Ex-Siegelman lawyer to testify
Former Democratic U.S. attorney to appear before House panel
By Ben Evans
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON — One of Don Siegelman's former lawyers is expected to testify before Congress on Tuesday that Justice Department officials in Washington ordered local prosecutors to take a fresh look at evidence against the former Alabama governor as his corruption case seemed to have stalled in 2004.
Democrats see the testimony, from former Democratic U.S. Attorney Doug Jones, as further evidence that political meddling from the Bush administration may have influenced the case against Siegelman, a Democrat who was convicted last year on federal bribery, conspiracy, mail fraud and obstruction of justice charges.
A House Judiciary Committee panel is holding a hearing to highlight the case and two others from Wisconsin and Pennsylvania that have prompted allegations of selective prosecution by the Justice Department under President Bush.
Republicans on the committee declined to call any witnesses, saying only one of the cases has been fully resolved in court and that it is inappropriate for people involved in the others to comment on them publicly.
"These cases should be tried in a court of law before a judge and jury with all of the evidence presented and not on a piecemeal selective basis before the media," said Rep. J. Randy Forbes, R-Va., a senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee.
Jones, who was a U.S. attorney during the Clinton administration, is the only Alabama witness slated to appear.
He has said previously that local officials strongly hinted that the investigation — which prompted Siegelman to hire a defense attorney in February 2002 — would be dropped, but that a local prosecutor later told him that Justice's Office of Public Integrity in Washington had ordered a wholesale reevaluation of the case.
That development, he has said, came in 2004. In October of that year, a bid-rigging case against Siegelman in Tuscaloosa was dismissed after a federal judge ruled there was not sufficient evidence on a key charge. A year later, prosecutors in Montgomery sought new charges, and Siegelman was indicted by a federal grand jury in the case on which he was ultimately convicted.
In the key charge, Siegelman was accused of appointing former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy to an influential hospital regulatory board in exchange for Scrushy arranging $500,000 in contributions to Siegelman's campaign for a state lottery.
Siegelman, who has long alleged that his prosecution was politically motivated, recently began serving a sentence of more than seven years as he appeals the conviction.
Jones declined to discuss the case Monday.
Republican attorney Jill Simpson of Rainsville, who has claimed she heard evidence of White House involvement in the Siegelman case, gave a sworn deposition to the committee last month and is not scheduled to testify Tuesday.
The Justice Department has said the case was handled by career government lawyers. Emphasizing that Siegelman was convicted by a jury, they have said politics played no role.
Tuesday's hearing is being held jointly by the Judiciary subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, and the subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law.
The panel also is reviewing the disputed prosecutions of Wisconsin state procurement official Georgia Thompson and Cyril Wecht, a Pennsylvania coroner.
Thompson was convicted on charges that she steered a contract to a company with ties to Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle. Her conviction was vacated by a federal appeals court in April for a lack of evidence. House investigators recently released an internal Justice Department e-mail in which a top official questioned, "How in the heck did this case get brought?"
Wecht, the former Allegheny County coroner who has also consulted on celebrity death autopsies, resigned in early 2006 after being indicted on charges of theft, mail fraud and wire fraud. A Democrat, he has argued that his case has political origins. His trial has not yet begun.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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