Did Rove Put Alabama's Democratic Gov. Siegelman in Jail? Um, No

A Wednesday editorial again relayed the liberal legend that Karl Rove put Alabama's former Democratic Gov. Don Siegelman in jail as part of a politically motivated prosecution in "Holding Mr. Rove in Contempt." (Something the Times has been quite good at.)

In an editorial excoriating Karl Rove for his "lawless decision to defy a Congressional subpoena to testify about the United States attorneys scandals," the Times relayed the old Siegelman prosecution myth it has circulated before.

From Wednesday's editorial:

Congress's investigation of the United States attorneys matter is of the utmost importance. It now seems clear that the Justice Department under Attorney General Alberto Gonzales operated as a partisan political actor, using its prosecutorial authority to help the party in power win elections. That was a grave abuse, which undermined American democracy.

There are real victims in this scandal. Don Siegelman, the former governor of Alabama, was sentenced to seven years in prison as a result of a prosecution that appears to have been politically motivated. Mr. Siegelman is free pending an appeal, but he has already served part of the sentence and could end up returning to prison.

Siegelman, a Democrat, was prosecuted by the Justice Department and ultimately sentenced to federal prison for bribery. Rove's accuser is an Alabama lawyer named Jill Simpson, a "Republican operative" unknown to local party apparatus. Jon Hinderaker took Simpson's gossamer-thin allegations apart in the May 26, 2008 issue of the Weekly Standard. Some choice excerpts:

Jill Simpson is an unusual woman. A lawyer, she has scratched out an uncertain living in DeKalb County, Alabama. Fellow DeKalb County lawyers describe her as "a very strange person" who "lives in her own world." The daughter of rabid Democrats, she has rarely if ever been known to participate in politics as even a low-level volunteer. Yet today, she is a minor celebrity who is unvaryingly described in the press as a "Republican operative." Those who know her in DeKalb County scoff at the idea that she is a Republican at all.


Simpson claims to have participated in a phone conversation with several Alabama Republicans in which she was made privy to a plot involving the Republican governor of Alabama, Bob Riley, a former justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, a federal judge, two United States attorneys, several assistant United States attorneys, the Air Force, and, apparently 12 jurors, to "railroad" former governor Don Siegelman into his 2006 conviction for bribery and mail fraud. Every person whose name Simpson has invoked has labeled her story a fantasy, including Siegelman; she claimed to have played a key role both in his giving up his unsuccessful contest of the 2002 gubernatorial election and in his defense of the criminal charges against him.


Simpson can offer no evidence that she has ever spoken to or met Karl Rove. Moreover, when she told her story of the alleged conspiracy against Don Siegelman to John Conyers's House Judiciary Committee staff, she said that she heard references to someone named "Carl" in the aforementioned telephone conversation - she made the natural inference that this must be Karl Rove - but never offered the blockbuster claim that Rove himself had recruited her to spy on Siegelman. Neither in the affidavit that she submitted to the committee, nor in 143 pages of sworn testimony that she gave to the committee's staff, did she ever claim to have met Karl Rove, spoken to Karl Rove, or carried out any secret spy missions on his behalf, even though the whole point of her testimony was to try to spin out a plot against Siegelman that was ostensibly led by someone named "Carl."