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House panel sets hearing to review Siegelman case

By Ben Evans
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON — A House Judiciary panel will take a closer look next week at whether Bush Administration officials inappropriately influenced the prosecution of former Democratic Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman.

Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., has scheduled a subcommittee hearing for Tuesday on the case and two others in which Democrats have alleged selective prosecution by the Justice Department.

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.

An Alabama attorney who was a volunteer on Republican Gov. Bob Riley’s campaign has said she heard a GOP operative during a 2002 telephone conference call say he had spoken with former Bush adviser Karl Rove and had been assured the Justice Department was pursuing Siegelman.

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 and deposed the Alabama attorney, Jill Simpson of Rainsville. More than 40 former state attorneys general also have asked Congress to investigate.

The Justice Department has said it has not found any communications regarding the case with the White House, members of Congress or political party officials.

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

The hearing had been scheduled for last week but was postponed. A committee spokeswoman said a witness list would be released later this week. She declined to say whether anyone from Alabama would testify.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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