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Lawyer: GOP promised to end Siegelman probe

BIRMINGHAM (AP) — An Alabama attorney at the center of a congressional review of the prosecution of Don Siegelman told investigators the former Democratic governor conceded the disputed 2002 election after Republicans promised to end a federal investigation of his administration, The Birmingham News reported Tuesday.

The newspaper reported that the lawyer, Jill Simpson of Rainsville, told lawyers with the House Judiciary Committee in testimony last month that she learned of the motive behind Siegelman's decision from Rob Riley, the son of Gov. Bob Riley.

Simpson previously claimed in a sworn statement that Siegelman gave up his challenge of the '02 election out of fear someone would reveal that one of his supporters planted pro-Bob Riley signs at a Ku Klux Klan rally in North Alabama. She mentioned the Klan rally again to congressional attorneys and added that Republicans also agreed to end the federal probe, a far more serious allegation.

Rob Riley said Tuesday that Simpson's testimony was full of false information.

"Jill Simpson's testimony has now gone from not only being untrue to being absurd and ridiculous," Riley said in a phone interview.

An attorney for Simpson, Priscilla Black Duncan, said Simpson had not changed her story. She said Simpson was involved in campaign-related meetings in addition to the telephone calls she recounted in her affidavit.

Duncan said she could not comment on the specifics of what Simpson told the committee because she and Simpson are sworn to secrecy.

Siegelman is in federal prison for his conviction in an influence-peddling scheme with former HealthSouth Corp. chief executive Richard Scrushy.

Democrats in control of Congress began a review of the Siegelman prosecution mainly because of Simpson's suggestions that former White House aide Karl Rove may have had a role in the case against the former governor, who maintains his innocence.

Simpson's most recent statements came during testimony given Sept. 14 to congressional lawyers. She said she learned from Rob Riley in late 2002 that Siegelman dropped his challenge of Bob Riley's narrow victory after learning about the campaign signs at a Klan rally and after being promised the federal investigation that started a year earlier would end.

Terry Butts, a Riley supporter and later a lawyer for Scrushy, delivered the promise to Siegelman, Simpson told congressional lawyers.

"I understood from what Rob told me that Terry Butts talked to Mr. Siegelman and some of his campaign people is what I understood," Simpson said, according to a transcript of her testimony. "And in that conversation basically, Mr. Siegelman had been offered to go ahead and concede, that the pictures (from the Klan rally) would not come out and that they would not further prosecute him with the Justice Department."

Simpson said she asked Rob Riley what would happen if Siegelman didn't stick to a promise to stay out of Alabama politics.

"He basically said, `Well, if he doesn't, you know, they'll prosecute him," Simpson testified.

Rob Riley said that was "totally false" and that neither Butts nor anyone else in the campaign made such promises to Siegelman.

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

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