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Siegelman Has His Day In Court

Susan Britt

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By Susan Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—Former Gov. Don Siegelman was returned to Montgomery on Saturday to attend a bond hearing on Monday before Presiding Judge Clay Land, of Georgia’s Eleventh Circuit Court.

Siegelman asked that the court release him from federal custody pending an appeals hearing on January 15, 2015. He was represented before the court by Greg Craig, a Washington-based lawyer and former White House Counsel under President Barack Obama.

Siegelman entered the courtroom in a dark, red jumpsuit, his hands, feet and waist in silver-shaded shackles. After being uneasily seated, he turned around and was greeted with quiet waves and thumbs ups from those who had come to offer support.

The defense promptly asked that the shackles be removed allowing Siegelman to participate in his own defense, that motion was quickly objected to by the government’s lawyers, saying he didn’t even have a right to be at the proceedings. Following what the government said was standard procedure, the shackles remained.

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The simple question before the court was, should the former governor be granted bail. However, Judge Land also wanted to weigh the likelihood of the appeals court actually conceding to a new trial for Siegelman. His appeal before the Eleventh Circuit is based on prosecutorial misconduct on the part of Leura Canary—who was US Attorney during the Siegelman trial— and also whether Siegelman’s sentencing was appropriately calculated. Siegelman contends that Canary inappropriately continued to direct portions of his original prosecution even after her recusal.

Judge Land asked to question the attorneys before they presented their cases. He first called for John-Alex Romano, a trial attorney for the Justice Department’s criminal division. Land asked Romano if he interpreted the law in a way that financial conflict of interest did not meet the requirements for structural error.

According to Al Haramain Islamic Found., Inc. v. United States Dep’t of the Treasury, 2009, “A structural error is defined as ‘an error that permeate[s] the entire conduct of the trial from beginning to end or affect[s] the framework within which the trial proceeds.’” Structural error results in automatic reversal. Romano maintained that there were at this time no laws that showed financial conflict of interest or could be defined as structural error.

Judge Land asked Romano if a prosecutor accepted “$10,000 to obtain a 3rd party prosecution” did he not see that as a financial conflict of interest. Romano maintained that would not be considered as structural error and that Leura Canary had minimal involvement after she recused herself from the Siegelman case.

Leura Canary recused herself on advice of the Department of Justice after her husband, Billy Canary, was hired as a political strategist for a Siegelman opponent.

Romano argued that since the court did not find conflict of interest regarding Canary in the Scrushy trial, it should not apply in this case.

The prosecution maintained that emails sent by Canary to trial team after recusal had no bearing on their decisions.

The prosecution argued that the Court of Appeals decision re: conflict of interest in the Scrushy case was not a financial conflict and denied reversal.

Craig argued for the defense that the evidence regarding Canary in the Scrushy trial was vastly different than the evidence in the Siegelman trial. He said that the appellate court only focused on the evidence pertaining to Scrushy and not to Siegelman.

Craig cited additional evidence not present in the Scrushy case to include an email from Canary to the trial team suggesting a gag order be invoked to keep Siegelman from addressing the case in the campaign stating that he was “influencing the public.” He said that in a letter to US Attorney General Eric Holder, whistleblowers also contented that Canary was briefed daily on progress and assisted in writing the press releases regarding it. Craig said he believed that this evidence “should prompt further discovery.”

Craig said that Canary did not follow federal guidelines for recusal and that she continued to be involved with the case afterward. He stated that items the defense would like to add to discovery are the emails to the prosecution trial team, letters to Department of Justice, and interview with Canary and other parties as well as a letter to the Department of Justice asking for emergency funding of $91,000 to “put this case as a priority of the office.” Craig contends that Canary, in these actions, “violated her pledge to recuse.”

Siegelman is currently serving a sentence of 51 to 63 months. Craig has proposed a “good time” credit reduction to 85 percent. This would reduce the sentence to 43.35 to 53.55 month sentencing guideline range.

As of the date of the appeal, Siegelman will have served 37 months and 6 days. Judge Land surmised, given that the court date is next month, even if Craig’s suggested reduction in sentence is approved, Siegelman would not have reached his minimum sentence. He also said that should it take the appeals court 16 months to reach a verdict, Siegelman would just be reaching his maximum sentence. Since the bond hearing was based upon the contention that if this process continued there would be jeopardy that he could serve more than his recommended sentence, he didn’t see how that was possible. Craig contended that should there be any delays, it was possible.

Craig said that the defense wants the appeals court to decide on only two questions: Was there prosecutorial misconduct? Were the guidelines misapplied?

Judge Land said he will issue his verdict in writing hopefully by the end of the week. Siegelman will remain in Montgomery until the ruling, according to Susan James of the defense team.

After the hearing, Chip Hill, Siegelman family spokesperson and longtime aide, said “We believe the judge heard it, asked the proper questions. We think Greg Craig made good arguments. The government didn’t do a very good job of answering what constituted structural error. From what Mr. Romano said in there, there is no such thing as a conflict of interests.”

“There are more emails than are in the record. When emails were looked at in detail, and I don’t want to characterize this legally, from just a layman’s standpoint, the emails I believe, if given any public airing, will show that this was not Leura Canary managing the administrative duties of this office. This was Leura Canary seeking resources to pursue the case against Don Siegelman after she was supposedly recused,” said Hill.

When asked how the Siegelman team felt about the overall outcome, Hill said, “We have long ago adjusted to the fact that even the best outcome for us is not a perfect outcome so it is going to be bittersweet no matter how this ends.”

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Elections

Opinion | Collier’s allegations are not about Ivey’s health — they’re about retaliation

Josh Moon

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It’s not the (alleged) stroke, it’s the coverup.

That was the message from Walt Maddox and his campaign on Thursday, as they took shots at Gov. Kay Ivey for allegedly directing her security detail to cover up a health scare in 2015. She’s also alleged to have demoted a state trooper from her security team after he refused to conceal from his superiors a trip to the hospital Ivey was forced to take while attending a conference in Colorado.

And the story could use a little refocusing.

After APR’s Bill Britt wrote a story Monday that quoted former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency head Spencer Collier confirming the hospital trip for “stroke-like symptoms” and providing details of his conversations with Ivey about demoting the trooper, the story from state media outlets veered off course.

Instead of the focus landing on Ivey’s mistreatment of a law enforcement officer who was simply doing his job correctly, it became all about her health.

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Was she sick? Did she have a stroke? How’s her health these days?

Those are all fair questions.

They’re just not THE question that should have come from Collier’s revelations.

Because if Ivey did what Collier alleges, she possibly broke the law. And maybe, more importantly, she took money out of the pocket of a trooper who was trying to support a family simply because he refused to conceal her trip to the hospital.

That sort of behavior … well, we’ve seen that before in this state.

Mike Hubbard and Robert Bentley both went after law enforcement when they were initially caught in lies and illegalities.

Hubbard tried to defund the entire Alabama Attorney General’s Office and squeeze the prosecutors on his trail. He later launched public attacks against the lead prosecutor, Matt Hart, in a failed attempt to get out from under his misdeeds.

Bentley asked Collier, who was then head of ALEA, to lie to AG’s office investigators. And when Collier, after being terminated by Bentley for refusing to lie, told the world of the then-governor’s affair, Bentley set out to ruin the man.

Both Bentley and Hubbard wound up in jail for brief periods. And Alabamians wound up with more black eyes from the nation’s most corrupt state government.

That’s why this deal with the trooper matters so much.

Because it speaks to the character of Kay Ivey.

I mean, would she really demote this poor guy — the same trooper who sat by her hospital bed for three days — force him to uproot his family and go from the Montgomery area to Houston County, cut his pay and stifle his career because he followed trooper regulations instead of her improper/illegal directives?

Would she?

Because I think that’s something we should know.

Ivey, in response to Maddox’s comments on Thursday, told reporters that they should “check” the facts on the trooper, Drew Brooks.

I’ve done that.

I have copies from his personnel file showing where he lost pay and was sent from the governor’s security detail — a sought-after position — to giving out drivers licenses in Dothan — a very much not-sought-after position.



If Ivey has records indicating these things didn’t happen, I’d love to see them. And I’d also love to see records of her trip to Colorado in 2015.

Because right now, this is looking like a very familiar road.

A candidate who won’t debate. A politician who plays a little loose with the rules and law. A career politician who would do anything to stay in the game. A desperate politician who will stoop to any level to conceal their flaws and errors.

It all rings a bell, doesn’t it?

Mike Hubbard.

Robert Bentley.

Kay Ivey?

 

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Elections

Ivey campaign calls Maddox a lying liberal

Brandon Moseley

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The Kay Ivey campaign pounced after Walt Maddox contradicted himself and Spencer Collier at his news conference in Tuscaloosa.

Spencer Collier is a former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) head appointed by then Governor Robert Bentley (R). Collier thrust himself into the 2018 gubernatorial race by claiming that Ivey lied about an illness over three years ago back when she was Lieutenant Governor and then retaliated against a state trooper assigned to her security detail that allegedly was a source for an Alabama Political Reporter story about the hospital stay.

On Tuesday, Collier told Al.com “he has not been contacted by the campaign of Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox.”

On Wednesday, Maddox told the Associated Press that he was “shocked to learn” about the Collier allegations.

At his press conference on Thursday, Maddox told Al.com reporter that he had actually had a meeting with Spencer Collier several weeks back. Maddox admitted, “Spencer contacted me a few weeks ago and wanted to meet… He told me what he was going to do.”

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This embarrassing episode came on the heels of a Yellowhammer News report that Maddox’s struggling campaign has been bankrolled by far-left billionaire George Soros.

Maddox is running ads claiming that he will never lie.

The Ivey campaign wasted no time in taking advantage of Maddox’s gaffes.

“Apparently Walt Maddox isn’t just a liberal. He’s a lying liberal,” Ivey campaign spokesperson Debbee Hancock wrote in a statement. “The people of Alabama will see this for what it is – a desperate false attack from a shameless politician who will say or do anything to get elected.”

Hancock reiterated that the Governor and her doctor “have repeatedly disputed these lies and provided detailed accounts to back it up. As it relates to the officer, that’s another Maddox whopper. News outlets reported last year that the officer actually received a promotion and raise in late 2015.”

“Walt Maddox is pushing these last second lies because his half baked liberal ideas have him losing in a landslide,” Hancock stated. “With less than three weeks to go, not even $200,000 from George Soros can save him.”

Ivey took more than $100,000 from same Soros-backed PACs as Maddox

Collier was fired as head of ALEA by Bentley after a power struggle with alleged Bentley mistress Rebekah Caldwell Mason. Collier has been suing Bentley ever since. Collier became disenchanted with Ivey; because she has authorized using state funds to pay Bentley’s legal defense to fight Collier’s efforts to get a cash settlement from ex-Gov. Bentley. Collier is presently working as the police chief of Selma.

Walter “Walt” Maddox (D) is the Mayor of Tuscaloosa. He has never run a statewide campaign before and is struggling to find any issue that can cut into Ivey’s enormous 20 point lead in the polls. Maddox has run ads claiming that he is pro-life and pro-gun; but has conflicting statements on those positions. He has said that the Second Amendment has to be limited like the First Amendment. How that would work and what that means for gun owners is unclear. He has also said that he is pro-life; but opposes the pro-life Amendment Two, which is also on the general election ballot.

There are only eighteen days until the general election.

(Original reporting by the Yellowhammer News’ Sean Ross and the Alabama Media Group contributed to this report.)

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Elections

Zeigler: Change from Bentley to Ivey “removed a dark cloud over Montgomery”

Brandon Moseley

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State Auditor Jim Zeigler (R) told the Republican Women of Coffee County the resignation of former Gov. Robert Bentley “removed a dark cloud over Montgomery.”

Zeigler said he could see a real difference when Ivey took over in April 2017 after, “Bentley’s forced resignation.”

“During the two years I served with Gov. Bentley, I was never allowed inside the governor’s offices,” Zeigler said. “Once Kay Ivey took over, I was inside the governor’s offices six times in just the first two months, working with her staff on issues.”

Zeigler clashed frequently with the Bentley Administration even before his term began. Ultimately, Zeigler filed the first ethics complaint against Gov. Robert Bentley in March 2016. 13 months later the Alabama Ethics Commission found probable cause that Bentley was in-deed likely guilty of violation multiple counts of Alabama ethics and campaign finance law. Five days later, the House Judiciary Committee began historic impeachment hearings. On that same day, April 10, 2017, Bentley resigned and Ivey became governor.

As Governor Ivey has focused on: growing the economy. Unemployment has reached record lows and businesses are moving manufacturing to Alabama. The legislature has passed the second largest education budget in history. Kay has focused on increasing computer science classes, pre-K expansion, workforce development, and building new prisons.
Ivey is seeking a second term as governor in the November 6 general election. She faces Tuscaloosa Mayor Walter “Walt” Madox (D).

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While Zeigler had been a consistent critic of Bentley. Zeigler has not filed litigation against the Ivey administration but has been active on other issues, such as diversion of food funds by the outgoing Etowah County Sheriff.

While Ivey has led Maddox in every polls by large margins, Zeigler told the Republican group that some GOP voters “may be too confident. They think we Republicans have it made, so they don’t need to get involved and don’t need to vote. That is the quickest way to lose an election.”

Zeigler is seeking re-election in the Nov. 6 general election. He is opposed by Democratic nominee Miranda Karrine Joseph. This is the third time that Joseph has run for Auditor.

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St. Clair GOP urged to vote yes on Alabama Amendment Two

Brandon Moseley

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Rick Renshaw with the Alliance for a Pro-Life Alabama addressed the St. Clair County Republican Party at a meeting in Moody Thursday. Renshaw urged the gathered Republicans to vote Yes on Amendment two.

Amendment Two is a pro-life amendment that would clarify that nothing in the Alabama Constitution could be interpreted as guaranteeing a right to an abortion.

Renshaw said that the opposition is, “Sitting on $900,000. We have about a $1000. When I say they are going to outspend us a million to one, I mean that literally.”

We are not going to be able to run TV or radio advertising, Renshaw said. The opposition group is calling itself: “Alabama for Healthy Families. Can you be any more deceptive?”

We recently announced three co-chairs for our group, the Alliance for a Pro-Life Alabama: PSC President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh, Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan, and Mary Sue McClurkin. She shepherded a lot of legislation through the House during her four terms.

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We have a statement from the Attorney General supporting Amendment Two, Renshaw said. Any state candidate is welcome to submit a statement supporting Amendment Two.

AG Steve Marshall (R) has been supportive of the pro-life cause.

“When the Democrats controlled the legislature, we were kind of conditioned to vote no on Amendments,” Renshaw said. We need to get over that. Renshaw said that he was good with all four of the statewide Amendments; but particularly Amendment Two.

Renshaw warned that Planned Parenthood and the Amendment Two opposition would use scare tactics and misinformation to defeat Amendment Two.

“They are trying to scare people about the nature of the Amendment.” Renshaw said.

Renshaw told the Alabama Political Reporter that Planned Parenthood PACs in other state are transferring funds to the Alabama for Healthy Families PAC in violation of Alabama’s PAC to PAC transfer ban law.

“Thank you for letting me come up here and speak,” Renshaw told the St. Clair County Republicans.

The Chairman of the St. Clair County Republican Party is Lance Bell.

Chairman Bell said that Sheriff elect Billy Murray (R) did not run for another term as a member of the state Republican Executive Committee because he did not want to appear on the ballot twice. Emory Cox ran for that seat; but he got a job in the White House so had to resign.

The St. Clair County Executive Committee then accepted nominations for the vacancy. Judge Phil Seay (R), a former St. Clair Republican Party Chairman, was selected unanimously to fill that vacancy on the State Republican Executive Committee.

“Thank you very much I really appreciate it,” Judge Seay said.

The Treasurer reported that the St. Clair County Republican Party had over $45,000 in their main checking account. The bass tournament and scholarships accounts are separate from that main account.

Judge Seay made a motion that $10,000 of that be used to pay campaign debts for Judge-elect Bill Cole (R), Judge-elect Richard Minor (R), support the campaign of State Senator Jim McClendon (R), and state house candidate Craig Lipscomb (R). The St. Clair County Repubican Steering Committee would be able to spend up to $10,000 at their discretion.

The motion passed unanimously.

Chairman Bell announced that the Party will have officer elections in February.

St. Clair County School Board Member Bill Morris (R) is heading the St. Clair County for Kay Ivey Campaign.

Morris said that the governor needed donations to her campaign and volunteers to work the polls on election day.

Chairman Bell said that Kay Ivey was leading her Democratic opponent by 20 percentage points in the latest polling but that the biggest concern is that Republicans get complacent and not show up on election day. “Make sure you go vote and bring your friends and family too.”

Judge Robert Minor (R) thanked the party members who contributed to the local charity, Lighten the Load which raises money so that children in the foster care system can have hard sided luggage so that when they have to move to a new location they have something to put their stuff in. “Most of them have to put their stuff in garbage bags,” Judge Robert Minor said. “We raised $6500.”

On November 20, St Clair County will be 200 years old. There will be birthday parties with cake at both the Ashville and Pell City court houses.

The general election will be November 6.

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Siegelman Has His Day In Court

by Susan Britt Read Time: 6 min
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