What next in the Siegelman scandal?

How about hearings focused on Dana Jill Simpson?

Is there anything useful to be done about the Siegelman case? I think there may be.

As long as the Siegelman case is on appeal, the Justice Department will be able to stonewall any Congressional investigation by saying “We can’t discuss pending cases.” That’s reasonable enough; Siegelman’s guilt or innocence is a matter, right now, for the courts, not the Congress. But that problem doesn’t arise for hearings focused on Dana Jill Simpson, the Republican lawyer who signed an affidavit giving clear evidence that the Siegelman prosecution was launched for political reasons, with Karl Rove involved.

Imagine a set of hearings before either Judiciary Committee with Simpson as the first witness. She could describe the phone all and the subsequent retribution. That might make very compelling television. Scott Horton could testify as to what he’s learned about the case, perhaps along with Glyn Wilson.

Having laid that basis, the committee could then subpoena the other participants in the key conversation and put them under oath about what was or wasn’t said. The two U.S. Attorneys could also be called; since Leura Canary says she recused herself, it’s hard for her to also say that she can’t testify about an ongoing case, and the case in the other district can’t reasonably be called “ongoing,” since the indictment was dismissed with prejudice. The judge in that case might make a good witness as well.

Then the committee could subpoena Riley and Abramoff to ask them what they knew about the plan to take down Siegelman. They surely can’t claim “ongoing case” as a reason not to testify. If anything substantial develops from that, the committee could proceed to subpoena the Gonzales/Goodling/Sampson group, followed by Rove and Ralston.

Since the focus wouldn’t be on Siegelman’s guilt or innocence, the committee wouldn’t look as if it was pitching in to help a crook. But such a set of hearings, by bringing attention to the case, might put the Eleventh Circuit on notice that it needed to pay careful attention. Anything that shifts the media narrative from “prosecution of a corrupt governor” to “corrupt prosecution” will necessarily help Siegelman, who on the facts presented should certainly be free pending appeal.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com