Don Siegelman is a political prisoner.

Larisa Alexandrovna, one of the first journalists to investigate this case in depth, writes:

For most Americans, the very concept of political prisoners is remote and exotic, a practice that is associated with third-world dictatorships but is foreign to the American tradition.

Alexandrovna further wrote “The idea that a prominent politician – a former state governor – could be tried on charges that many observers consider to be trumped-up, convicted in a trial that involved numerous questionable procedures, and then hauled off to prison in shackles immediately upon sentencing would be almost unbelievable.”

A Long Career for a Popular Democrat

Siegelman held the distinction of serving all four elective state offices: Attorney General, Secretary of State, Lieutenant Governor and Governor. With his prestige, popularity, and name-recognition, he was a persistent threat to the well-oiled Alabama GOP political machine. As his daughter, Dana, describes it,

The men and women behind this conspiracy have a lot against my dad. My dad wanted an education lottery, brought jobs to the state, made big businesses pay their taxes, sought to completely change Alabama’s constitution, raised teachers’ salaries, gave African Americans jobs that Caucasians had supremacy over for years, helped in fundraisers for other Democrats, supported the arts, was well-respected on a national level, etc… It was a battle against a truly liberal leader, not some moderate Democrat. He held the highest offices in the state and was Alabama’s longest running politician. Republicans wanted their state back, and they got it.

Stolen Election

“They got it” through a stolen election. In 2002, Siegelman appeared to have won re-election against Republican challenger Bob Riley. But then, in Baldwin county, Republican election supervisors (no Democrats allowed), locked the doors and “discovered” a “computer glitch” that tilted the election to Riley, whereupon the GOP Attorney General, William Pryor, put the kibosh on Siegelman’s appeal for a recount by sealing the ballots. (Siegelman gives his account of the theft here).

While Siegelman vowed “to come back and fight another day,” the GOP was determined to see to it that he was at last down for the count.

Enter Bill Canary, Republican kingmaker, friend and confidant of Karl Rove, campaign advisor to William Pryor and Bob Riley, and, not coincidentally, husband of U.S. Attorney, Leura Canary. It was Mrs. Canary, along with U.S. Attorney Alice Martin, who brought the case against Siegelman.

“His girls would take care of [Siegelman]”

Enter next, Dana Jill Simpson, a rare and endangered political animal: a republican political operative with a conscience and an allegiance to the rule of law that trumps partisan loyalty. As Scott Horton reports, in a sworn affidavit Ms. Simpson, Riley’s campaign attorney, provide[d] a detailed specific account of what transpired, starting with [Bill] Canary’s statement “not to worry about Don Siegelman that ‘his girls would take care of him.’” Then Riley’s son asked Canary if he was sure that Siegelman would be “taken care of,” and Canary told him not to worry that he had already gotten it worked out with Karl and Karl had spoken with the Department of Justice and the Department of Justice was already pursuing Don Siegelman.” “His girls” were Canary’s wife Leura Canary, who as U.S. Attorney in the Middle District of Alabama, did in fact start the investigation, only dropping off when objections were raised by Governor Siegelman’s counsel due to her obvious political bias and the U.S. Attorney in Birmingham, Alice Martin. Ms. Simpson, who gave the affidavit, is a lifelong Republican and was a worker in the Riley campaign against Siegelman, and her account has been contemporaneously corroborated.

Payback for Turncoats

While communicating with Siegelman’s attorney prior to releasing her affidavit, Simpson’s house was demolished by a mysterious fire, and Simpson herself was forced off the road. Mere coincidences, of course.

A Hanging Judge

The judge at Siegelman’s trial, Mark Fuller, a Bush appointee and a former member of the executive committee of the Alabama Republican party, had a well-known grudge against Siegelman. Fuller refused to recuse himself from the case, denied bail, immediately put Siegelman in shackles and ordered him to the Atlanta federal prison. After seven months Judge Fuller, in violation of the law, has refused to release the trial transcript without which the defendant cannot appeal his conviction.

Don Siegelman has since been shuttled back and forth among several federal prisons out of touch with his attorneys and not allowed access to the internet or to press interviews. This treatment has prompted an unprecedented demand by forty-four former state attorneys general for a Congressional investigation of the Siegelman case.