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tv   [untitled]  CSPAN  June 27, 2009 4:00pm-4:30pm EDT

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charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. it was out of this milieu that led me to law school, and my first legal career as a civil rights lawyer, often defending victims in unwarranted prosecutions. so i came to the federal bench in 1980, fully aware of and reflective of my background. i believe, with every fiber in my body that, when the awesome power of the greatest nation on god's green earth is, by god's green earth is, by indictment, brought bear against an individual citizen or group of citizens there ought to be ample grounds for their
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prosecution. now i'm pleased to say that, in most of the criminal cases where i sat as a trial judge, the government satisfied me that such grounds existed. i came to respect the government for its professional prosecutions, the way the assistant united states attorney handled their cases, until the beginning of this new century. up to that time whether the united states attorney was a republican or a democrat, whether the evidence was strong or weak, and if it fell into the latter category, it didn't get to the jury. the united states attorney
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almost allways had at least some evidence to support the charges in the indictment. the case that i'm here to talk about this morning, united states versus philip kelly "bobo" don eugene siegelman and paul michael henry, is a glaring exception to the general rule. that case was handed down by a grand jury in may of 2004. by which time a fairly new united states attorney was in her third year. the case just didn't, just didn't spring up. like a phoenix rising from the ashes, it had an earlier
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existence. two years earlier, the united states attorney had prosecuted and convicted tuscaloosa dr. philip vogel, medicaid fraud. he was a friend of governor siegelman, who, in the same year, 2002, had been narrowly defeated in his re-election bid. by 2004, ex-governor siegelman was leading in the polls for the next gubernatorial race, and that's for both potential democratic and republican candidates. dr. vogel had a number of contracts with medicaid to
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provide medical care in the western area of alabama's -- it was alleged he had violated the state's competitive bid laws and committed other acts of fraud in connection with those contracts. he was tried, convicted. the case went to the 11th circuit court of appeals, and the circuit reversed the convictions. remarkable in itself, because the 11th circuit is no bastian of liberality. the circuit found that the indictment was defective, that the competitive bid law was not applicable, because contracts for professional services are exempted from that law, and more importantly, the circuit
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seriously questioned whether the evidence presented was sufficient to support convictions. now, one would have thought that the 11th circuit's decision would have ended the case. one would have had another thought coming. dr. bobo was reindicted, and according to the assistant united states attorney in charge of the case, the only difference between the substantive counts of the first and second indictments was that mr. siegelman and his legislative aide, paul henry, had been egged in a conspiracy count. and in that second case, the
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united states attorney embarked on a spree of shopping for a republican judge. that spree had actually started a few months before the bobo/siegelman case, when the united states attorney asked a clinton-appointed judge johnson to disqualify herself, first time in the history of the northern district of alabama, that the united states ever questioned the recusal of a judge in a criminal case. judge johnson indulged the united states attorney and removed herself not only from that case, but all other government cases until a decent "cooling off period is passed," she said. she wrote that the government and its agencies that are represented by the united states attorney shouldn't be forced to try cases before a judge who has
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been slandered by the united states attorney. that left two active judges appointed by democratic presidents in the criminal draw for the northern district. the case was initially assigned to a senior bush appointed judge. well, actually, junior bush appointed judge, who promptly recused herself without opinion. then the case was randomly assigned to clinton-appointed judge linwood smith. the united states attorney in a sybiotic relationship with "the birmingham news" insisted that
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judge smith disqualified himself based on the fact that his second cousinmbiotic relationshe birmingham news" insisted that judge smith disqualified himself based on the fact that his second cousin was a republican governor, bob riley, who had defeated mr. siegelman who two-years earlier. mr. siegelman, the one who would have been expected to make the outcry, had no problem with the judge sitting, but in view of the supprepress reports and the conference with the united states attorney, judge smith found in reason to disqualify himself, but he did so in his words, to promote confidence in the institutional integrity of the judicial branch. the shopping spree continued, with the case next being
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assigned to a junior bush appointed judge from tuscaloosa. the government was rather satisfied with that bargain, and it declined mr. siegelman's invitation to join in the disqualification motion. apparently dr. bobo was comfortable with the assignment, and for good reason. he was a doctor for the children. he had heavily contributed to the judge's campaign for circuit judge. several of the anticipated witnesses in the case were known by the judge and had made political contributions to him. and so when the judge did not voluntarily disqualify himself, mr. siegelman filed a
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disqualification motion, which was quite appropriately granted. the fickle finger of fate of the court's random selection system then fell on me, and apparently, unmindful of my background as one who faced as a college student, bear bryant as a civil rights lawyer, george wallace as a state senator, "birmingham news" embarked on a series of articles, editorials and op-eds on why i should disof why myself
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from the case. mr. siegelman and i were old political cronies from my days in the senate, said the news. my daughter's law firm was hired by then governor siegelman to represent him in the case that was filed at least eight years before he became governor, a job discrimination case against the state. i was prejudiced against the government because my sister had been prosecuted in the central district of california on some fraud charges. ten years earlier. i found the characterization of the government of my relationship with mr. siegelman rather interesting because when i was in the then all democratic alabama state senate, mr. siegelman was in one section of the democratic party, i was in another. in fact, his faction was the one
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that supported another lawyer for the judgeship that i ultimately got. within my first three months on the bench, i had enjoined him from failing to include the whig party candidate on the statewide ballot. in the mid '90s, he calls several press conferences and raked me over the coals after i enjoined him under title vii from enforcing a state law which barred consideration of anyone who had ever been the victim of a crime from a law enforcement position. so publicly, our relationship was less than a mutual admiration society, and privately, we didn't know each
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other. [ laughter ] in the, in response to that media campaign, i took judicial notice that my daughter was only an associate at the law firm at one time, never was a partner, and wasn't even there when the governor was indicted, the ex-governor was indicted, and that in any event, it was the attorney general, bill frey, who had hired the former law firm, not don siegelman. pointed out that since their graduation from yale and columbia law school, she's on her own, more or less. i pointed out that i tried numerous criminal and civil cases since my sister's
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conviction without objection from the government, and so i proceeded on in the case. i denied dr. bobo's motion for double jeopardy, i mean motion to dismiss based on double jeopardy grounds, and the government then filed a motion to disqualify mr. siegelman's lawyers. and i granted the motion. no theless, the united states attorney, with the wreckless impermada of the highest levels of the justice department filed a motion asking me to disqualify myself. of course dinid the motion and the justice department rushed to
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the 11th circuit to have me removed from the case, but the panel of two democratic appointees and one republican denied the requested mandamus petition. in the meantime the united states attorneys office rather blatantly attempted to poison the jury pool. on a friday afternoon, mr. siegelman filed a motion requesting the sealing of any other bad acts evidenced under rule 404-b that the government was expected to offer at trial. on monday morning, with the very purpose of preventing the court from ruling on the motion, the government currently files
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highly prejudicial material, some of which was used in the subsequent trial in the miller district, and it filed these materials as a matter of public record. and so the "birmingham news" and other media had a field day, many of the jurors who were ultimately summoned at the trial had been exposed to those obviously inadmissible accusations. now, of course, i did my duty and sanctioned the united states attorneys who filed those motion s. the principle culprit was later promoted to head up promoted to head up the public corruption section of the united states attorneys office in the northern district. we then proceeded to select a
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jury, truly representing a fair cross section of the community which i had to sequester. most unusual. one of the few times that we've had a sequestered jury in the northern district of alabama, precisely to avoid additional inflammatory publicity during the trial. well, in our system of laws where there are -- where there is a conspiracy charge, you know conspiracy is one of the favorite mechanisms of prosecutors, because once you show the existence of a conspiracy, all kinds of hearsay evidence can come into play. and so the law says that the judge has to have a hearing to determine whether there is the
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requisite predicate for a conspiracy charge. now, most judges allow the evidence to end and they say before the case goes to the jury, they will make the requisite determination. well, i decided i would have the hearing before the case started. and the government put on three or four witnesses, each of which testified in effect that there was no conspiracy. one of the principal witnesses against mr. siegelman in the subsequent trial in montgomery in the miller district was questioned by me. and he said emphatically that to his knowledge there was no
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conspiracy of which don siegelman was a knowing member. now, i followed the law and held that the government had failed to prove the first elm of a conspiracy charge, namely the existence of the conspiracy. and although unnecessary to reach the second element, it like wise failed to prove that mr. siegelman knowingly became a member of any conspiracy. so i announced my decision and to my utter amazement in view of the remaining substantive charges against mr. siegelman and mr. henry, the government moved to dismiss the case in its
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entirety. and i granted the motion and dismissed it with prejudice. pare parenthetically, dr. bobos case had been severed because he wanted to appeal my failure to dismiss the charges against him on double jeopardy grounds and i didn't want to unduly delay the trial of the case. 11th circuit upheld my decision against him and there was a subsequent appeal by the government of my exclusion of evidence based on an alleged violation of the competitived y by -- bid law, but despite the fact that i was right, i should be removed from the trial of the
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bobo case. so dr. bobo went to trial before another judge and the jury found him not guilty on all charges. and i rather expected mr. siegelman to file a motion under the hyde amendment for attorneys fees. but he still had, i guess, political ambitions and so the motion wasn't filed. there were rumors at the time the case was dismissed that mr. siegelman would be pursued in the miller district. well, this past sunday, the "birmingham news" ran an article on the then united states attorneys stepping down from her position. she was reported as having said
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that she wanted to win the case in the northern district, but losing it didn't cause too much heart ache because she knew that another fellow indictment out of alabama's middle district was waiting. on mr. siegel. she's quoted, i trusted that the mill district would have a more balanced venue on their indictment, which i knew was under seal. she was either cloir voi yant or had some inside information because the indictment in the mill district didn't come down for another seven months. but one thing was clear to me
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from her comment, and that is that she and the other prosecutors were focused on the man and not on the crime. as i said in my recent letter to attorney general holder, the case turned out to be the most up founded criminal case over which i presided in my entire judicial career. completely without legal merit. and i urged the general and the judiciary committee to look into the matter. i'll take up any questions that you have, since i'm now exercising first amendment rights. yes, i have. i heard from the attorney general last week and he
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indicated the matter would be investigated. thank you all. oh. [ applause ] >> well, thank you, judge. i'll just say parenthetically, it's necessarily the case that discussions of the law have technicalities. but these technicalities are essential for the purpose of having rules in very complicated situations. so if any of you have been in court, you're getting a very short version of centuries of law here, and the purpose is to have a fair trial.
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and thank you so much. well, moving right along, our next speaker, we're going to put the focus a little bit more on what are things from the defendant's point of view. just to take maybe a couple of seconds, cluj clemens mentioned aides to former governor siegelman caught up in this. and ultimately, all charges even after the second trial were dismissed against those aides who were just caught up in the net. and when you think about the obligation to respond to a response that's 100 pages and a ruinous effort on a family who does not have the income on this, it's very important to think of what the consequences are when people are indicted and
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found either innocent or guilty. and our next speaker is charles "champ" walker. former congressional candidate in georgia. he's also the son of charge w. walker sr. who i mentioned at the beginning was a state senator from georgia, actually the first african-american state senator majority leader in the united states history. and as you'll hear a little bit more, he's currently serving a ten-year sentence in georgia on corruption charges. and champ, who is a businessman involved in technology. he was independent of this just last week, speaking at the white house and his businesses and as a leader in his own right. but he's going to talk to you about his father's case, give
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some sense of what that's like, and also some wider thoughts about what it means for perhaps hundreds of others around the country. so champ, look forward to hearing what you have to say. >> good morning. first of all, i would just like to thank god for allowing me to be here today and to see all of these faces and all of the experts who have used their time to come far and near to just convene and give their thoughts about this grave miscarriage of justice within these united states. i would especially like to thank jill simpson, the whistleblower in alabama. i sent out an e-mail some year and a half ago asking people to call the department of justice
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and to call chairman conyers, head of the judiciary committee about my father's case so we could be a part of the selective prosecutor hearings. within a day -- well, actually within two hours of sending out an e-blast, i received an e-mail from joe simpson saying this is a tragedy. she made some referrals to a coup of people and the next thing you know three or four days later, i was purchasing a ticket to come up to d.c. to be a part of this selective hearings. as a result, my father's case was included in the letter to the department of justice to be investigated. i must tell you, though, the selective prosecution of democrats is just as indefensible as racial bias. judge clemon can very well tell you that there were marches and you all know that people were killed for civil rights.
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these are our leaders. they make laws. they chose the life of servanthood. how can the average american in these united states expect to get a fair trial when the leaders cannot get a fair trial? how ridiculous is it that we have evidence of bias of u.s. attorneys, judges, where you can prove, where you can point to documents out of their own mouths that they had a personal bias. i will talk today about what we need to do as concerned citizens about restoring justice at the department of justice. but it's also a rallying call to every citizen out there to understand how important this particular issue is. this has been a war against


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