The federal judge who oversaw the political prosecution of former Democratic Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman was arrested over the weekend after allegedly beating his wife in a posh hotel room in Atlanta...
Fuller, 55, is a judge in the Middle District of Alabama and presided over the 2006 bribery trial of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman and HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy.
Police responded to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel at 181 Peachtree Street at 10:47 p.m. According to Atlanta police spokeswoman Kim Jones, officers spoke to Fuller's wife, "who stated she was assaulted by her husband." Fuller's wife, who was not named by police, was treated by paramedics but refused treatment at a hospital.
According to Dan Whistenhunt of Decaturish.com, the Atlanta Police report says "The wife explained that she accused Fuller of having an affair with his law clerk. She said Fuller pulled her hair, threw her to the ground and kicked her. She told police that Fuller dragged her around the room and struck her in the mouth several times with his hands."
"Fuller said his wife threw a glass at him. Fuller said he grabbed his wife's hair 'to defend himself," Whistenhunt reports. "'When asked about the lacerations on her mouth, Mr. Fuller stated that he just threw her to the ground and that was it,' the report says."
"Police later discovered blood in the bathroom on the tub. Fuller did not have any marks or bruises, the officer noted. After medical personnel arrived, they noted additional bruises on his wife's legs."
"Fuller has faced allegations of domestic abuse before," Whistenhunt goes on to report. "The Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press reported in 2012 that a Montgomery circuit judge sealed Fuller's divorce records. The divorce file is, 'wrought with accusations of domestic violence, drug abuse and the judge's alleged affair with his court bailiff,' according to the Reporters Committee."
When asked for comment this afternoon, Siegelman's daughter Dana described the news as "shocking" and "disturbing", but said the matter "seems to fall in line with the Buddhist philosophy of karma."
The BRAD BLOG has covered the Siegelman case in great detail over the years. The former governor, who is now serving time in a federal correctional institution in Louisiana for what 113 bi-partisan former state Attorneys General agree had never been a crime before his promising political career was derailed by it, has long alleged that Fuller, a George W. Bush appointee to the federal bench, had deep conflicts of interest on the case, and should have recused himself. Siegelman was found guilty on charges of bribery, though he insists, and the evidence shows, he never received any personal enrichment. (See 60 Minutes' 2008 coverage of the outrageous Siegelman prosecution right here.)
There has been a great deal of criticism of Fuller's refusal to recuse himself from the case against Siegelman, who has been described by supporters as "America's political prisoner". His work on the trial has been characterized as a "grudge match" by an extremely partisan judge with deep ties to GOP strategist Karl Rove against a very popular Democrat whose appointee had once investigated him.
Yet, even as efforts to free her father continue, and as Fuller was released from jail late today after posting a $5,000 bond, Dana Siegelman went on to offer a note of sympathy to Fuller's wife, family, and even Fuller himself...
"Regardless of the pain that he has caused my family, I still wish him, his family, and especially the woman he hurt the best," she told us via email.
As Dana guest-blogged for The BRAD BLOG in 2012, just before her father reported to federal prison, "The main players in my father's prosecution, U.S. Attorney Leura Canary, her husband Bill Canary (who ran my father's opponent's campaign), former Alabama Attorney General now 11th Circuit Federal Judge Bill Pryor, and Federal Judge Mark Fuller have all been connected to Rove."
Fuller had been a client of Rove's when serving on the Alabama GOP's powerful Executive Committee before the prosecution of Siegelman, which directly resulted in his Republican opponent Bob Riley coming to office. As a political consultant, Rove worked closely with the Alabama GOP to engineer the takeover of that state's court system in the 90s.
"William Canary and Karl Rove masterminded the Alabama G.O.P.'s strategy of taking the Alabama courts back in 1994," Scott Horton of Harper's Magazine reported in 2007 as part of a lengthy series of investigative articles on Fuller during Siegelman's prosecution. "It was brilliantly successful."
Bill Canary was Riley's campaign manager and also married to U.S. Attorney Leura Canary who began Siegelman's prosecution and, according to Siegelman supporters, inappropriately advised throughout the case. When appointed to the federal bench by Bush in 2002, according to Horton, Fuller "had neither judicial nor federal prosecutorial experience, which are usually considered desirable for candidates for a federal judgeship."
"His appointment is a testament to the remarkable success of Karl Rove's long-term political strategy," Horton charged in another piece.
While digging deeply into Fuller's conflicts of interest in the case, Horton found, among other things, that a District Attorney appointed by Siegelman had discovered financial improprieties by Fuller's office when he served as District Attorney. At the time, Fuller described the audit's findings as "politically motivated".
"Think about that for a moment," Horton wrote. "Fuller, an Alabama Republican stalwart, leaves for the federal bench --- then finds his work as District Attorney under investigation by his replacement Gary McAliley. Fuller's federal position was secure but his reputation was bruised, and he responded to his critics by insisting he left the D.A.'s office in 'sound financial condition.' But he also let it be known that he felt that he was under political attack --- by a recent Siegelman appointee. Given that, ask yourself: why would Fuller, a man with very good reason to have a grudge against Siegelman's entire operation, not recuse himself from judging Siegelman?"
Horton added at the time: "To me, it looks like there was a score to settle."
After Siegelman was initially found guilty, rather than be released on appeal, as would normally be the custom in such cases, Fuller ordered the former Democratic Governor --- who was once seen as a promising Presidential prospect --- shackled and removed from the courtroom.
"At Siegelman's sentencing," according to Fuller's Wikipedia page, "Fuller had Siegelman taken from the courtroom in handcuffs and leg manacles and sent immediately to prison. Grant Woods, former Republican Attorney General of Arizona, on 60 Minutes commented, 'That tells you that this was personal. You would not do that to a former governor.'"
If the charges are true that Fuller was physically abusing his wife --- even as Siegelman continues to serve out his 6.5 year sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution in Oakdale, Louisiana --- it may finally be time for Fuller to receive his own set of handcuffs and leg manacles as he's shuffled off for a lengthy prison sentence.
At the very least, it seems, the time is long overdue to impeach him.
UPDATE 8/25/2014: Fuller has figured out a way that, his lawyer says, may allow him to not just avoid a prison sentence, but to avoid prosecution entirely! Incredible full details now here...
UPDATE 9/5/2014: Fuller strikes deal with court to avoid prosecution, have all charges dropped and record expunged upon successful court-approved alcohol and drug evaluation and once-a-week domestic abuse counseling for 24 weeks. Full details now here...
UPDATE 9/10/2014: NFL's Ray Rice loses job for striking his wife in hotel elevator (on video). Federal Judge Mark Fuller to keep lifetime appointment to the federal bench after beating wife bloody in hotel room (not on video). Remarkable similarities in cases, remarkable differences in public, Congressional responses. Full story now here...
UPDATE 9/17/2014: MSNBC's Chris Hayes plays portion of 911 call from Fuller's wife, in which she is heard being repeatedly struck. Full story now here...