Wednesday, December 21, 2005
On this day:

Siegelman: Indictments come at an inconvenient time

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Former Gov. Don Siegelman said he's worried that a new indictment against him and a new arraignment next week will make it impossible to get a trial in time to run an effective campaign for governor.

"The charges are bogus and will not hold up. I'm not worried about the charges, but I am concerned about the timing," he said in an interview. ...

Siegelman argues that the new indictment is another example of Republican prosecutors trying to scuttle his re-election bid.

Republican prosecutors, huh? Well, the lead prosecutor in the case against Siegelman is Assistant U.S. Attorney Louis Franklin. It just so happens that the Montgomery Advertiser ran a story earlier this month on Mr. Franklin. It sounds highly unlikely that his case against Don Siegelman and Richard Scrushy is motivated by partisan politics:

In nearly 14 years as a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Montgomery, Louis Franklin has earned a reputation for being hard working, well prepared and apolitical.

To those who have worked with him, prosecutors and criminal defense lawyers alike, the notion he would lead a political witch hunt against former Democratic Gov. Don Siegelman is preposterous.

"Louis doesn't have an axe to grind," said Terry Moorer, an assistant U.S. attorney who works frequently with Franklin. "I look at the newspaper and these allegations that there are political motivations for this, that or the other ... I can't think of a more apolitical guy than Louis Franklin."

Siegelman and his attorneys charged prosecutors with targeting the 1999-2003 governor for political reasons and trying to thwart his chances at another term in office, something Franklin emphatically denies. ...

Siegelman routed media inquiries to his attorney, Doug Jones, a former U.S. attorney for the northern district of Alabama. Jones did not return a phone call seeking comment but has said the indictment is flawed factually and looks as if it's "scripted."

But to those who know Franklin, who was rehired in the U.S. Attorney's Office in 1996 by former U.S. Attorney Redding Pitt, one of Siegelman's attorneys, those claims are weightless.

The Advertiser story doesn't mention what Mr. Franklin's political leanings are, but he has served under both Democrat and Republican-appointed U.S. Attorneys. You may remember that Redding Pitt, who rehired Franklin to serve in the U.S. Attorney's office back in 1996, recently resigned his position as chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party. Prior to that, Pitt served as U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama from 1994 to 2001. Pitt was appointed to that position by President Bill Clinton.

The upshot of all of that is this: If Siegelman wants to continue to allege that the charges against him stem from a Republican conspiracy to impede his campaign for Governor, he is going to have to try a lot harder. There is no evidence whatsoever that the U.S. Attorneys who are prosecuting the case against him are motivated by anything other than a desire to enforce the law.