Last week Danny floated that possibility that Bobby Bright will be appointed US Attorney. Although his only obvious qualifications are political ones, don't discount this as simply speculation. In Alabama, US Attorney has very often been a political position and Bright is a serious possibility.
This has to be the best excuse ever, from former Director of Bush's Office of Special Council Scott Bloch, as he prepares to plead guilty to criminal contempt of Congress, emphasis mine.
"On or about December 6, 2007, in the District of Columbia and elsewhere, the United States House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform ("House Oversight Committee"), requested that defendant Bloch provide a transcribed interview regarding his reported use of the private computer repair company Geeks On Call to delete files on OSC-issued computers in or about December of 2006 using a process known as a 'seven level wipe,'" ...
Bloch told Congressional investigators he had no intention of destroying governmental information from the computers. Rather, he told The Wall Street Journal in an interview three years ago that he called private computer technicians to his office on December 18 and December 21, 2006 because he was trying to "eradicate a virus that had seized control of his computer."
A receipt reviewed by the Journal said "the total charge was $1,149," which Bloch paid for using his government credit card. But the receipt didn't mention a computer virus.
A "seven level wipe" for a virus. Wow! I'll be the dog ate Scott Bloch's homework in 3rd grade, too.
Have you heard the Obama administration might appoint a (gasp) Republican as the next U.S. Attorney in the Middle District of Alabama? Let me set your mind at rest. No matter what you may have heard, Tamarra Matthews Johnson is not a "rabid, right-wing Republican." She's not any sort of Republican at all. In fact, Ms. Johnson is definitely a Democrat -- no matter what a single, unnamed source alleges.
Let me back up a step or two. New U.S. Attorneys have already been nominated and confirmed in the Northern (Joyce Vance) and Southern (Kenyen Brown) districts of Alabama, but Bush nominee Leura Canary is still in place in the Middle District. Several names have been floated for that job but so far there has been no actual nomination from the White House, apparently because of political maneuvering on the part of Senators Sessions and Shelby -- these appointments are subject to Senate confirmation, after all. The three names most often mentioned as potential nominees are George Beck and Joe Van Heest, both defense attorneys, and Tamarra Matthews Johnson, an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of Alabama.
Personally, I don't think partisan politics has much place in the Department of Justice -- didn't we have enough of that in the Bush years? -- but the partisan leanings of U.S. Attorneys do seem to matter to some folks. For the last week rumors have been swirling around the state that Ms. Johnson is not only a Republican, but a "rabid, right-wing Republican." These rumors have been picked up and repeated around the blogosphere and even by a print journalist. From the outset it seemed incredible the Obama Administration would consider a foaming-at-the-mouth Republican to replace the U.S. Attorney most identified with political prosecution -- Canary was behind the successful prosecution of former Governor Don Siegelman and the folks at DoJ would have to be living on another planet not to realize that -- so I was prompted to do a little digging. Here's the scoop:
Tamarra Matthews Johnson is a prosecutor.
She has participated in a number of cases against Democrats while working for the DoJ.
Ms. Johnson is NOT A REPUBLICAN, diseased or otherwise.
I can't say how disappointed I am that the bloggers and journalist involved in propagating this rumor didn't perform due diligence and check that last point out before they ran with this story. This is the way vicious, despicable, damaging to real-life human beings, RUMORS propogate, not the way responsible journalism is supposed to work.
Exactly how can I be sure Tamarra Matthews Johnson, contender for the U.S. Attorney's job in the Middle District of Alabama -- is a Democrat? Let me just count the ways ...
First, her political contributions have all been to Democrats. These are public record and ought to be the first stop for anyone trying to ascertain someone's political leanings. From OpenSecrets here's the entry for Tamarra Matthews (that's how her contributions are listed, according to her husband):
MATTHEWS, TAMARRA BIRMINGHAM,AL 35242
Clinton, Hillary (D)
MATTHEWS, TAMARRA BIRMINGHAM,AL 35242
Obama, Barack (D)
MATTHEWS, TAMARRA BIRMINGHAM,AL 35242
Obama, Barack (D)
Don't confuse her with Tamara Harris Johnson, also a Birmingham attorney. The Tamarra Johnson we're interested in contributed to Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Barack Obama. They're allDemocrats! There's no real need to go beyond this -- Ms. Johnson hasn't given any money to Republicans, but she has given to Democrats -- that's the best indication going when it comes to political leanings.Putting your money where your mouth is, you know?
But let's look a bit further, just to be thorough.
Joyce White Vance has already been confirmed as the new U.S. Attorney for Alabama's Northern District and Kenyan Brown's nomination for the Southern District is on it's way to the full Senate for a vote, but there's still no nominee for the Middle District, a post currently held by Leura Canary. What's up with the delay? Danny offered a good explanation at the Political Parlor last week.
He points out that Rep. Artur Davis's advisory committee on appointments initially put forth the names of Michel Nicrosi and Joe Van Heest for this slot. Sen. Jeff Sessions voiced some sort of objection to Nicrosi and Sen. Richard Shelby is opposing Van Heest's nomination. Since these appointments must be confirmed by the Senate, even one Senator can block them -- that isn't the president's fault, it's a fact of life under Senate rules -- so the appointment is languishing.
Our source familiar with the process believes that there is a very good chance that the matter will be resolved in a matter of weeks in one of three ways in this order of likelihood: 1) Shelby will release the hold on Van Heest, 2) George Beck will be nominated, or 3) the Obama Justice Deparment will send in a career person from outside the state, similar to what George W. Bush’s Justice Department did when it sent Deborah Rhodes to the Southern District of Alabama.
A deal to keep Bush appointee Leura Canary? That’s not what we hear.
Of course, not everyone agrees this delay isn't some kind of secret deal to keep Leura Canary in office and, like so many things these days, it's really all Artur Davis' fault.
Kenyen Brown, currently on the staff of the House Ethics Committee, has been nominated for U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of Alabama. If confirmed, Brown would be the first African American U.S. Attorney to serve in the state of Alabama. From the White House:
NOMINATIONS SENT TO THE SENATE:
Kenyen Ray Brown, of Alabama, to be United States Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama for the term of four years, vice Deborah Jean Johnson Rhodes, resigned.
In May, President Obama nominated Joyce Vance to replace Alice Martin as U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of Alabama. There is still no official word on a nominee to replace Leura Canary in the Middle District of Alabama, but Main Justice indicates that a nomination there may not be too far off.
The nominee for Alabama's Northern District, Joyce Vance, is also white. And so is the intended nominee for Alabama's Middle District, Joe Van Heest, who's been held up because of objections from Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.). Read our previous report about Van Heest's delay here.
I've heard Shelby has someone else in mind for the Middle District and, given the strange rules and customs of the Senate, one Senator -- even from the party out of power -- can hold up the works.
Earlier today the Judicial Advisory Panel formed by Congressman Artur Davis released recommendations for nominees to the three US Attorney positions in Alabama. President-elect Barack Obama is expected to replace virtually all of the US Attorneys after January 20.
First Ranked Candidates
Northern District Joyce Vance – Chief of the Appellate Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of Alabama
Middle District Michel Nicrosi – Former Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of Alabama; also a Montgomery native
Southern District Vicki Davis – Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of Alabama; former federal district judge
Second Ranked Candidates
Northern District Jim Sturdivant – Attorney, Sirote & Permutt, PC; former Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of Alabama
Middle District Joseph Van Heest – Attorney, Law Office of Joseph P. Van Heest, LLC; former federal public defender
Southern District Patrick Sims – Attorney, Cabaniss, Johnston, Gardner, Dumas & O’Neal LLP; former U.S. magistrate judge
Please take a careful look at that list and note that the name of Leura Canary, currently US Attorney for the Middle District, does not appear anywhere on the list, pretty effectively giving the lie to recent unfounded rumors that Artur Davis would recommend Obama retain Canary in that position.
It is customary for an incoming president to replace all US Attorneys, in much the same way all Cabinet members are ordinarily replaced. Bill Gates seems to be the exception this time around, but there's no expectation that President-elect Obama will retain any of the three US Attorneys currently serving in Alabama. An Advisory Committee named by Congressman Artur Davis has recieved applications from the following people interested in the US Attorney positions in Alabama.
Patrick H. Sims who resides in Mobile. Ian Rosenthal who lives and work in Mobile. Vicki M. Davis who lives and works in Mobile as an Assistant United States Attorney. Edward Kendall lives in Montgomery and Mobile, but practices law in Montgomery. Ronnie L. Williams resides and maintains a law office in Mobile.
Steve Dodd who resides in Montgomery. James H. Anderson who lives and practices law in Montgomery. Joseph P. Van Heest who lives in and practices criminal law in Montgomery. Clark Morris who lives and works as an Assistant United States Attorney in Montgomery.
Brian Kilgore who lives in Hoover and practices law in Birmingham. Carolyn W. Steverson who is a resident of Vance in Tuscaloosa County. Glenda D. Freeman Joyce Vance who resides in Birmingham. Jim Sturdivant who lives in Vestavia Hills and practices law in Birmingham.
Michel Nicrosi who lives in Daphne and has her primary law office in Mobile. She is willing to serve in any of the three districts.
Some report elsewhere whatever is told them; the measure of fiction always increases, and each fresh narrator adds something to what he has heard.
It's no secret that Congressman Artur Davis (D, AL-07) is not so quietly considering a run for Governor of Alabama in 2010. Some folks think that's a great thing, others wish Davis would just stay in Congress and let some other Democrat have a clear field in 2010. Given the situation, it's probably inevitable that a few folks would rather start rumors about Davis -- and hope to have them repeated on blogs and in more traditional media -- than argue the merits of potential candidates or even the benefit of having a spirited contest of ideas in a primary.
I spoke with Congressman Davis this morning and he pushed back vigorously at several rumors making the rounds in Alabama political circles. Our conversation will also be the basis for some additional posts, but let's deal with the most widespread rumors today, the ones involving appointment of U.S. Attorneys in Alabama, the investigation into alleged selective prosecution by the DoJ and whether Davis' interest in the 2010 governors race is sincere.
Follow me to the across the fold and we'll go point by point.
Federal Judge David Proctor has set Feb. 10 as the date for a new trial of Alabama State Rep. Sue Schmitz (D, Toney) following a hung jury in her first trial for fraud. Let's spend some more taxpayer money dragging this woman through the mud yet again, shall we?
Here's the situation as I understand it. The government alleges that Schmitz obtained a total of $177,000 (her total salary over a 4 year period) fraudulently in that she did no work in return and never intended to work in return for the salary. The last point is important because intent is critical to obtaining a fraud conviction. Someone approached the CITY program and asked them to hire Schmitz. They didn't raise a red flag at that point, but hired her. Best I can tell from reports of the trial, her supervisors in the program gave her very little direction during the 3 and a half years she worked there, but also gave her good performance reviews. So where is the fraud? Not with Schmitz
If this employee was forced on them, why didn't they come up with a tough job description and ride Schmitz when she didn't perform up to par rather than making a federal case of it 4 years later? If Sue Schmitz' boss had told her she wasn't working hard enough, don't you think she might have changed her behavior? I do. This is what one of the jurors from Schmitz' first trial told reporters:
"I couldn't convict her," Jordan said.
Jordan said he was felt Schmitz wasn't getting enough input from her supervisors. He said he was impressed by defense testimony that Schmitz approached a corporation and others about donating computers to CITY.
"She got computers for them. She got buses for them...She did everything they asked. They didn't give her no direction," Jordan said.
Put yourself in Sue Schmitz' shoes -- you're doing what the boss asked, you're getting good performance reviews and suddenly you're charged with fraud for accepting a paycheck? In my view her supervisors are the ones in the wrong. They had a duty to make sure she knew her duties, performed them adequately and give her appropriate feedback if she was not performing to expectations but they didn't do that. Put the blame where it belongs, on management, not the employee.
But what about a newspaper that is on the payroll of a U.S. Attorney? A U. S. Attorney who is part of the GOP Political Hit Squad now ravaging our state in pursuit of every opposing voice? Your tax dollars pay them. Supposedly they represent YOU, not the GOP.
When asked about charges that someone had bribed newspapers to run stories, Martin had this to say to the Associated Press:
Federal prosecutor Alice Martin. . . told the AP that, if true, there is nothing illegal about someone offering money for favorable news articles. ”If you want to pay someone to write favorable stories and can get a paper to print them, I don’t know of any law it violates,” Martin said.
Other prosecutors have a different view. Of course, Martin may well have been moved by the fact that more than a dozen instances have now been documented in which the Bush Administration offered substantial payments to newspaper writers to publish stories favorable to it, Scott Horton, for Harper'sCorruption in a U.S. Attorney's Office
(Bumped, because the Judge has issued a sentence. - promoted by mooncat)
Update: The judge sentenced Siegelman to 88 months in prison, 3 years probation, 500 hours community service, plus restitution of $181,325 and a $50,000 fine. Scrushy sentenced to 82 months in prison, plus probation, $267,000 restitution and $150,000 fine. He alo must pay the cost of his prison stay.
It doesn't look like Judge Fuller is leaning toward a light sentence for Don Siegelman. He accepted prosecution arguments that the sentence should be longer than what's in the sentencing guidelines.
"I am convinced the conduct Gov. Siegelman engaged in damaged the public's confidence in the government of this state," Fuller said.
The new sentencing range for Siegelman is 188 months to 235 months, or about 15 1/2 to 19 1/2 years. The new fine range is $20,000 to $200,000.
Unfortunately, politically motivated prosecution of public figures further damages the public's confidence in the government, too. Especially our confidence in the justice system. And a heavy sentence for Siegelman won't wipe out concerns that he was targeted because he was a successful Democrat.
The same names keep coming up in Alabama politics, as they do in the Seigelman case. Are there so few political players in our state? If so, surely it's time to get some new names and faces involved. Until recently I did not realize that Steve Feaga, the Assistant U.S. Attorney who took over the Siegelman case after Leura Canary recused herself is the same person who handled the prosecution of former Gov. Guy Hunt in 1992. Several news articles have reported on the fact that he did not request jail time for Guy Hunt in 1992, even though he is asking that Don Siegelman be sentenced to 30 years in prison at the present time. Feaga says that is not really a change of heart, rather that the Alabama Attorney General did not want Feaga to seek a jail sentence for Hunt.
Who was this decent, merciful Alabama Attorney General in 1992? I had to look it up, but he was Democrat Jimmy Evans who held that office from 1991 until 1995. After the prosecution of Guy Hunt, AG Evans was persona non grata with Alabama Republicans. I came across this comment dated 7/2006 at Free Republic:
Folsom conspired with the 'Rat Attorney-General, Jimmy Evans, to depose Gov. Guy Hunt.
If they still remember him as the "Rat Attorney General" after he's been out of office over 10 years, think how reviled he must have been in Republican circles right after Hunt's trial.
Updated again to reflect sentencing guidelines -- 6/27 pm
Dana Simpson's affidavit has not only brought the shadow of Karl Rove into the Seigelman case, it has brought the national news media to Alabama. And to my untrained eye, that means more sympathetic coverage than Siegelman was previously getting from just the local press. The more they point out that charges he was acquitted of are being used to set the sentence, the more regular people will say "that just doesn't sound right." I still don't see much sympathy for Scrushy, nor do I feel any myself.
Judge Fuller adopted sentencing guidelines that put Siegelman in the 10 to 13 year range The guidelines are not binding. Fuller was influenced by Siegelmans failure to take responsibility for his crimes.
The sentencing hearing for Gov. Don Siegelman begins tomorrow. If you haven't followed this case closely from the beginning -- and I haven't -- it can be hard to understand.
The Huntsville Times does not too bad of a job today with this story on Don Siegelman. The most interesting bit is this:
Rove was in Alabama on Thursday with President Bush as he toured the Browns Ferry nuclear plant in Athens. When asked about Siegelman's allegations that he was pulling the puppet strings behind the ex-governor's prosecution, Rove smiled and denied it.
"I know nothing about any phone call," Rove said.
Then a White House press aide stepped up and said, "What he meant to say was that he has no comment."
Which is not the same as saying he had no involvement. Or no knowledge. Or wasn't pulling the strings. Which would be a more natural thing to say if Rove was really trying to communicate information to the press. Which he wasn't because none of these guys are ever trying to actually comminucate information. Control the information to leave the desired impression: that is the name of the game in Washington.