Former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy proclaimed his innocence last week in his first post-imprisonment interview. Scrushy was the co-defendant with former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman in the most notorious political frame-up in recent American history.
Scrushy is at right with one of his nine children. He told radio host Peter B. Collins that federal prosecutors offered before trial in 2006 to let him go free if he would testify falsely against Siegelman, a Democrat. The Bush administration accused Scrushy of bribing Siegelman in 1999 with a large donation to the Alabama Education Foundation, a non-profit Siegelman supported because it advocated a state lottery to increase funding for public education. Also, Scrushy said he had not supported Siegelman's political campaigns. Scrushy, who did not testify at trial, also told the radio interviewer that he did not meet Siegelman to seek reappointment to continue on a state health board on which Scrushy served under previous governors.
In a separate case involving prosecution overzealousness, Hollywood director John McTiernan, at left, began serving a year-long term on false statement charges. The Die Hard director, 62, was found guilty in the wiretapping scandal involving private detective Anthony Pellicano.
McTiernan was convicted of two counts of making false statements to the FBI and one count of perjury for lying to a federal judge during the period when the defendant wanted to withdraw his earlier guilty plea. The investigation was to determine whether Pellicano, a successful private detective, illegally wiretapped producer Chuck Roven while he and McTiernan were remaking the movie Rollerball in 2002.
Federal authorities abused their vast powers in the McTiernan case at needless expense to taxpayers, as I wrote three years ago in Feds Bully 'Die Hard' McTiernan Into Plea for False Statements.
McTiernan is shown at left in a family photo with his children, age 10 and 12, upon his surrender last week. Gail Sistrunk McTiernan, his wife, issued the following statement, saying in part: “The Federal Government has now imprisoned a man, with no prior criminal record, for saying a single false word on the phone (the answer of "yep") to a stranger’s voice he could not have possibly known or verified was law enforcement."
Roger Shuler, an Alabama-based blogger who has written hundreds of columns on the case, participated in the interview and began on April 8 to highlight several of the most astonishing revelations from Scrushy in a column, Richard Scrushy: Convictions In the Siegelman Case Are Grounded In A Former Aide's Flawed Testimony.
Scrushy's radio interviewer, Collins, said, "I found him candid, quite credible, and very clear that he and Siegelman are innocent."
Collins, shown at right, quoted Scrushy as saying: the amount of the contribution he made to the education fund was $250,000 and not the $500,000 always stated in news accounts.
Among other points from the interview: Scrushy said he never saw the key prosecution witness, Nick Bailey, until trial. Scrushy said Bailey got key facts wrong. For example, Bailey said the check was delivered about five weeks before it was cut. Scrushy said his legal team misread the jury, and regrets he did not take the stand. Further, Scrushy said he got to know Siegelman only when they shared a cell for first two weeks in Atlanta.
U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller of Montgomery sentenced Scrushy and Siegelman in 2007 to seven year terms. Scrushy began serving his term immediately, and has since been released. Siegelman served nine months before he was released on bail, pending appeals. He resumed his sentence last September. Hundreds of news and opinion columns have documented gross irregularities in the prosecutions under both the Bush and Obama administrations.
In related news, the investigative non-profit Pro Publica has published a two-part series excerpted below about prosecutorial misconduct.
Related News Coverage
Richard Scrushy and Don Siegelman
Legal Schnauzer, Feds Promised To Release Scrushy From Prosecution If He Provided False Testimony Against Siegelman, Roger Shuler, April 9, 2013. Federal prosecutors offered to let Richard Scrushy out of the Don Siegelman case if he agreed to testify in a way that would "give" them the former Alabama governor. Scrushy, the former CEO of Birmingham-based HealthSouth Corporation, said prosecutors gave him several examples of testimony that would help ensure a bribery conviction against Siegelman. None of the proposed statements was truthful, Scrushy said, so he refused the offer. He wound up being convicted and was released from federal prison last July after serving a six-year sentence. Siegelman was released from custody for several years to pursue appeals, but returned to prison last September after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case.
Legal Schnauzer, Richard Scrushy: Convictions In the Siegelman Case Are Grounded In A Former Aide's Flawed Testimony, Roger Shuler, April 8, 2013. Bribery convictions in the Don Siegelman case are based almost entirely on an aide's testimony that he saw the former governor holding a $250,000 check after a meeting with then HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy. That scenario, as described under oath by former Siegelman aide Nick Bailey, has a slight flaw--it never happened, according to a man who was central to the alleged transaction. Richard Scrushy, who was released from federal prison last July after serving a six-year sentence, says he never had such a meeting with Siegelman -- and he never gave the governor a check. That is one of several major revelations from Scrushy's one-hour interview last Thursday with San Francisco-based radio host Peter B. Collins. It was Scrushy's first interview about the Siegelman case, and the podcast can be heard in its entirety at peterbcollins.com. Collins invited me to assist with the interview, and I was on the phone line to hear Scrushy describe the case against him and Siegelman as a "farce" and a "joke." In fact, Scrushy still can't seem to believe that it happened.
Peter B. Collins, Exclusive: Richard Scrushy Breaks Silence on His Conviction with Gov. Siegelman in Bogus Bribery Case Linked to Karl Rove, Peter B. Collins, April 4, 2013. Richard Scrushy, former HealthSouth CEO who was convicted of bribing former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman and served about 6 years in federal prison, gives some new dimensions to the sordid story we’ve covered for many years in this exclusive interview, co-anchored with Roger Shuler of Legal Schnauzer.Scrushy’s rags-to-riches story includes founding and being CEO of HealthSouth, which he built into a giant in its field. In this in-depth interview, he offers his view of the controversial case that sent him and former Democratic Governor Don Siegelman to federal prison. This is the first media interview Scrushy, at right with one of his nine children while imprisoned, has given since being released last summer.
Legal Schnauzer, Richard Scrushy's Tenacity Might Unearth Evidence Of Prosecutorial Corruption In The Siegelman Case, Roger Shuler, March 27, 2013. Richard Scrushy, codefendant in the political prosecution of former Governor Don Siegelman, is one of the most controversial figures in modern Alabama history. He seems convinced that he was wrongly convicted, that a broken justice system punished him for a non crime, and he remains intent on proving it. I admire that kind of principle and backbone in anyone. And in Scrushy's case, he is absolutely on target--he and Siegelman were railroaded by a bevy of corrupt lawyers, prosecutors, judges, and political operatives. In his most recent brief to the U.S. Eleventh Circuit of Appeals, Scrushy points to the existence of evidence that likely will prove he and Siegelman never should have been prosecuted, much less convicted, under the law. Will Scrushy be allowed access to that evidence, and will he be able to use it in a way that shows the Siegelman case was a cheat job of monstrous proportions? Those questions are at the heart of Scrushy's pending appeal, which included oral arguments before a three-judge panel in Atlanta on March 19.
Justice Integrity Project, Supreme Court Denies Siegelman, Scrushy Appeals, Andrew Kreig, June 4, 2012. True to recent form, the U.S. Supreme Court denied relief June 4 to former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman on corruption charges. This sets the stage for Siegelman's reimprisonment in the most notorious federal political prosecution and frame-up of the decade. The court denied without comment the certiorari petition of Siegelman and co-defendant Richard Scrushy, former CEO of HealthSouth, Inc. In 2007, U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller sentenced them to seven-year prison terms on multiple charges from Siegelman's solicitation of donations from Scrushy in 1999 for the non-profit Alabama Education Foundation. Siegelman supported the foundation's initiatives to increase school funding with a state lottery over the opposition of a Republican-orchestrated coalition.
Hollywood Reporter, John McTiernan Surrenders to Begin Pellicano Prison Sentence, Alex Ben Block, April 3, 2013. Die Hard director John McTiernan surrendered to federal authorities Wednesday to begin serving his 12-month prison sentence for his role in the Anthony Pellicano wiretapping scandal. He has been taken to a federal prison in North Dakota. McTiernan, 62, lost an appeal last August of a 2010 sentence and turned himself in on the last day possible. A judge had given him the option of surrendering earlier but he did not do so. McTiernan was found guilty of two counts of making false statements to the FBI and one count of perjury for lying to a federal judge during the period when he wanted to withdraw his earlier guilty plea. The filmmaker was found to have lied about ordering Pellicano, then Hollywood’s most successful private detective, to illegally wiretap producer Chuck Roven while the two were involved in the remake of the movie Rollerball in 2002.
OpEd News, Mrs. John McTiernan's Statement Regarding her Husband's Surrender, Gail Sistrunk McTiernan, April 5, 2013. John McTiernan, director of Die Hard, Predator, The Hunt for Red October and other films, surrendered to federal prison. His wife, Gail, breaks the silence they've maintained for years after the government multiplied his charges for challenging the prosecutor's actions. Film director John McTiernan, below, bids farewell to his children, aged 10 and 12, as he begins a prison sentence this week at the federal correctional institute at Yankton, South Dakota. The famed director of Die Hard and other Hollywood movies was convicted of making a false statement to an FBI agent who called his home. The photo was provided by his family.
Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Economics, & Integrity Issues
Pro Publica, Who Polices Prosecutors Who Abuse Their Authority? Usually Nobody, Joaquin Sapien, ProPublica, and Sergio Hernandez, April 3, 2013. Part I of II. A ProPublica analysis of more than a decade's worth of state and federal court rulings found more than two dozen instances in which judges explicitly concluded that city prosecutors had committed harmful misconduct. In each instance, these abuses were sufficient to prompt courts to throw out convictions. Yet the same appellate courts did not routinely refer prosecutors for investigation by the state disciplinary committees charged with policing lawyers. Disciplinary committees, an arm of the appellate courts, almost never took serious action against prosecutors. None of the prosecutors who oversaw cases reversed based on misconduct were disbarred, suspended, or censured except for Stuart. (Stuart declined repeated requests for an interview for this story.)
Pro Publica, Lasting Damage: A Rogue Prosecutor's Final Case, Joaquin Sapien, April 5, 2013 (Part II of II). Claude Stuart, after a career full of trouble as a prosecutor in Queens, finally went too far when he lied to a judge in an effort to convict a man of murder. Thirteen years later, Stuart is no longer a lawyer, the man he convicted remains in prison, and who actually killed Leroy Vann remains unclear.
Legal Times, Judge Reverses Suspensions of Two Prosecutors in Ted Stevens Case, Staff report, April 8, 2013. The U.S. Justice Department violated internal procedure in disciplining two federal prosecutors accused of ethical misconduct in the corruption case against Ted Stevens, a judge concluded in a ruling that voids the suspensions imposed on the two attorneys. Benjamin Gutman, an administrative judge who hears Merit Systems Protection Board disputes, said the department shirked procedure when a senior management attorney was allowed to take over for the rank-and-file lawyer who was assigned to make a recommendation about whether the prosecutors committed misconduct.
Rolling Stone, The most outrageous facts about our broken voting system, Tim Dickinson, April 9, 2013. So you think the American electoral system is broken? New research out of MIT lays bare just how bad it really is. Here are the five most outrageous facts from "Waiting to Vote," a forthcoming paper by Charles Stewart III for the Journal of Law and Politics, on long lines in the 2012 election.
1. African-American voters wait in line nearly twice as long as white voters. "Viewed nationally, African-Americans waited an average of 23 minutes to vote, compared to 12 minutes for whites."
2. Hispanic voters wait in line one-and-a-half times as long as white voters."Hispanics waited 19 minutes" – again, compared to a 12-minute wait for whites.
3. True-blue Democrats wait in line 45 percent longer than red-bleeding Republicans. "Strong Democrats waited an average of 16 minutes, compared to an average of 11 minutes for strong Republicans."
4. Voting in Florida remains a shitshow – even compared to other big states."Waiting times varied tremendously across the states in 2012, ranging from less than two minutes in Vermont to 39 minutes in Florida. . . . On the whole, states with the smallest populations had the lowest waits. . . . However, it should be noted that California had among the shortest wait times in the country, at an average of 7 minutes."
5. The federal Election Assistance Commission is on its last legs. It is supposed to have four commissioners. It currently has four vacancies. "It is for answering questions such as this – how to shorten lines in urban areas and a few states where they exist statewide – that the Election Assistance Commission was created. Unfortunately, the EAC has become a 'zombie commission,' without commissioners and therefore without a clear agenda . . ."
Huffington Post, Missing In Action: Congress Ignores America's Poverty Crisis, Jennifer Bendery, April 8, 2013. At a time when Republicans on Capitol Hill are expressing outrage over canceled White House tours, something more deserving of outrage is taking place: tens of millions of the nation's most vulnerable are taking hits on all sides. The nation's poverty rate is frozen at a high of 15 percent. And lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, for the most part, aren't even talking about it. "Missing in action," Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said of Congress' record on poverty. It has been a topic of discussion among Washington lawmakers in fleeting moments. Language about making poverty a national priority found its way into the Democratic Party platform last year and into President Barack Obama's State of the Union address in February. Democrats tucked a line into their budget proposals this year calling for a strategy to cut poverty in half in 10 years. Yet the issue has all but disappeared from the legislative agenda in Congress as lawmakers focus squarely on deficit reduction. Obama, too, has been largely silent on the issue, and has even proposed cutting Social Security -- a key tool for combating poverty.
National Press Club, Judge should drop effort to compel reporter to reveal anonymous sources, John Donnelly, April 5, 2013. The National Press Club on April 5 respectfully urged a Colorado judge to drop his push to force a reporter to reveal her confidential sources for a story about the alleged shooter in the last July’s shooting spree in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater. Jana Winter of Fox News reported days after the deadly shooting that the defendant in the case, James Holmes, had sent his psychiatrist detailed drawings of people being killed before the shootings occurred. All information in the investigation of Holmes was under seal. Winter had cited law-enforcement officials as her source.
Huffington Post, Bi-Partisanship We Don't Need: The President Offers to Cut Social Security and Republicans Agree, April 10, 2013. John Boehner, Speaker of the House, revealed why it's politically naive for the president to offer up cuts in Social Security in the hope of getting Republicans to close some tax loopholes for the rich. "If the president believes these modest entitlement savings are needed to help shore up these programs, there's no reason they should be held hostage for more tax hikes," Boehner said in a statement released Friday. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor agreed. He said on CNBC he didn't understand "why we just don't see the White House come forward and do the things that we agree on" such as cutting Social Security, without additional tax increases. Get it? The Republican leadership is already salivating over the president's proposed Social Security cut. They've been wanting to cut Social Security for years. But they won't agree to close tax loopholes for the rich. They're already characterizing the president's plan as a way to "save" Social Security -- even though the cuts would undermine it -- and they're embracing it as an act of "bi-partisanship."
Huffington Post, Elizabeth Warren 'Shocked' At White House Plan To Cut Social Security With Chained CPI, Jason Linkins, April 10, 2013. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) made it clear Wednesday in an email to supporters that not only would she oppose President Barack Obama's plan to cut Social Security benefits through a cost-of-living adjustment known as chained CPI, but that she was "shocked to hear" it was included in the White House's budget proposal at all. Warren said her brother David lives on the $13,200 per year he receives in Social Security benefits. "I can almost guarantee that you know someone -- a family member, friend, or neighbor -- who counts on Social Security checks to get by," she wrote. New York Times, Insurance and Freedom, Paul Krugman, April 7, 2013. President Obama will soon release a new budget, and the commentary is already flowing fast and furious. Progressives are angry (with good reason) over proposed cuts to Social Security; conservatives are denouncing the call for more revenues. But it’s all Kabuki. Since House Republicans will block anything Mr. Obama proposes, his budget is best seen not as policy but as positioning, an attempt to gain praise from “centrist” pundits. No, the real policy action at this point is in the states, where the question is, How many Americans will be denied essential health care in the name of freedom?
New York Times, Rise of the Predators: A Secret Deal on Drones, Sealed in Blood, Mark Mazzetti, April 6, 2013. Nek Muhammad was a Pashtun militant who was killed in 2004, in the first C.I.A. drone strike in Pakistan. In a secret deal, the C.I.A. had agreed to kill him in exchange for access to airspace it had long sought so it could use drones to hunt down its own enemies. That back-room bargain, described in detail for the first time in interviews with more than a dozen officials in Pakistan and the United States, is critical to understanding the origins of a covert drone war that began under the Bush administration, was embraced and expanded by President Obama, and is now the subject of fierce debate. The deal, a month after a blistering internal report about abuses in the C.I.A.’s network of secret prisons, paved the way for the C.I.A. to change its focus from capturing terrorists to killing them, and helped transform an agency that began as a cold war espionage service into a paramilitary organization. The C.I.A. has since conducted hundreds of drone strikes in Pakistan that have killed thousands of people, Pakistanis and Arabs, militants and civilians alike. While it was not the first country where the United States used drones, it became the laboratory for the targeted killing operations that have come to define a new American way of fighting, blurring the line between soldiers and spies and short-circuiting the normal mechanisms by which the United States as a nation goes to war. April 5
TED Talks, Lawrence Lessig: We the People, and the Republic we must reclaim, Filmed Feb 2013, Posted April 2013. There is a corruption at the heart of American politics, caused by the dependence of Congressional candidates on funding from the tiniest percentage of citizens. That's the argument at the core of this blistering talk by legal scholar Lawrence Lessig. With rapid-fire visuals, he shows how the funding process weakens the Republic in the most fundamental way, and issues a rallying bipartisan cry that will resonate with many in the U.S. and beyond. Lawrence Lessig has already transformed intellectual-property law with his Creative Commons innovation. Now he's focused on an even bigger problem: The US' broken political system.
TruthDig /OpEd News, The Hijacking of Human Rights, Chris Hedges, April 8, 2013. The appointment of Suzanne Nossel, a former State Department official and longtime government apparatchik, as executive director of PEN American Center is part of a campaign to turn U.S. human rights organizations into propagandists for pre-emptive war and apologists for empire. Nossel's appointment led me to resign from PEN as well as withdraw from speaking at the PEN World Voices Festival in May. But Nossel is only symptomatic of the widespread hijacking of human rights organizations to demonize those -- especially Muslims -- branded by the state as the enemy, in order to cloak pre-emptive war and empire with a fictional virtue and to effectively divert attention from our own mounting human rights abuses, including torture, warrantless wiretapping and monitoring, the denial of due process and extrajudicial assassinations.
FireDogLake, Obama Budget Splits The Democratic Party, DSWright, April 8, 2013. President Obama’s proposal to cut Social Security and Medicare has fueled a civil war within the Democratic Party. The social insurance programs are considered by many Democrats to be the party’s greatest achievements in the New Deal and Great Society, respectively. Obama’s alignment with Bush-style Neoliberalism has provoked the progressive wing of the party to begin to openly defy the termed-out president.
Guardian, Margaret Thatcher and misapplied death etiquette, Glenn Greenwald, April 8, 2013. The dictate that one 'not speak ill of the dead' is (at best) appropriate for private individuals, not influential public figures. News of Margaret Thatcher's death this morning instantly and predictably gave rise to righteous sermons on the evils of speaking ill of her. British Labour MP Tom Watson decreed: "I hope that people on the left of politics respect a family in grief today." Following in the footsteps of Santa Claus, Steve Hynd quickly compiled a list of all the naughty boys and girls "on the left" who dared to express criticisms of the dearly departed Prime Minister, warning that he "will continue to add to this list throughout the day." Former Tory MP Louise Mensch, with no apparent sense of irony, invoked precepts of propriety to announce: "Pygmies of the left so predictably embarrassing yourselves, know this: not a one of your leaders will ever be globally mourned like her." This demand for respectful silence in the wake of a public figure's death is not just misguided but dangerous. That one should not speak ill of the dead is arguably appropriate when a private person dies, but it is wildly inappropriate for the death of a controversial public figure, particularly one who wielded significant influence and political power.
FireDogLake, Obama Is the Driving Force Behind Cutting Your Social Security, Jon Walker, April 5, 2013.The driving force behind cutting your Social Security is President Barack Obama. f it wasn’t already abundantly clear there is now more proof President Obama really really really wants to cut Social Security benefits for current retirees. Obama will include the chained-CPI, which is a yearly and continuously growing cut to your Social Security benefits, in his budget. From Politico: "President Barack Obama will make another run at a grand bargain by proposing significant new entitlement cuts and new tax revenues — including a new cigarette tax — in what the White House is portraying as a compromise budget to be released next week." The most controversial element of Obama’s proposal is the inclusion of “chained CPI,” the adjustment that would over time reduce cost-of-living increases to Social Security and other federal benefit programs — effectively, a cut to Social Security benefits by tying them to inflation. He also calls for $9 billion in new tax revenue by setting limits on “tax-preferred retirement accounts for millionaires and billionaires.”
Huffington Post, Obama Budget: Administration Explains Why It Started With A 'Compromise Proposal,' Sam Stein, April 5, 2013. President Barack Obama’s budget, which will be introduced on Wednesday, takes a political position that some of his base is bound to bemoan. Rather than present an outline of progressive priorities, the Whie has chosen to stake claim to the middle ground, offering up a mix of modest tax hikes to go along with spending cuts and entitlement reforms that Democrats have long warned against.
CBS 60 Minutes, Arizona's Pioneer Hotel fire re-examined, Steve Kroft, March 31, 2013. Steve Kroft revisits the case of Louis Taylor, who may have been falsely accused and imprisoned for decades for setting a hotel fire in Tucson that killed 28.
Wall Street Journal, Climbing the Ladder to Steven A. Cohen, Harvey Silverglate, April 4, 2013 (Subscription required.) The federal pursuit of SAC Capital Advisors is typical: Get the smaller fry to 'give up' someone more senior. The investigative process is lengthy and arduous—probes of SAC have been under way since at least 2009. But it rolls on, seemingly fueled by the Justice Department's need to enhance its image after taking a hit from public anger over its refusal (or inability) to prosecute bankers in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. The SAC allegations are a perfect mythmaking opportunity for prosecutors. They can easily sell their version of events to a wary public that assumes no hedge-fund manager can become as rich as Mr. Cohen without access to inside information, trading on which can be a felony under securities laws. What the public doesn't know is how impossibly vague those securities laws are. The vagueness allows a prospective witness to facilitate a conviction by adding just enough details to his tale so that the target comes off as secretive, manipulative or untrustworthy. Most of us can be portrayed in such a manner: When we ask for routine confidentiality, for instance, it can be spun to suggest that we asked for illicit secrecy to hide insider trading.