Substantive new evidence makes it look even more likely that politics played a role in the decision to prosecute Gov. Don Siegelman (D-AL) on corruption charges.
Siegelman supporters have long claimed that Siegelman was targeted for being a successful Democrat in a largely Republican state.
According to documents obtained by Time
, in 2002 a lobbyist and trash dump developer named Lanny Young told investigators, including representatives from the local US attorney's office, the Justice Department's public integrity unit and the Republican attorney general's office, that he'd given illegal gifts and contributions to Siegelman and a number of other powerful Alabama politicians. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Session's successor as attorney general and now federal judge William Pryor (R) were named.
One of Young's contracts with the state triggered the Siegelman investigation. Siegelman was acquitted on 25 of 32 counts, with about half of the charges stemming from Young's testimony.
of the Republicans named by Young were ever investigated, reports Time
's Adam Zagorin, let alone prosecuted. Zagorin also points out that "several of the lawyers involved in the Siegelman investigation were from Pryor's office and had worked for Sessions as well when he held the post." But instead of raising any issue of a possible conflict of interest, the investigators "chose not to recuse themselves but to simply ignore the allegations."
The documents obtained by Time
are a sensitive portion of materials requested by the House Judiciary Committee -- but which have been so far withheld
by the Department of Justice.
According to Time, Young described a specific scheme involving Sessions that was never pursued:
Early in the investigation, in November 2001, Young announced that five years earlier, he "personally provided Sessions with cash campaign contributions," according to an FBI memo of the interview. Prosecutors didn't follow up that surprising statement with questions, but Young volunteered more. The memo adds that "on one occasion he [Young] provided Session [sic] with $5,000 to $7,000 using two intermediaries," one of whom held a senior position with Sessions' campaign. On another occasion, the FBI records show, Young talked about providing "$10,000 to $15,000 to Session [sic]. Young had his secretaries and friends write checks to the Sessions campaign and Young reimbursed the secretaries and friends for their contributions."
If true, Young's statements describe political money laundering that would be a clear violation of federal law.
Young also claimed he donated some $12,000 to $15,000 to Pryor's attorney general campaign.
According to Young, a top official on Pryor's campaign "would call and say, 'I need money for this, this or this,'" and Young would take care of the request.
And what was Pryor's (now a federal judge) response to the accusation?
"I do not have a recollection of the amounts that you describe as having been contributed by Lanny Young or his associates to my campaign," Pryor wrote in an e-mail to TIME.