The Department of Justice has reopened an investigation into crucial allegations made by a whistleblower in the Don Siegelman trial, according to documents submitted last week by prosecutors in the case.
Siegelman, the Democratic former governor of Alabama, was convicted in 2006 on corruption charges. (He is appealing the conviction). The whistleblower, who works in the US Attorney's office in Alabama, has claimed that, during his trial, there were inappropriate contacts between members of the jury and the prosecution, including messages passed by jurors revealing that some jury members had developed a romantic interest in an FBI agent attached to the prosecution team.
A DOJ investigation of the claims, launched after the whistleblower came forward and carried out by two US Attorneys, concluded that no such contacts had occurred. But in a letter
to Attorney General Michael Mukasey last month, Rep. John Conyers, whose judiciary committee has been looking into the issue, questioned the thoroughness of that probe, noting that investigators had not contacted the jurors themselves, or the federal marshals who allegedly passed notes between the jurors and the prosecution team.
In the recent court filing
-- which responds to a filing made previously by Siegelman's defense lawyers in connection with his appeal -- prosecutors referred to that DOJ investigation, then added in a footnote:
Out of an abundance of caution, the Department of Justice recently reopened the investigation into this matter in response to concerns raised about the completeness of the investigation ... It remains the case that we are not aware of any improper contacts.
In other words, DOJ appears to agree that Conyers' concerns have merit, and has reopened the investigation into whether inappropriate contacts between jurors and the prosecution team did indeed occur. That could be good news for Siegelman as his lawyers seek to have his conviction thrown out on appeal.
Almost from the start, there has been evidence that the prosecution of Siegelman was politically motivated. Among other things, documents recently surfaced
showing that the US Attorney on the case, Leura Canary -- who had recused herself because her husband is a GOP operative and Karl Rove associate who ran the campaign of Siegelman's opponent for governor -- continued to advise prosecutors on the case. DOJ has been notably unwilling to aggressively look into this and other evidence of politicization.
In a recent interview with TPMmuckraker, Siegelman accused
Canary of "outrageous criminal conduct."