but otherwise declined comment.

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

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