Heat in Alabama

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As many Swampland readers know, Adam Zagorin broke new ground recently with his reporting on the Don Siegelman case and the seemingly partisan pursuit of justice in Alabama. Now the conservative editorial page of the Birmingham News, Alabama’s biggest newspaper, has weighed in with an editorial citing Time’s story and calling on prosecutors to explain themselves. At issue: why prosecutors pursued Lanny Young’s charges against a Democrat (Siegelman) but seemed uniterested in Young’s claims that he made illegal campaign donations to prominent Republicans Jeff Sessions and William Pryor. Published on Friday, the editorial says:

Prosecutors who brought Siegelman to trial say there’s nothing peculiar about it. They say follow-up questions were asked, but that Young never suggested the Republicans knew of his assistance or promised him anything in return for his trouble. Although Young “was hoping” for favors, prosecutors said, he didn’t have the same kind of trade deal with Sessions and Pryor that he had with Siegelman. Indeed, if there is evidence Sessions and Pryor did Young any favors, it hasn’t been reported yet.

At the same time, it’s strange that Sessions, for instance, says he was never asked about Young’s allegations. You’d think investigators would have at least followed the trail that far.

And what about Pryor? Some of the authorities participating in Young’s interview worked for Pryor, since the Siegelman investigation was a joint effort by state and federal agencies. You would hope there is some kind of protocol to be followed if a criminal suspect implicates one’s boss in any kind of wrongdoing. Certainly, once allegations were raised about Pryor, the attorney general’s staff needed to take special pains to avoid any appearance of favoritism or bias.

Now, it is incumbent on prosecutors to show either that Young’s allegations about Republicans were properly investigated or that they didn’t merit any attention.

For those who didn’t see it, Zagorin also wrote about Dana Jill Simpson’s sworn testimony to the House Judiciary Committee.