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AG nominee says he would review Don Siegelman case

By Ben Evans
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON — Attorney general nominee Michael Mukasey said Thursday that he would be willing to "take a look at" the Justice Department's case against former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman once appeals have been exhausted.

Mukasey, a retired federal judge expected to win confirmation, acknowledged knowing little about the case. But under questioning from Sen. Charles Schu-mer, D-N.Y., he said he would review it after the courts have the "first cut."

"I'd certainly be willing to take a look at it," he said.

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.

He has long argued that the prosecution was politically motivated, and his claims have gained traction this year as Democrats in Congress have investigated political interference at the Justice Department.

An Alabama attorney, Jill Simpson, 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.

The House Judiciary Committee is reviewing the case and has scheduled a hearing for Tuesday, but the Senate has shown little interest thus far.

Witnesses scheduled to testify at the hearing include Doug Jones, former U.S. Attorney in the northern district of Alabama and a former lawyer for Siegelman.

Former U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and University of Missouri communications professor Donald C. Shields are also scheduled to testify.

At Thursday's hearing, Schu-mer, a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, said there are "troubling allegations" involving the case.

"And given what we've seen in the Justice Department — again, no smoking gun but a series of these types of issues ... it greatly troubles me that perhaps, perhaps, perhaps this case was politically brought," he said. "I'm not accusing anyone of anything. And I don't know all the facts. But I'd like you to learn the facts and report back."

The Justice 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.

Responding to a request for information from the House Judiciary Committee, the department has declined to release internal documents but said it has not found any communications regarding the case with the White House, members of Congress or political party officials.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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