March 08, 2008

Is Eddie Curran flat wrong?

Eddie Curran is a reporter with the Mobile Press Register. He claims his stories prompted an investigation of former Gov. Don Siegelman and his administration. An investigation which led to Siegelman being indicted and later found guilty on public corruption charges. However, questions have surrounded the prosecution and conviction of Siegelman and these issues were recently raised in a 60 Minutes piece on the case. Following the piece Eddie Curran wrote a letter to 60 Minutes accusing the show and Doug Jones, one of Siegelman's lawyers, of being "flat wrong" about testimony given by Nick Bailey, a former aide to Siegelman.

Curran sites to the following from 60 Minutes;
  • “Mr. Bailey had indicated that there had been a meeting with Governor Siegelman and Mr. Scrushy, a private meeting in the Governor's office, just the two of them,” says Doug Jones, who was one of Siegelman’s lawyers. “And then, as soon as Mr. Scrushy left, the governor walked out with a $250,000 check that he said Scrushy have given him for the lottery foundation.” “Had the check in his hand right then and there? “ Pelley asks. “Had the check in his hand right then,” Jones says. “That Scrushy had just handed to him, according to Bailey's testimony?” Pelley asks. “That's right, showed it to Mr. Bailey. And Nick asked him, ‘Well, what does he want for it?’ And Governor Siegelman allegedly said, ‘A seat on the CON Board.’ Nick asked him, ‘Can we do that?’ And he said, ‘I think so,’” Jones says.

And later in the segment;

  • 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.

Curran writes;

  • Jones was actually correct when telling your wide-eyed host Pelley that the check was dated after the meeting. However, it was given to Siegelman at a later meeting. Neither prosecutors nor witnesses at trial, Bailey included, said the check was given by Scrushy to Siegelman at the first meeting. Doug Jones was flat wrong on this point which 60 Minutes thought so powerful that, out of what surely was a much longer interview, it used in the segment.

Curran's claim that the 60 Minute piece stated Bailey testified at trial about the $250,000 check is untrue. I have read the transcript and watched the program and there is absolutely nothing to support Curran's allegation. I will explain his "mistake" below. Curran also wrote;

  • The problem is that there was no testimony that the first $250,000 check was given to Siegelman at this meeting.

Again, Curran is wrong in this statement. The 60 Minutes piece claimed that Bailey "indicated" the $250,000 check was given to Siegelman at the first meeting. And, contrary to Curran's claim, this appears to be true. Legal Schnauzer did some research on what was reported on the trial and found the following;

From the Birmingham News, March 5, 2006;

  • Bailey also admitted his initial recollections to a grand jury were incorrect. He said that, after meeting with Scrushy in 1999, Siegelman showed him a check for $250,000 signed by Scrushy. On the date Bailey recalled, the check hadn't been written, and the check was from a Maryland land company, not signed by Scrushy.

From the Birmingham News, May 4, 2006;

  • Defense lawyers showed that Bailey's initial recollection to prosecutors about the meeting between Scrushy and Siegelman had to be false. Bailey said that after the meeting, Siegelman showed him a check Scrushy had given him, but the check was dated later. Bailey admitted he wasn't sure when the meeting occurred.

Now, to explain Curran's error; Bailey did testify that Siegelman received the check at the first meeting but this testimony was apparently given at the grand jury proceedings not at trial. Siegelman's lawyers used Bailey's grand jury testimony to impeach (attack his credibility) him at trial.

Curran was actually correct when telling his wide-eyed readers that there was no testimony at the trial from Bailey that Siegelman received the check at the first meeting. However, 60 Minutes and Jones never made that claim. Curran either made a major blunder on this point or is intentionally misleading his readers, in any case Curran is the one who is "flat wrong."

In fact, if you watch the 60 Minutes piece, you will see that Bailey's credibility was a major issue at the trial, which is why Bailey's claim that prosecutors made him write out his testimony over 70 times is crucial. These statements were not given to Siegelman's lawyers and this evidence would have been so damaging it is doubtful the prosecutor would have allowed Bailey to testify. Of course, it would also be serious misconduct on the part of the prosecutor to withheld this evidence, a point Curran choose to ignore.

Curran wrote;

  • It is my understanding that 60 Minutes spent months on this story. That you did so and got so wrong this crucial element of the evidence presented to the jury is stunning.

It is my understanding that Curran has spent years covering this story and he even claims his reporting is what led to the investigation. That he made such a major mistake in his letter to 60 Minutes is stunning and should call into question all of his reporting in this case.

Curran also wrote to 60 minutes;

  • I am sure that your sources on the defense teams have the transcript and if you asked, would provide it to you. If not, I will be glad to search my records for appeals briefs or could send you stories by me and other reporters from the trial. The issue is simply not in dispute. Your big witness – Doug Jones – was not at trial and he was totally wrong. I suggest you call him and ask him to provide the documentation to support what he told you with such an impressive degree of authority. Don’t rely on his memory – ask him to provide you with the documentation. This is what real reporters do and what an audience expects of 60 Minutes.

It looks like Mr. Curran has finally found something he and his critics agree on; he is not a real reporter.

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