While Don Siegelman continues to serve out a 6.5 year prison sentence for something that 113 bipartisan former state Attorneys General argue has never ever been a crime until the former Democratic Governor of Alabama was charged with it, the federal U.S. District Court judge who presided over the trial and sentenced him has now struck a deal to avoid his own prosecution all together after having beaten his wife bloody in an Atlanta hotel room last month.
As we reported in an update last week, Judge Mark Fuller --- appointed to a lifetime job on the federal bench by George W. Bush in 2002 --- had reportedly checked into an unspecified "treatment program" in hopes of avoiding prosecution after being charged in August with domestic battery. Police reported at the time that they discovered the federal judge had dragged his wife around the hotel room by her hair, kicked her, and struck her several times in the mouth, leaving her with lacerations on her face, bruises on her legs, and blood found on the bathroom tub.
In court on Friday, Fuller struck a pre-trial deal to avoid prosecution entirely, despite reports that he had also beaten his previous wife as well, according to records from his 2012 divorce. Those records are said to have included accusations of drug abuse, domestic violence and infidelity with his court bailiff. The divorce papers were mysteriously sealed by the court at the time against the wishes of his former wife.
According to AP this afternoon, following the arrest on domestic abuse charges with his new wife, who has similarly charged that Fuller had an affair with his law clerk, it appears that Fuller will, once again, get off the hook...
Under terms agreed to Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Mark Fuller will spend up to 24 weeks in a domestic violence intervention program and undergo an alcohol and substance abuse assessment. If Fuller completes the program, the case against him will be dismissed.
Fuller said in a statement he deeply regrets the incident and looks forward to addressing the concerns of the court and "hopefully" returning to the bench.
Atlanta Police had initially responded to the Ritz-Carlton hotel after a 911 call by Fuller's wife on August 9th. According to a transcript of the call obtained by AP, she requested an ambulance and was heard to loudly repeating "Help me, please. Please help me. He's beating on me." The 911 dispatcher is then reportedly heard telling the ambulance dispatcher: "She says that she's in a domestic fight and I can hear him hitting her now."
Kent Faulk at AL.com reports that Fuller should have a pretty easy time of it in his 24 weeks, attending a "family and domestic violence program" just once a week during the period under the plea deal approved by the court "with the consent of Fuller's wife"...
Under the deal, Fuller has to have a drug and alcohol evaluation, Ragsdale said. Fuller has already had one performed by a private counseling service and Ragsdale said he hopes the judge will accept that report. If not, Fuller will undergo an evaluation by a counseling service approved by the court, he said.
"He doesn't have a drug or alcohol problem and never has," Ragsdale said.
Fuller also will have to undergo a once a week family and domestic violence program for 24 weeks, Ragsdale said. The judge can undergo that counseling at a court-approved counseling service in Alabama, he said.
Once he completes those requirements there will be no charges and the record will be expunged under the deal, Ragsdale said. "It will essentially put him back with a clean record," he said.
In a statement provided by his attorney, Fuller said: "I also look forward to addressing the concerns of the Court and hopefully returning to full, active status in the Middle District of Alabama."
Fuller served as Executive Director of the Alabama G.O.P. and as a client of Karl Rove's before he was named by Bush to his current $200,000/year lifetime position. According to Constitutional law expert Scott Horton, who wrote a series of in-depth articles on Fuller and the Siegelman case at Harper's Magazine in 2007, prior to his appointment, Fuller "had neither judicial nor federal prosecutorial experience, which are usually considered desirable for candidates for a federal judgeship."
Rather than recuse himself in the political prosecution of Siegelman, despite a long standing grudge against the popular southern Democratic governor, Fuller oversaw the case and ordered Siegelman immediately shackled and shuffled off to jail after the guilty verdict, instead of allowing him to go free pending appeal, as would normally be the custom in similar cases.
Moreover, in a case that includes a boatload of additional prosecutorial improprieties, the U.S. Attorney, also a Bush appointee, who launched the case against Siegelman was married to the Campaign Manager of the Governor's Republican opponent, Bob Riley. (See 60 Minutes' 2008 story on the outrageous political prosecution of Siegelman.)
After Fuller's recent arrest on domestic battery charges in August, Dana Siegelman, Don's daughter, described the incident to The BRAD BLOG as "shocking" and "disturbing", but "in line with the Buddhist philosophy of karma."
While Fuller serves 24 weeks of treatment, continues to collect his federal salary as others have been assigned to take on his caseload, and has now struck a deal to avoid prosecution entirely, the former Governor of Alabama, once thought to be a Presidential prospect until his prosecution by Rove and his gang of Republican miscreants, continues to seek a new trial while serving out his sentence in a federal correctional institution in Louisiana.
According to the Montgomery Advertiser, "the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has...opened an investigation into his behavior", though, they report, "The status of that investigation is not clear."
While the Court may ask for a voluntary resignation, Fuller may only be removed from the federal bench without his consent via an act of impeachment by the United States Congress.
This breaking story has been updated several times with additional information as it has become available.
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...