Recused US Attorney Kept Advising Siegelman Prosecutors, New Docs Show

New documents relating to the prosecution of former Alabama governor Don Siegelman suggest misconduct by the US attorney in the case, and appear to contradict previous statements from the Department of Justice about the matter.

The new revelations, reported by Time, are contained in a letter sent last week by House Judiciary chair John Conyers to Attorney General Michael Mukasey, based on information provided to the committee by a legal aide in the US Attorney’s office in Alabama. That information includes emails written by the US Attorney, Leura Canary, showing that she continued to advise prosecutors on the case even after having recused herself because her husband was a top Alabama GOP operative who had worked closely with Karl Rove.

Here’s the key excerpt from Time:

In one of Canary’s e-mails, dated September 19, 2005, she forwards senior prosecutors on the Siegelman case a three-page political commentary by Siegelman. Canary highlighted a single passage which, she told her subordinates, “Ya’ll need to read, because he refers to a ‘survey’ which allegedly shows that 67% of Alabamans believe the investigation of him to be politically motivated.” Canary then suggests: “Perhaps [this is] grounds not to let [Siegelman] discuss court activities in the media!”

Prosecutors in the case seem to have followed Canary’s advice. A few months later they petitioned the court to prevent Siegelman from arguing that politics had any bearing on the case against him. After trial, they persuaded the judge to use Siegelman’s public statements about political bias — like the one Canary had flagged in her e-mail — as grounds for increasing his prison sentence. The judge’s action is now one target of next month’s appeal.

When Conyers’ committee investigated the Siegelman matter earlier this year, DOJ had said that Canary’s 2002 recusal had come “before any significant decisions … were made.”

DOJ has already conducted its own inquiry into some of the claims contained in the letter sent by Conyers, and produced a report dismissing them as inconsequential.

Siegelman’s supporters and congressional Democrats have long raised suspicions that DOJ’s prosecution of Siegelman, a red-state Democrat, was an example of the inappropriate politicization of the department.

Siegelman’s appeal of his conviction is set to begin next month in a federal court in Atlanta.

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