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Riley's son denies GOP attorney's claims

By Bob Johnson
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — Rob Riley and two other lawyers involved in his father's successful 2002 run for governor have given sworn statements disputing claims of Jill Simpson that Republican politics appeared to be behind the prosecution of former Democratic Gov. Don Siegelman.

Their affidavits, posted Tuesday by the House Judiciary Committee on its Web site, challenge the accuracy of the sworn testimony of Simpson, a Rainsville lawyer who was a volunteer in Bob Riley's campaign.

Simpson's testimony

The statements of Rob Riley, Terry Butts and Matthew Lembke take issue with Simpson's claims concerning a conference phone call on Nov. 18, 2002.

Simpson has given sworn testimony that Riley told her Butts persuaded Siegelman to drop his challenge to the vote count because of allegations of dirty campaign tricks in North Alabama involving Democrats placing Riley campaign signs at the site of a Ku Klux Klan rally. Simpson said Rob Riley also told her Siegelman was promised by Butts that the federal investigation of his administration would go away if he dropped his election challenge.

"I would have no authority to prevent, stop, or end any federal or state prosecution of anyone," Butts said in his affidavit.

Lembke and Butts both said in their affidavits that they worked on Nov. 18 at Rob Riley's Birmingham law office and that no such conference call occurred.

"The notion that Governor Siegelman would have conceded the governorship because a photo existed of a Democratic operative planting Riley signs at Ku Klux Klan rally ... after the election strikes me as absurd," Lembke said in his affidavit.

He said he was never away from Rob Riley for 11 minutes and that they were in the office expecting a call from Siegelman to Bob Riley conceding the race. The concession call came late in the afternoon of Nov. 18, Lembke said, and the room erupted in jubilation.

No memory of call

Rob Riley said he had no memory of being on the phone with Simpson on that date and questioned whether the call ever occurred.

U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, a Birmingham Democrat who wants Congress to investigate the Siegelman prosecution more aggressively, said Tuesday Simpson has turned over phone records that show she called Riley's law office on the date in question and had a phone conversation lasting 11 minutes.

Even though the records don't show who was on the call or what was discussed, the evidence supports her version of events, Davis said.

"Pull the phone records: Jill Simpson called Rob Riley's office on Nov. 18," he said.

Davis also criticized Republicans for releasing the affidavits on the morning of a Washington hearing on the case, months after Simpson gave her affidavit.

"It's interesting that people apparently took five months to decide what to put in their affidavits," he said.

Simpson has said that in the Nov. 18, 2002 conference call Republican operative Billy Canary promised "his girls" would take care of Siegelman and that "Karl" had promised the Justice Department would pursue the investigation. Canary was allegedly referring to his wife, U.S. Attorney Leura Canary in Montgomery, and Birmingham U.S. Attorney Alice Martin, and then White House aide Karl Rove.

Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy were convicted last year in Montgomery of bribery and other charges in a federal government corruption case. Leura Canary recused herself from the case in May 2002 after lawyers for Siegelman demanded she be removed because of her husband's GOP connections.

Alice Martin's office unsuccessfully prosecuted Siegelman in a Medicaid fraud case in Tuscaloosa and Scrushy in a HealthSouth accounting fraud case in Birmingham.

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

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