Did Ex-Alabama Governor Get A Raw Deal?

60 Minutes Reports On Bribery Conviction Of Don Siegelman In A Case Criticized by Democrats And Republicans

CBS All Access
This video is available on CBS All Access
Asked how they were going to prevent that from happening, she says, "Well, they had to re-indict him, is what Rob said."

Simpson told this same story, under oath, to Congressional investigators in a closed session. Rob Riley told 60 Minutes he never talked to Jill Simpson about this.

Four months after Simpson says they spoke, Siegelman was indicted on new charges. Doug Jones, Siegelman's lawyer, says one of the prosecutors told him that Justice Department headquarters in Washington had ordered a top to bottom review of the case. Today, the Alabama prosecutors deny that it was Washington - but whoever ordered it, there was a big boost to the investigation.

"They started over. People started getting subpoenas that had never gotten subpoenas before, for testimony, for records. The governor's brother, his bank records started getting subpoenaed. The net was cast much wider than had ever been cast before," Jones says.

"You know, on the other hand, what's wrong with the Department of Justice vigorously investigating a case if they think there is an indictment to be made on public corruption charges?" Pelley asks.

"Well, you still have to investigate crimes, not people. It undermines the entire system of justice because at that point anybody can be a target. Any prosecutor can look across the table and say, 'You know what? I just don't like you,'" Jones says.

The prosecution was handled by the office of U.S. Attorney Leura Canary, whose husband Bill Canary had run the campaign of Siegelman's opponent, Gov. Riley.

"Why would you do it that way?" Woods asks. "Why wouldn't you say, 'You know what? We're going to bring in someone from another jurisdiction to do it. There's a lot of United States attorneys around the country. We'll have somebody come in and do this case.' That's not what happened in Alabama. Every time they had the chance to go the extra mile to be independent and objective, they didn't do it."

Leura Canary handled the case for eight months. When defense attorneys objected, she turned it over to her assistants and says that she had nothing further to do with it.

In this new investigation, prosecutors zeroed in on that vivid story told by Siegelman's aide, Nick Bailey, who said he saw the governor with a check in his hand after meeting Richard Scrushy. Trouble was, Bailey was wrong about the check, and Siegelman's lawyer says prosecutors knew it.

"They got a copy of the check. And the check was cut days after that meeting. There was no way possible for Siegelman to have walked out of that meeting with a check in his hand," Jones explains.

"That would seem like a problem with the prosecution's case," Pelley remarks.

"It was a huge problem especially when you've got a guy who's credibility was going to be the lynch pin of that case. It was a huge problem," Jones says.

And there was another problem with the prosecutor's star witness: Nick Bailey was a crook. Unknown to Siegelman, Bailey had been extorting money from Alabama businessmen. Facing ten years in prison, Bailey agreed to cooperate with prosecutors to get a lighter sentence.

60 Minutes went to talk to Bailey. The Justice Department wouldn't let our cameras into the prison, but we met with him for hours.

Bailey told 60 Minutes that before the Siegelman trial, he spoke to prosecutors more than 70 times, and he admitted that during those conversations he had trouble remembering details. He told 60 Minutes the prosecutors were so frustrated, they made him write his proposed testimony over and over to get his story straight.

If Bailey's telling the truth, his notes, by law, should have been turned over to the defense. But Siegelman's lawyers tell 60 Minutes they never saw any such notes and never had a chance to show the jury just how much Bailey's story had changed.

No one at the Justice Department would be interviewed for this story, but they did send a statement which read, in part, "This case was brought by career prosecutors … based upon the law and the evidence alone. After considering that evidence … a jury of Mr. Siegelman's peers found him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."