Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Author in Lion's Den: Book excerpt and related YouTube

Here is the link to the video and below, an excerpt from the book explaining it. The push I received, and which is described below, was not caught on the video.


NOTE: The following is an excerpt from the chapter, "Rappin' on Rove," which is in the final section of the book. Scott Horton, a writer for Harper's, wrote more than a hundred on-line columns about the Siegelman prosecution and is a major character in this last section. Horton, as will be seen in the book, had an influence on the national perception of the Siegelman case that far exceeded his work for Harper's. It was for this reason that a group in Huntsville invited the New York writer to Alabama to speak about the case and the coverage of the former governor in the state's media, primarily in the pages of the Mobile Register and Birmingham News.

Here's the excerpt:

      In early April 2008 I learned that Horton was coming to Huntsville to speak to a group formed for the sole purpose of hosting him and calling itself, “North Alabamians for Media Reform.”
     “Watchdogs or Lap Dogs?:  Politics and the Alabama Press,” was advertised as a one-man screed against the Alabama media, and chiefly, the Newhouse bad boys, the Mobile Register and Birmingham News. I asked to be permitted to give a short rebuttal at the end, remarking that any entity seeking to promote media reform would naturally wish to present both sides. The offer was rejected.
       I decided to once again violate protocol. By this point I knew that Horton was to be a major actor in the book, figured I needed to see him in action, and made the seven-hour drive to the lion’s den in Huntsville. Siegelman’s hard-core support in Alabama is skin deep, but its alligator skin, and the crowd of about 200 represented the outer layer. Some of the true believers came from out of state to see the event.
      Siegelman was there, as was Jill Simpson, and Pam Miles, a Huntsville activist and blindly devoted Siegelman backer who played a substantial role in the grassroots effort to drum up support for her hero. Glynn Wilson, the lone force behind the “Locust Fork” blog, attended. To my disappointment, the Legal Schnauzer was a no show.
      The area media was there in force, including at least one Huntsville television station.
      I sat a few rows from the front. Siegelman, who received a standing ovation upon entering, was in the row behind me. Simpson, befitting her role as star, sat in the front row with Priscilla Duncan, her lawyer and my old friend.
     Horton opened with his professorial survey of the Alabama media’s failings after the Civil War; then during the Civil Rights Movement; and finally -- the state media’s third epochal collapse and the reason we were all gathered – our coverage of the Siegelman case. The crowd tittered in delight when Horton remarked that a recent story by one of the violators “tops anything I ever remember in the Soviet press.”
      Pravda under Stalin, concealing death camps and mass assassinations? Move over guys. Here comes the Mobile Register and the Birmingham News with stories about Don Siegelman!
       After a stretch of this, and some business about the Newhouse organization, I was moved to stand up for Sy and my faraway masters in New York. I told Horton and the crowd that the Newhouse organization most assuredly had not directed me or anyone else at the paper to go after Siegelman.
      Horton, all innocence, asked where I’d read that. He said he’d merely written that the state’s papers were part of a “consolidated” media group. “That doesn’t mean the Newhouse organization ordered its newspapers to go after him. That’s ridiculous,” he said.
       That one left me speechless. Had I a photographic memory, there’s no shortage of examples I could have reeled off. In column after column he’d accused the Register and News of joining forces to bring down Siegelman, and never failed to make the Newhouse connection. 
      After the Huntsville Times wrote disparagingly of Siegelman, Horton ripped the Times as well, not forgetting to link that paper to its two Newhouse cousins.
      In a column printed in the Anniston Star, Horton wrote that if a “miscarriage of justice occurred, then the press in Alabama bears a large part of the blame. By press, I mean one media company, Newhouse Newspapers…”
      It was these claims, not his backing of Jill Simpson, that brought the otherwise unknown Harper’swriter to at the attention of the people at the Register, the News, and, after he started lumping them in with us, the folks at the Huntsville Times as well. The Anniston column prompted a response from Times' columnist John Ehinger.
     In, “Three state papers find themselves the targets of a N.Y. writer,” he wrote that Horton “implies that joint ownership of the three papers somehow affects editorial policy, including editorial policy in the Siegelman case.”

And then:

      I find it “curious” -- to use Horton’s term -- that although he claims to have studied press coverage of the case for two months he offers not a single editorial, news story, headline, paragraph or sentence in evidence. As a lawyer, would he limit his case to a jury to a summary of the evidence without presenting any actual evidence? I doubt it…
     Scott Horton is a skilled writer and, I presume, a competent lawyer. Maybe the next time he'll provide some facts to support his claims and refrain from painting journalists he doesn't know with a brush so broad and, ultimately, so misleading.

      But I had no such retort ready for Horton’s willingness to run away from his own words and innuendo and stammered some lame response. He moved on, informing the audience that the Register published more than 100 stories on no bid contracts. He said reporters for the Mobile and Birmingham papers “knew what grand jury witnesses said” and that we were either “the hottest thing since Clark Kent” or had been fed secret grand jury testimony by the prosecutors.
      Had he taken the time to ask me, Kim Chandler or Phil Rawls – the latter an AP reporter, with no fealty real or imagined to Si Newhouse -- we could have told him that we only knew what grand jury witnesses said when the witnesses told us, which they rarely did. If Horton had read the stories, he would have known that.
     I let that one pass, but moved to correct his generalization about our stories. This did not sit well with the audience. I pointed back toward Siegelman and told Horton that the governor had thanked me for my stories on the G.H. Construction warehouse deal. I said my stories weren’t just about no-bid contracts, but also reported, among other things, that Siegelman received more than $1.3 million in legal fees while governor; that he sold his house to a straw man for twice its value; and that his administration arranged to slash the hazardous waste fees at Emelle so Lanny Young could get paid $500,000 by Waste Management.
       “Where’s your question buddy? You’re on a rant. We don’t give a damn about your rant,” howled a man behind me, and who’d been razzing me.
        I told him I was correcting Horton because he had mischaracterized my stories. Horton said it “may be surprising to your fellow reporters” were they to hear me saying I wrote all the Siegelman pieces. He said I was not the only reporter at the Register. To which I told him, that, well, I did write the stories.
        "I think y’all are afraid to hear an opposing viewpoint,” I said. “You (Horton) never called the Newhouses or my paper because you don’t like opposing viewpoints.”
        It was about then that the guy behind me pushed me -- not hard enough to knock me over, but a good nudge nonetheless. I turned around and told him, rather sternly, not to do that again, not knowing how in the world I would back up such a threat should he do it again.
        One of the event organizers came to the front. She said that as a radical Democrat she, like others in attendance, have “had to sit in rooms and been berated for our positions ... If we’re going to change this country then we have to have civil discourse on both sides…Until we can do that we are no better than those we oppose.”
       The woman, Yolanda McClain, said that “whether or not (I was) swayed or not from powers outside his control or directed” to write what I wrote was for others to decide. She didn’t mean it ugly, but that was the gist of the program -- that I and others with the Register and Birmingham News had willingly served as pawns for Republican politicians and prosecutors.
       Whether I was standing up for myself or once again revealing thin skin is a close call, but I told McLain it was “insulting to me to tell me I’ve been influenced by powers outside my control.”
       The scene – from my first objections, to the shouts for me to sit down to McLain’s talk to the crowd – was posted on YouTube, though without the push. I saw it and, to my surprise, thought I did OK. 
       After the program McLain apologized for the behavior of the man behind me. She seemed a kind, intelligent woman, if misguided on this issue....
        Stories in the Huntsville and Decatur papers and the report by the Huntsville television station reported my objections to Horton’s statements and the crowd’s shouting me down. If nothing else, my presence helped give voice in those reports to a viewpoint other than that of the visiting expert from Harper’s.
      Ehinger, the Huntsville editor, had been there, and penned his second column on Horton. Of my contributions to the evening he wrote:
     Alas, one person who apparently doesn't have a thick skin is Eddie Curran, a reporter for The Press-Register who has written extensively about the Siegelman case and other matters related to the former governor's administration. Curran, who is on leave from the Press-Register and is writing a book about Siegelman, was at UAH for Horton's talk.
… Curran objected to Horton’s statement that he and others must have been fed confidential information by the attorneys prosecuting Siegelman. That might have turned into an interesting discussion but for the fact that when Curran tried to speak, he was repeatedly told by audience members to shut up and do other things. That’s the passion I mentioned earlier -- passion and rudeness.

      After the program, Jill Simpson told a Huntsville TV reporter that Siegelman “got destroyed by those individuals and it is very much a raw deal.” 
      She reached into the now familiar forensics bag of quotes, pointing to the ever-present Republican “fingerprints” on the Siegelman prosecution.
     “They’re smeared all over it,” she said.

Siegelman gets author in trouble; Scrushy plays solitaire?; God calls Leslie Scrushy

Running late on promised posts on Siegelman developments and Cam Newton thoughts.
For now, here's an excerpt from the chapter, "Nick and Lanny, Under Siege," in the trial section of the book.

NOTE: Though he hardly needs introducing, Bill Baxley appears here because he was Mack Roberts' lawyer during the 2006 trial. Fuller is trial judge Mark Fuller; and Deen is Mobile attorney Jeff Deen, who defended former Siegelman chief of staff Paul Hamrick.

      Like other federal courthouses built since the Oklahoma City bombing, the Frank M. Johnson Federal Courthouse was designed with security in mind. It’s an imposing granite semicircular building, with the entrance about 200 feet from the street. With many of the older courthouses, the steps lead to the street, which limits the ability of reporters to snag subjects for quotes. The broad expanse of cement created by the layout was perfect for reporters and worked out well for the Siegelman trial.
    Near the street, courthouse personnel roped off an area for the television cameras. Those wishing to be interviewed – as Siegelman and his lawyers always did – merely had to walk over to the bundled microphones for instant publicity.
     Scrushy, rather than his attorneys, did most of the talking for his side. Roberts, Hamrick and their teams laid low, which wasn’t terribly difficult since Siegelman and Scrushy were the marquee names and camera hogs to boot.
      I won’t pretend that I wasn’t apprehensive about being around Siegelman every day for weeks and girded myself against responding in kind if he insulted or berated me.
      I needn’t have worried. Siegelman was pleasant and friendly and didn’t seem to take it personally when I asked tough questions outside court. He could be funny, often at his own expense, though my favorite example was a crack at mine. During jury deliberations, everyone raced to court for news that the jury was coming in. It was a false alarm – a question for the judge, not a verdict. I walked down the stairs and saw Siegelman as he exited the elevator. He approached me, and to my surprise, began praising the depth of my questions and reporting on the trial.
     A marshal who busted me weeks before for interviewing Bill Baxley inside the courthouse – prohibited during this trial -- saw us and jumped on me again. I stammered that the governor had asked me a question, and Siegelman backed me up. When the marshal left, Siegelman laughed.
     “Well, it’s about time I got you in trouble,” he said.
      It was a nice touch, and another moment when I saw his good side.
      In court as out Siegelman presented a natural and usually relaxed demeanor to jurors. He sat straight-backed, not just attentive, but bright-eyed and interested. He made regular eye contact with jurors and often smiled their way.
     To the extent that a defendant can help himself by conveying a sense of humanity to jurors, be it with smiles like Siegelman or, as with Mack Roberts, a gentle if slightly bored serenity, Scrushy failed miserably.
     It didn’t help that he and his regiment of lawyers were seated at a table directly across from the jurors, their backs to the opposite wall, with Scrushy dead center. I wasn’t always in the main courtroom, and even when there, could have missed it, but not once did I see Scrushy smile. If he made eye contact with jurors, it was fleeting.
     The court was wired with the Internet, and many of the lawyers had laptops that allowed them to review documents scanned in as evidence. Scrushy was the only defendant with a laptop. He disappeared into it. His lawyers could be banging away at a witness, but their client was, or pretended to be, oblivious. Scrushy was in his own world, eyes searching the screen, his hand pressed on the mouse. I suppose he was reviewing court documents, but then again, maybe he was playing solitaire.
     When jurors looked across the room they saw this man with a chalky complexion, hair black as the rims on his glasses, not a wrinkle in his expensive suits, obsessively working his laptop.
     The armchair psychologist in me saw someone accustomed to commanding the attention of all in a room and controlling his environment. Here, Fuller was the boss, lawyers and witnesses did the talking, and protocol required Scrushy to remain silent. This made him intensely nervous, so he employed his laptop as escape mechanism.
    Scrushy was the only defendant I never conversed with, the exception being the daily press gatherings. There was one awkward turn in the bathroom, when I walked in to find myself alone with him. To my surprise he said hello and used my name, and I replied in kind.
     In court, the Scrushy contingent invariably included his wife Leslie, usually accompanied by several others and always by one or more black pastors.
     Leslie Scrushy is, by any measure, attractive, a brunette with green eyes and smooth white skin, and always dressed to the nines. She was as personable as her husband was not. She appears genuine about her faith, if barmy.
     During the trial the Washington Post published a remarkable feature story about her. She revealed that during the lead-up to her husband’s fraud trial, the couple was awakened by a telephone call at exactly 2:51 a.m. The caller instructed Scrushy to fire high-powered Washington attorney Abbe Lowell and replace him with Jim Parkman, the hammy Dothan lawyer credited by many for getting Scrushy off.
     The caller, said Mrs. Scrushy, was God.
     Yes, He uses the telephone.
     There was something else in the story about the timing of National Pancake Week and how that proved to Leslie Scrushy that God was on their side. The piece reported that each morning she anointed the Montgomery courtroom with prayer.
    “Leslie is very prophetic, and I think God will show her things,” her husband told the Post.
     Lori Siegelman attended most days, usually with company. During Siegelman’s last year as governor one was forever hearing rumors that they were about to split. She was famously strong-willed and spent much of her time in Birmingham. He was a workaholic governor and an indefatigable campaigner. There was also the criminal investigation. Even the strongest marriages would bend under those pressures.
    The rumors were of such persistence that I’m inclined to think there were problems. If so, they were healed by the trial.
    I had never seen them together until the trial and witnessed, not a pretense of closeness, but the real thing. She sat behind him most days, and once, carried away by a lawyer’s argument, clapped. Fuller didn’t single her out, but angrily warned the crowd that future outbursts would lead to the culprit’s removal from court by the marshals.
    Outside the pair held hands and whispered to one another. She spoke little if at all to reporters and gave me more than a few looks that could kill, and I didn’t begrudge her a one.
     The most steadfast member of Siegelman crew was Kenneth Marshall, a paralyzed black veteran who watched the trial from his wheelchair, in the aisle and near the front of the court. A friendly, handsome man with a deep baritone, he was known as Maze – the nickname given him by Siegelman because he was “amazing.”

Monday, November 29, 2010

Excerpt from book about Waste Management, Lanny Young, and a judge's death

Note: This entry is the start of a chapter in, "The Governor of Goat Hill" called, "Lanny Landfill."

Later today (Monday), I will post some thoughts on recent developments in the Siegelman case and
my two cents worth on the Cam Newton situation.

As with the start of all chapters, this one begins with two quotes:

       “I am nobody’s straw man. I am nobody’s dog.”
        -- Lanny Young, during April 2001 interview, when asked if he served as a secret
front-man for Waste Management when it wanted to build landfills.

     “Harry (Alabama Department of Environmental Management lawyer Harry
Lyles) stated that Waste Management should be upfront and apply for the permit and
not send some agent, such as Mr. Young, to do their bidding for them. Whereupon, Mr.
Campagna expressed that was the way they did permitting and that they now have no
confi dence in ADEM.”
    -- Notes taken by ADEM staff er during a 2002 meeting with Waste Management
offi cial Charles Campagna, after the G.H. Construction stories and with Young’s
credibility shattered.

     On Dec. 1, 1998, the Cherokee County Commission voted to let Waste
Management substantially expand the area from which its, “Three Corners
Landfill” could accept garbage, including well into Georgia. This allowed the
company to vastly increase its profi ts while also slashing the life of the landfill for
county residents.
    As if that wasn’t enough, the commission also consented to the company’s
request to halve its “host fee.” From that point on, Waste Management paid
Cherokee County $1 for every ton of garbage hauled into the site rather than the
$2 in the original contract.
    In return for this double windfall, Waste Management gave the county a few
    Six days after the commission’s inexplicably bone-headed decision, Waste
Management wired $1 million into Lanny Young’s account at Colonial Bank. That
was for the host fee change. Two months later, it shot him another $2 million, for
his persuasive efforts in convincing the county to allow the landfill to take waste
from Georgia and elsewhere.
    Young didn’t accomplish these feats by waving a magic wand. He had inside
help. Cherokee County was largely run by Phillip Jordan. He held the dual titles
of probate judge and county commission chairman and had for 15 years, since his
election at the ripe age of 26.
    Jordan initially worked a deal with Lanny where he would become a secret
part-owner of the landfill, but Young talked him into accepting money instead.
    He pledged to pay Jordan $100,000. Lanny – who shorted everybody, even,
apparently, those he bribed – only gave Jordan about $65,000, the latter testified
years later at the Siegelman trial. The by-then disgraced former judge said Young
gave lesser amounts to two other commissioners.
      Lanny’s initial payments to Jordan were made with cash, amounts from
about $1,000 to $6,000 stuffed in envelopes, and handed over during meetings
in neighboring Etowah County. Then Lanny started paying with checks. Some
were written to non-existent people, others to relatives of Jordan. On at least one,
Young made a notation indicating the money was for cattle and hay.
    Jordan, nervous about the checks for obvious reasons, didn’t want to cash
them locally. He called on an old friend, Paul Thomas, for help. Thomas was the
probate judge of neighboring DeKalb County.
      From 1996 to 1999, Waste Management paid Lanny about $8 million for his
labors in Cherokee County. The largest chunk came first, after Lanny’s company,
Alabama Waste Disposal Solutions, received a permit to build and operate the
landfill. Lanny’s though, never built much less operated the landfill. Instead, he
sold the permit to Waste Management, which built and continues to operate what
is one of Alabama’s busiest landfills.
    His and Waste Management’s next target was Lowndes County, which sits to
the west of Montgomery county. At the Siegelman trial it was revealed that Lanny
gave $10,000 to a close friend of Lowndes County commissioner Charlie King.
As incentive for corruption, it’s hard to top Waste Management’s secret
contracts with Young. Here’s the breakdown of the Lowndes County deal:

$4 million. Amount Waste Management was to pay Lanny after he won the
permit to build and operate the landfi ll, then sold/transferred it to the company.

$500,000. Th is sum would be Lanny’s on the second anniversary of the

$500,000. On the third anniversary.

$1 million. Amount Waste Management was to pay Lanny when the landfill
began receiving an average of 550 tons of garbage per day.

$1 million. When the average climbed to 750 tons.

$1 million. If and when the average reached 1,000 tons a day.

$2 million. Due Lanny if he could convince the Lowndes County commission
to decrease its “host fee” from $2 per ton $1.25.

Total, with incentives: $10 million.

    Waste Management wasn’t just paying for the right to own landfills. It was
also paying for a protective layer between the acts the company had to suspect
Lanny might commit to make his millions and the repercussions should he be
    Plausible deniability. We don’t pay bribes. And if someone else does, we
naturally disapprove.
    It’s worth noting that Waste Management, with its corruption-tainted past,
was by then advertising itself as the “new Waste Management,” as a clean company,
ethically as well as environmentally.


    On June 23, 2004, FBI agents called on Thomas, the DeKalb County judge,
to ask about the checks he’d cashed years before for Jordan. The judge admitted
doing so.
     The next morning Thomas called work to report that he wasn’t feeling well
and wouldn’t be coming in. The next day the state wire ran a story reporting his
death from “a steep fall at his mountaintop home.”
    It read in part:

     Thomas, who turned 60 Wednesday, apparently slipped on a high rock at his Sand
Mountain home and fell about 45 feet to his death, Rainsville Police Chief Roger Byrd
     Officials received an emergency call to Thomas’ home at 12:06 p.m. Th ursday,
and rescue workers recovered his body from the foot of the bluff , Byrd said. Although
offi cials believe Thomas’ death was accidental, DeKalb County District Attorney Mike
O’Dell requested an autopsy.
     By the time the FBI met with Thomas in 2004, Lanny Young was almost a
household name in Alabama. The year before he’d pleaded guilty to bribery and
other crimes involving G.H. Construction and other matters. It was widely known
that he was cooperating in a federal probe of the Siegelman administration.
     Because of the unusual circumstances of Thomas’s death, Alabama Attorney
General Troy King felt compelled to issue a statement declaring it an accident.
     Not that anyone believed that. Most people familiar with the matter think
Thomas jumped to his death. Considering how law enforcement works in such
matters he was probably given the choice between pleading guilty to some lesser
crime or being charged with a felony for aiding Jordan. For insurance and pension
reasons and to spare his family the mess to come Thomas killed himself, correctly
anticipating that it would be offi cially declared an accident.
      That’s innuendo wrapped in speculation but not unfair considering the
circumstances. Nor do I think that it’s unfair to suggest the following:
     With the outrageous incentives it dangled before Lanny, North America’s largest
waste company set in motion the chain of events that led to Thomas’s death.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Introduction to "The Governor of Goat Hill"

“It’s much like a puzzle. It started with this one voice saying somebody needs to look into this G.H. Construction matter.”

-- Montgomery-based Assistant U.S. Attorney Louis Franklin, during October 2005 press conference announcing indictment of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, former HealthSouth Corp. chairman Richard Scrushy, and two Siegelman cabinet members.

“Due to the bias and unprofessional behavior of this Mobile Register reporter, the Governor’s Press Office does not respond to his requests. While we respect the Mobile Register, its other reporters and its editors, we regret the paper’s decision to endorse Eddie Curran’s unprofessional behavior. Among other inappropriate actions, Mr. Curran cursed a member of the governor’s staff for almost five minutes, repeatedly calling him a ‘fucking piece of rat shit’ Such behavior is inappropriate and unprofessional. We will not dignify it by continuing to communicate with this reporter.”
-- Statement that the Siegelman administration asked the Register to include in each story by me and involving the governor, and in lieu of comments or responses to questions.

Years ago, a girlfriend and I rented a place on one of the small islands along the approach to Key West. As something of a bonus, our landlord taught me how to catch the Florida spiny lobster. This requires mask and snorkel, a net, a “tickle stick,” and patience.

One takes a deep breath, submerges, and scours the man-made canals looking not for claws, since the Florida species has none, but for the two long thick antennae poking from their ocean insect heads. Our landlord made it look easy, rising from his second or third submersion with a thrashing lobster in his net. He said goodbye, wished me luck, and handed over the net and tickle stick.

In the next hour I dove down dozens of times, each time rising to blow water from my snorkel, suck in a lungful of air, and repeat, without once seeing a lobster. When finally I spied antennae protruding from the rock crevices, the finding bit became easy. It was like one of those patterns shown to children that suddenly reveals itself as something else entirely, and from that point on, reveals itself again and again.

Catching them is the fun if most difficult part. Lobster, Florida’s anyway, don’t so much see as sense, and this they do with their antennae. The trick is to goad the nocturnal creatures from their safe havens. One reaches over or around them, and often around rocks as well, to gently tap their tail with the tickle stick. Tap too rough, and dinner whooshes away. Play it right, and the confused lobster eases into open water and out of its element.

Hunter again reaches around prey, this time with the net, placing it open-faced and inches behind the tail. Quick, like setting a hook in a fish, you bop it in the nose with the tickle stick. The lobster, now a rocket in reverse, propels itself backwards and, one hopes, deep into the net, which must be twisted sharply to prevent the hyped up crustacean from escaping. Burning for air, you emerge from the blue water, holding high the squirming trophy.

That evening, our landlord told us how to cook the lobsters, an uncomplicated process easily summed up by saying they’re boiled alive. But they should be cleaned before being dropped in the roiling water. Our landlord demonstrated how this was done. He ripped off one of the spiny antennae, shoved it in the lobster’s rear, twisted it and carefully removed the vein or colon or whatever it was that, if left in, mars the taste. Then the landlord dropped it in the water. The lobster issued a high-pitched whine as it perished.

Then our landlord chuckled. “I’ve got this recurring nightmare,” he said. “A giant lobster catches me, rips my arm off, sticks it in my behind, then throws me in boiling water.”

We laughed along with him. But the image. It was hard to shake.


The final days of July 2001 were the worst of my professional life. I was as I deserved to be on the receiving end of a sharp reprimand from my editors. My only defense, that I’d been provoked, paled in comparison to my response -- an astonishing, explosive and vulgarity-laden tirade directed at a young Siegelman press aide, Rip Andrews. For several minutes, or before our city editor pried the phone from my hands, the newsroom looked on in shock as I invented cuss-word combinations at rock concert decibels

I soon found myself in the big corner office of Mobile Register Editor Mike Marshall, who was about as angry at me as I’d been moments before with Rip. But Mike seethed where I’d shouted. The short version: If I ever did that again, or anything close to it, I was gone. Fired, finished, no matter what.

In the days to come, Siegelman’s people would call Mike to ask that he remove me from covering the administration. To my everlasting gratitude, he did not. Upset that I wasn’t being removed or better yet, fired, the administration told Mike that it was putting together a list of other sins I’d committed and which it intended to present to Mike’s boss, Register publisher Howard Bronson. Siegelman was in effect appealing Mike’s decision to the paper’s highest court.

Mike said I should chill out for several weeks, work on other things, and wait.

Siegelman, I knew, had skilled, ruthless opposition researchers at his disposal. These are the guys used by politicians to scour the backgrounds of opponents in search of misdeeds for use in negative campaign ads and the like. But instead of, say, Fob James, Siegelman’s researchers were targeting me, or so I imagined.

The shoe’s on the other foot, turnabout’s fair play, call it what you want. To my way of thinking, I was being stalked by the Giant Lobster. The hunter turned prey, and not liking it one bit.

About two weeks later I was at my cubicle in the Register’s stuffy, ages-old downtown Mobile newsroom when word came that Mike wanted to see me. I instinctively knew what for and shuffled to his corner office, wondering if a career in pizza delivery could support a wife and two young children.

Mike greeted me with a grin, and my paranoia melted away. Before he uttered the first word I knew I wasn’t going to be fired or -- and it would have been equally awful – pulled off covering the administration and the bottomless pit of juicy stories waiting to be unearthed in Don’s World.

“Most of this stuff is silly,” Mike said, handing me the letter.

The letter, with a one-page attachment, was addressed to Mr. Bronson from Siegelman’s new chief of staff, Jim Buckalew. A summary of the letter might be: “If the Mobile Register has an ounce of journalistic integrity, it will fire Eddie Curran.”

Buckalew was an outsider, brought in the month before to provide maturity and an ethical compass to an administration lacking both. The exodus of Siegelman’s first chief of staff Paul Hamrick, highway director Mack Roberts, and the demotion and eventual resignation of Nick Bailey -- gubernatorial driver, confidential assistant, state budget officer and a few other titles as well – followed a barrage of stories under my byline that began six months before and ignited a state and federal criminal investigation.

Five years later, Siegelman and former HealthSouth Corp. Chairman Richard Scrushy were found guilty of charges including bribery and extortion. Several witnesses -- most notably Bailey and the ubiquitous landfill developer/lobbyist Clayton “Lanny” Young -- had by then already pleaded guilty to bribery and other crimes. All, Scrushy included, appeared in my stories well before they were named in guilty pleas or indictments, as did Waste Management Inc., by a long shot the worst corporate actor in this story.

But in August 2001, I was the defendant. I sat down and with reddened face and bouncing knee, read the letter, then the second page entitled, “Personal and Confidential.” This sheet of paper contained what amounted to a seven-count indictment against Edwin Jerome Curran III, DOB 10/21/61, WM, 6-3, 230 lb., brown hair, blue eyes.

The charges, in their entirety:

• Mr. Curran helped edit an ethics complaint filed against the governor and then reported on that complaint the next day. The Governor’s Office has kept on file an edited copy of an ethics complaint Mr. Curran sent to the office and a copy of the final complaint filed with the Ethics Commission. The final version includes handwritten edits, some of which mirror the edits made by Mr. Curran. The following day, Mr. Curran wrote to Ted Hosp, in an attempt to justify this matter. In doing so, he admitted that he had discussed the contents with Jim Zeigler, who filed the complaint, before it was filed.

• Mr. Curran engaged in an extreme display of temper during a conversation with a member of the governor’s staff. He cursed at the staff member so loudly and for such a long time that another Mobile Register reporter felt compelled to express his embarrassment the next time he called the office. Mr. Curran’s verbal attack lasted non-stop for more than five minutes. He called the staff member a “f—ing piece of rat s—t.”

• During the last night of this year’s Regular Session of the legislature, Ted Hosp walked into a Republican Senate office, where he found Mr. Curran drinking alcohol with a Republican senator, Claire Austin, and others. Drinking is not allowed in the Alabama State House.

• On the last night of this year’s session, Mr. Curran became so inebriated at a Montgomery bar that he was not able to drive home. He had no money and asked then-Chief of Staff Paul Hamrick for $20 for a cab.

• Mr. Curran once commented to Mr. Hamrick about the breast sizes of women working in the Governor’s Press Office.

• Mr. Curran called Press Secretary Carrie Kurlander at her home on a Saturday night after 9:30 p.m., in a non-emergency situation.

• After having the opportunity to interview members of the governor’s staff for hours, Mr. Curran continued a pattern of harassment against certain staff members, including calling Nick Bailey once after midnight.

“Mike! This is crazy! That night at …” I went on and on, which wasn’t really necessary, as Mike didn’t appear concerned with the case against me.

A month later, after the Siegelman administration changed the state’s public records policy to prevent me from seeing certain documents, the above charges were aired in a story in our paper. And lots of fun that was.

You can be sure that I will be addressing the charges, especially the one that troubled me most – that I helped edit an ethics complaint against the governor.

This is neither a biography of Don Siegelman nor a complete history of his first and only term as governor. It’s a first person account of covering, or rather, uncovering, activities of the Siegelman administration that the governor never expected the public to learn about, much less be reported on with the level of detail and depth allowed me by my editors. It’s the story of Siegelman’s dark side, of the implosion of his obsessively crafted political career and in the end, of the disintegration of his character.

It’s about at least $1.37 million in legal fees paid Siegelman during his four years as governor, and the use of a straw man to buy his Montgomery home for twice its value. It’s about landfill giant Waste Management’s use of serial briber Lanny Young to win millions of dollars in concessions from the governor and his aides and the hick judge who ran Cherokee County, and the cynicism that had to exist for a company called Goat Hill Construction to steal from the state by forging a bogus receipt two days before it even incorporated itself.

It’s the story of a New South Governor as disseminating shakedown artist.

As the scandals piled up in the final two years of his administration, one was forever hearing folks declare that Siegelman had wasted so much talent and promise. “It’s such a pity,” they’d say. “Don was going to be our New South governor.” Or, “Don was the most talented politician of his generation.”

Siegelman’s fall was a greater tragedy for himself, his family and a handful of associates than for the people of Alabama. The state has not suffered in his absence.

I expect that readers will wonder if I was out to get Don Siegelman. It’s a question I asked myself many times. Certainly I developed a distaste for the man. Over time these feelings mellowed into pity and a skewed admiration, or rather, astonishment that someone could day in and day out be as willfully full of it as he. At some point it becomes an accomplishment and a source of wonder.

For most of the period covered in this book, I viewed him as less man than machine – open his skull and you’d find wires. To my surprise, he and I got along well during his 2006 trial. Not until then did I witness the side I should have realized existed all along, given his success with voters over three decades.

I came to see the former governor as part Peter Pan, part Pinocchio, a 62-year-old boy whose life is a perpetual campaign, for votes and reflections of love from as many people as he can reach, whether with a handshake and a smile or a television interview. I saw a man who could no more walk past a television camera without stopping than he could answer a pointed question with the truth. Whoppers ushered from his mouth without hint of shame or recognition at the absurdity of his declarations.

After the trial, one of his co-defendants, four-time former highway director Mack Roberts, described Siegelman as being among “the nicest people I’ve ever been around.”

“Personally, I really, really like him and he’s smart, and I hope things work out for him, but we disagreed on a few things,” said Roberts, putting it gently. “Most governors I worked for were kind of stand-offish – Wallace, Folsom, Governor Hunt – they were the governor and kind of stand-offish, but Siegelman was a lot more personable.”

This won’t be an exercise in modesty. I will go ahead and declare that, were it not for my stories, Don Siegelman would have won a second term as governor. Of that there is, in my mind, in many others’ and I feel sure in Siegelman’s as well, no question. Nor, though, will I minimize my mistakes and excesses. I will defend myself, but hopefully not in a way that prevents you from making up your mind about the reporter as well as the governor.

My hope is that you will come to understand not just Siegelman’s descent into corruption, but also the process of researching and writing investigative news stories. Because of Watergate, most people assume there’s a Deep Throat behind every such piece. Even when there is, sources rarely take a reporter all the way to the well, as Deep Throat most assuredly did not for Woodward and Bernstein.

Some of the Siegelman stories originated with tips, such as those on the G.H. Construction warehouse scandal. Others, including the reports on the sale of Siegelman’s house and the series that led to Scrushy, began with hunches.

With none of those stories, regardless of origin, could the finished product have been foreseen from the initial tip or hunch.

With each there was an adventure, or in any event, my idea of one.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Why Croaker Talk?


Note: This is not a croaker, but it was caught in Mobile Bay, only not, dammit, by me. However, I find that its expression represents the spirit of "Croaker Talk."

(Note: Blog probably won't return until Sunday or Monday, because of Thanksgiving.)

          Since I started my blog, millions of you have written or called to ask, "Eddie, why Croaker Talk?"
              There are several reasons, and now is as good a time as any to make them up.
              Here goes, in no particular order:
              1. Bloggers, like croakers, make noise of a sort, and, like croakers, bloggers are not required to make sense.
              2. I recently, with cell phone, took a picture of a croaker I caught. I therefore have the necessary "art" to go along with the blog. I often change my desktop background, used the croaker pic recently, so it was handy and on my mind.
              3. The croaker is an underappreciated fish, and I'm the author -- allow me some tears here -- of what I feel is an underappreciated book about journalism, Alabama politics, and the failings of former Governor Don Siegelman (it's called, "The Governor of Goat Hill").
              A little more on that thought -- but only the croaker bit.
              First, I am blessed. In the 1940s, my grandparents built a house on the eastern short of Mobile Bay and it has remained in our family. There is no excuse for me not be good at catching fish, as in, speckled trout, redfish, and others in that class. I like to do it. I've had ample opportunity to learn and get good at it. My father's good at it, as is my brother and many of my friends. But I lack focus, and my feelings, at the deepest level, have been hurt by backlashes. While others have kept on casting, I'm pulling at string, feeling stupid and incompetent. Thus, my favorite fishing apparatus is any rod and reel made by Zebco. Those babies don't backlash.
              I don't know this for an absolute fact but I doubt there are many better croaker holes than Mobile Bay, nor croaker-catching tools superior to the Zebco.
              So I keep it simple -- Zebco v. Croaker in Mobile Bay.
              Most people croaker-fish by wrapping the end of their line around a crab, casting it out, and letting the crab catch the croaker and signal back that the deal is done.
              My technique is somewhat different.
              I tie a smallish hook to the end of the line.
              Step Two: I get a few of the little weights you bite open, then bite back closed on the line. Though the pros have gone to those cylindrical lime green and orange floaters, I find that about three-fourths of the time they fly off when given the sort of hearty cast I'm wont to make. Therefore, I apply a round, plastic, red and white floater a foot or two (depending on the tide) above the weights.
              And ... I use dead shrimp as bait!
              If I have big dead shrimp, I'm tempted to hook the whole thing but really and truly, a smallish to medium size chunk is better. There aren't too many croakers big enough to even consider swallowing the bait I try to feed them sometimes but usually I can restrain myself and act the part of the disciplined angler.
              Whereas most people cast by taking a running start and heaving their entire bodies into it, I prefer a neat if powerful (see above) flick of the wrist.
              Given decent conditions (no huge waves, hurricanes, or those ridiculously low Mobile Bay tides), following the above guidelines, and applying a modicum of patience, I believe you could haul in a croaker one out of every two casts.
              Could, but not will. That's because Mobile Bay, in addition to being a primo breeding ground for croaker, is the motherland for the roach of the fishing world.
            I think the federal government should give Auburn a massive research grant to find out how to remove the saltwater catfish from the face of the earth, or at the very least, from the waters of our bay. They're ugly in a cruel, mini-shark way; you have to be very careful removing hooks because of their poisonous fins; even one as small as a microbe can take your bait and get stuck on your hook; you'd turn to cannibalism before you'd eat one; and I could go on.
              Too often, the little heartbreakers beat the croaker to your bait. (I should note many are large, and give a good fight, but disappoint all the worse when you see it's catfish.)
              4. Lastly, the croaker is a lucky fish, as I will be if you go to this link.
              Now that you've returned, why, you ask, is the croaker a lucky fish?
              They are strictly a sport fish, if not particularly high on that totem pole. Catch and release. Too bony, I'm told. So most croakers that suffer the awfulness of having to be dragged fighting out of the water by a hook to the lip shortly thereafter return to Mobile Bay, stunned and delirious with exhaustion, but very much alive.
              Thus, Croaker Talk.

   (Later note: The above was written, as they say, tongue in cheek. While much of it is true, the bit about most people croaker fishing by "wrapping the end of their line around a crab, casting it out, and letting the crab catch the croaker and signal back that the deal is done" ... well, that part is not, and I wouldn't recommend trying though it might make for interesting times.)

              Now, moving on...
              What might one expect from Croaker Talk?
              Some days I will comment on matters related to my book, "The Governor of Goat Hill." On others, I might give my two cents worth on the news of the day, be it about Alabama politics, a certain potential recruiting fiasco, the Milton McGregor bingo probe, or anything else that strikes me as interesting/topical.
              I hope to soon add a link to matters that interest me but have zero to do with news or politics. I don't know, maybe my thoughts on books, music and movies.
              To use one of my children's favorite words, it will be random.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Dishonest Broker (Scott Horton Chapter)

The Dishonest Broker
A chapter from,
"The Governor of Goat Hill"

Siegelman, right, shakes the hand of Scott Horton, the Harper's
 writer and on-line columnist who served as patron saint for Siegelman, 
Jill Simpson and all their whacky tales.

(Note: This chapter, like all in the book, begins with two quotes)
        There is extensive evidence that the prosecution of former Governor Don Siegelman was directed or promoted by Washington officials, likely including former White House Deputy Chief of Staff and Advisor to the President Karl Rove, and that political considerations influenced the decision to bring charges.” 
          -- From introduction to April 2008 majority report by the House Judiciary Committee on “selective prosecution” by the Bush Justice Department. Scott Horton was quoted in the report and cited 15 times in the footnotes, more than any other source. 
          “For a few weeks now, I have been pointing out the similarity of the Alabama Newhouse papers (especially the B’ham News and Mobile Press Register) to the Soviet press of the pre-Gorbachev age. They are the golden voice of the Alabama GOP, presenting the world in politically flavored terms, start to finish. But yesterday, the coverage took a turn into territory that tops anything I ever remember in the Soviet press. Now the ’Bamamainstream papers are moving into decidedly North Korean territory.” 
            -- Scott Horton, in his July 31 column on the web-site of the venerable Harper’smagazine.   
                On April 22, 2008, a Huntsville-based group calling itself North Alabamians for Media Reform hosted, “An Evening with Scott Horton.”    
          The subject of the evening’s talk was, “Watchdogs or Lap Dogs?: Politics and the Alabama Press.”    
          The speaker was a bespectacled, slightly tubby and ever so rumpled man who looked more like a journalist or professor – his new professions – than his old, an attorney at an elite New York law firm.   
           Siegelman was there, having recently been released from prison pending his appeal, by order of the 11th Circuit. So too Jill Simpson, who, though overweight, radiated star power. Maybe it was her bright red hair or her odd confidence,or that she was still glowing from her appearance two months before on, “60Minutes.”
              The 200-plus crowd delivered standing ovations to Siegelman and Horton and gave Simpson a pleasant welcome.   
           Professor-like, Horton began by placing the failings of the Alabama media on the Siegelman case in historical context. He spoke of the blistering meted out by the state’s newspapers, circa 1880, to progressive Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Minott Peters. The judge was far ahead of his time in advocating racial equality. His reward? A reputation shattering attack at the hands of the prosecutors and Alabama newspapers. 
             “And the national media took notice, and the national publication that stood most in the forefront in covering it was a periodical in New York called Harper’smagazine,” said Horton.  
            To state the obvious: Peters is Siegelman; the likes of myself, Brett Blackledge and Kim Chandler and our editors are racist journalists; and Horton is the courageous national reporter setting things right.   
           Example two was the Civil Rights movement. The state media remained largely silent as blacks were beaten and discriminated against, and it took the national media to tell the world what was really happening in Alabama. And who could argue with that?  
            With historical precedent established, Horton came to the meat of the program – the state media’s coverage of Siegelman.      
        He said that once again developments in Alabama “were being catapulted into the national headlines, and I think the consensus emerged quickly amongst the national media, that the major Alabama papers, just as during the civil rights period, were not particularly reliable and they (the national media) needed to dotheir own work and reporting out in Alabama.”
              “I’m convinced that the local press fell down in its responsibility to properly report the Siegelman case and at this point, the national media is stepping in,”he said.  
            Horton had reason to feel good about himself that night. He had in the previous year helped choreograph a propaganda campaign that transformed Siegelman from convicted criminal to a nationally-recognized victim of a WhiteHouse-led Republican conspiracy. 
             He accomplished this by writing more than 130 on-line columns about the Siegelman case for Harper’s and articles for the well-regarded American Lawyer magazine; waxing eloquent on national radio and television news talk shows; and, crucially, serving as the behind-the-scenes source for those in the national media and Congress who sang the song to a wider audience.  
            As I believe will be established in this final section, Horton fabricated meetings that never occurred, deals that didn’t happen, comments never made. He was forever enlightening subjects of his derision by placing them, actor like, in dramas that occurred only in his imagination. 
             Initially I couldn’t bear to read him, but later came to tolerate if not enjoy Horton. Reading him is like watching a documentary on one of those polygamy sects, fascinating and disgusting at the same time. His ability to cram multiple lies into a single sentence is awe-inspiring, and sentence after sentence, the fibs whizzing past like race-cars at Talladega, so fast you don’t have time to grasp onebefore hitting the next, and the next. For example, he wrote that the Siegelman prosecutors“spent roughly $30 million in taxpayer’s money to take down the state’s most prominentDemocrat at the direction of Karl Rove …”   
           Where he came up with $30 million is beyond me. Perhaps from Siegelman, who priced his prosecution at $40 million, apparently confusing himself with Clinton and the Whitewater probe. The state’s most prominent Democrat? Not in 2005 he wasn’t. Prosecuted at the direction of Karl Rove? Only if you believed Jill Simpson.  
            During the Clinton administration, the rhetoric and commentary about Clinton and his wife, even from responsible voices, was routinely vicious, indecent, even sadistic. Horton is the equal of the ugliest of the Clintons’ critics, a Rush Limbaugh of the left. He doesn’t dislike, he despises; he doesn’t use sarcasm, but ridicule. Frequent target Louis Franklin was referred to, among other things, as,“Leura Canary’s sock puppet.” Mark Fuller was a crook who traded rulings on theSiegelman case for government contracts. The judge was also derided as stupid, with one of his briefs called, “farcical, the sort of thing that any judge would be ashamed to allow see the light of day.”    
          Horton seethed after the Montgomery Advertiser dared publish a pleasant feature on Leura (Garrett) Canary. He answered with a column comparing Canary to her “uncle” Si Garrett, the corrupt attorney general alleged to have played apart in the notorious 1954 murder of Phenix City reformer Albert Patterson.  
            “Would you expect anything different from Si Garrett’s niece? It must be in her DNA,” he wrote.  
            Among the errors in the piece – and they abound, each amplifying innuendo-- was that the long-dead Garrett wasn’t Canary’s uncle. He was from a different branch of family, something like her 10th cousin.   
           Blackledge’s Pulitzer Prize notwithstanding, Horton wrote that in “most statesa reporter like Mr. Blackledge would not venture very far… But in ‘Bama, where they take their Kool-aid unalloyed, he’s the real thing.”    
          (In 2008, the Associated Press hired Blackledge to cover national intelligence issues, and he moved to Washington.) 
             Horton swamps his prose with literary reference. Cicero, Victor Hugo, Shakespeare and regional classics like Robert Penn Warren’s “All the King’s Men,”and Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” all used to add solemnity and weight to the crimes of participants in the plot. Because he spent time as a human rights lawyer in Russia, that country’s writers make appearances. Comparisons betweenthe Soviet Union and Alabama are frequent, usually in his obsessive lacerations of the Alabama press.
              Horton started writing for Harper’s within a month or two of leaving the prestigious New York-based international law firm, Patterson, Belknap, Webb &Tyler, where he was a partner. According to an on-line biography, he founded that firm’s practice in parts of Russia and the former Soviet Union and also advised leaders in the region.  
            Horton’s erudition and intellectual heft are not in question. He is fond of posting on, “No Comment,” excerpts of, for example, German, Spanish, and French artists and philosophers, and in their original tongue.  
            The crowd in Huntsville that night took great delight in his matter-of-fact statement that coverage of the Siegelman case in the Alabama media was, “off the charts … worse than most of the cases I’ve studied in the former Soviet Union.”   
           In his world there is no middle ground, only saints and devils. His favored literary metaphor for the anti-Siegelman forces is Javert, the obsessive inspector from Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. Horton’s Javert encompassed Rove, the Bush Justice Department, the Rileys, the Canarys, and, perhaps especially, Louis Franklin. 
             The Javert conceit appeared regularly in Horton’s columns and in titles of his pieces, such as, “Javert’s Wailings Grow Louder,” and “More Responses to Javert,”and “Javert’s Amazing Pirouettes.”     
         “Javert is a part of a culture of moral collapse and decrepitude … This culture has nothing to do with justice and truth,” Horton explained. “It is indeed the enemy of truth and justice. Its natural matrix is fetid and dark, it operates with innuendo and falsehood writ large, drawing heavily on the reputation of ancient and once noble institutions through which its rot swiftly spreads.”  
            Swirling within this fetid matrix was the repugnant Alabama media, chiefly theBirmingham News and the Press Register, which as Horton never tired of pointing out, are “sister” papers, both owned by Newhouse-owned Advance Publication. In his brain, that’s no coincidence. In fact, we “co-ventured the prosecution,”probably after being bribed, and should be subjected to a federal criminal
             This from a March 2008 column, “A Brain Dead Press”:    
           The bottom line is that these papers have an amazingly warm and cozy relationship with the current political powers-that-be in the state. I have no idea what they get out of this relationship, but on matters such as this I am far too cynical to think that they’d engage in such reputation-damaging factual contortions without very strong incentives.
              The big offenders, as I have chronicled repeatedly, are the Birmingham News and the Mobile Press-Register. If a special prosecutor is appointed to examine the gross irregularities surrounding the Siegelman case — and calls for that step mount with each passing day — then the inexplicably cozy relationship between the two papers in Birmingham and Mobile and the politically directed prosecutors who pushed the case against Siegelman should be right near the top of the matters investigated.
             Horton will be a regular presence in the final section of this book. I recognize that by making him so I risk appearing vengeful, as Javert writing about Javert. In fact, I was far more troubled by what he wrote about others, especially the judge, jurors and prosecutors. Agree with them or not, they were honorable people doing their jobs. He treated them like dogs. But that’s not the reason Horton will figure prominently here. 
             Rather, it’s his relevance.    
             In part through his tireless advocacy of Jill Simpson and her story, this arrogant, nasty man – Javert if ever -- influenced the coverage of the Siegelman case by major national media and appears to have all but dictated the findings on the case by the Democrat majority of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee.
              That is the central scandal of this last section. It’s about a con, pulled off by Horton, Simpson and others, and leading his own charge, Don Siegelman.

No Questions Asked

Three Case Studies in Terrible Reporting
by the Times
On the Siegelman Case
           This is the third of the series, "Three Case Studies in Terrible Reporting by the New York Times. The three examples of bad -- as in lazy and/or biased reporting -- are by no means the greatest sins in the paper's coverage of the Siegelman case. Each, though, struck me for what they revealed about the paper's treatment of the prosecution of Alabama's former governor.
              With one exception -- "Oops, We Caught the Wrong Bass" -- the faults are of the sort that a regular reader would be unable to recognize. The "Bass Brother" mistake might have caught the eye of anyone who knows much about Texas (the Basses are famous there), or of those who read the Times' corrections.
              The errors on the "Bass Brother" example required the Times to print not one, but two corrections.
              I call the three case studies:
              "Oops, We Caught the Wrong Bass"
              "The Missing Identifier"
And, today's entry:   "No Questions Asked"

Richard Scrushy, center left, and, far right, Birmingham pastor Charles Winston, a member of Scrushy's Kingdom Builders religious organization.

Below, a portion of the affidavit drafted by Charles Winston, almost entirely in hisown words, and signed by "Juror 5," whose words they most assuredly were not.
               "Other jurors have said that they felt pressured by the judge to reach a decision in order to go home and that some jury members read about the case on the Internet during the trial." == From, "A New Twist in the Prosecution of a Former Governor of Alabama," by the Times' Adam Nossiter.
              I could spend an hour, easy, deconstructing a story written by Adam Nossiter and published Nov. 22, 2008, in the Times and purportedly reporting a "new twist" in the Siegelman case.
              Instead, I'll stick with one small detail that supports one of my general arguments -- that the Times  reporting on the Siegelman case was based on materials frequently given the paper by Siegelman and/or his people. In many cases, the reporters (especially Nossiter) apparently made no effort to question the records or research their context, even when doing so would have incurred no more than a few easy computer searches.
                 The quote above -- about jurors saying they felt pressured to reach a verdict about Internet materials being introduced in the deliberations -- is supported with a link the Times provided readers to an affidavit by "Juror 5."
                 This affidavit -- done about 6 weeks after trials' end -- had been presented to the court by Siegelman's lawyers as part of their scorched-earth effort to win a new trial.
                Mark Fuller, the judge who presided over the trial, reluctantly called a hearing, summoning Juror 5 and the lawyers and pastors involved in securing his affidavit. Juror 5 (Charlie Stanford) testified that his wife and the pastor of the church she attended badgered him repeatedly to go to the church and meet with a pastor who'd made the long drive from Birmingham to Oxford.
              Other testimony showed that the pastor, Charles Winston -- one of many black pastors Scrushy befriended after he got into trouble -- had learned of Charlie's existence through the Oxford pastor. Winston denied, if not convincingly, that he was acting on Scrushy's behalf. Winston acknowledged in his testimony that the juror showed "real hostility" about coming to the church.
              Here, from, "The Governor of Goat Hill," is a passage related to the court hearing. Because Juror 5 had difficulty reading, he and Pastor Winston testified that prior to the signing of the affidavit, Winston read Juror 5 the affidavit that the pastor had himself fashioned:

               Juror 5 didn’t like what he heard, (Pastor) Winston acknowledged to (Judge) Fuller. “He basically said, ‘This is not me. It doesn’t sound like me … Man, I don’t talk like that.’”
              Winston’s testimony eliminated the affidavit’s gravest accusation – that being Stanford’s supposed assertion that some jurors brought Internet material into the courthouse, pulled it out of files, and considered it along with the evidence presented at trial.
        When Winston read that part back to Stanford, the juror told him it was “not accurate” because he wasn’t sure any of his fellow jurors brought anything from the Internet.
             Winston admitted that he didn’t change the affidavit to address Stanford’s concerns. And why not? It was late at night. So he printed it, and Juror 5 “agreed to sign it anyway,” the pastor testified.

         The above was part of the court record, and available to Nossiter on his computer and in stories published in the Alabama media.
              Instead, he -- and the Times -- just printed what they'd been handed them, no questions asked.
              I'm sure the folks (almost surely Siegelman or people acting on his behalf) who gave the Times the affidavit and a host of other faulty records knew the truth about the affidavit.
               If I were the Times, I'd be angry at those sources; though the reporters and editors at the paper, for failing to double-check records given them by sources with much to gain, have only themselves to blame.