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Thursday, March 11, 2010

King: Federal investigation into AG, office is closed


Alabama Attorney General Troy King said Thursday that his personal lawyers have been informed that a federal grand jury investigation into him and his office has been closed.
He said the office of new U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance of the Northern District of Alabama informed his attorneys that the investigation has been concluded and the grand jury has adjourned.
King, who stood next to his wife Paige as he read a prepared statement, talked about the difficulties on him and his family during "many months of intense scrutiny" and a protracted investigation. He did not take questions from the media.
"While this has been a long and often stressful process, I never wavered in the knowledge that I have conducted myself and the high office I hold in an honorable and ethical fashion, and in accordance with the law," he said in the prepared statement.
King said he and the public might never know the motivations of those who registered the complaints against him.
"Holding this office requires a person to demonstrate courage, sometimes even standing up to the powerful, sometimes at great cost," he said. "Doing right has always carried a cost though."
He said his office cooperated fully with the investigation.
Several current and former members of King's staff were called before the grand jury in the last year.
The office also hired outside attorneys to help respond to subpoenas for documents. Chief of Staff Chris Bence said he and Chief Deputy Attorney General Daniel Morris decided to hire the Birmingham firm of Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP.
The office requested the contract of up to $100,000 last summer.
Bence told the Montgomery Advertiser in August that Bradley Arant was hired on behalf of the office because many of the documents in the office are legally sensitive and attorneys need to be sure they process the subpoena accurately while protecting the legal rights of those involved in the cases.
He said at the time that some of the requests could include cases of attorney-client privilege and documents with other privileged information.
Bence told the Montgomery Advertiser in August that he and a handful of other employees had been called before the grand jury. The Associated Press reported in January that Bence was seen leaving the grand jury room with his attorney, Joe Espy, and confirmed he appeared before the panel for a third time.
The Birmingham News reported in May that the subpoenas sought all documents related to communication with Alabama Power Co., the Atlanta Braves, the Business Council of Alabama, political consultant Dax Swatek, and others.
King, his family and some friends used the private box of Southern Co., the parent of Alabama Power Co., during a Braves game in 2006.
Media outlets first reported the federal investigation of the attorney general's office in March 2009.
King, a Republican, is running for reelection to a second full term as attorney general. He faces fellow Republican Luther Strange in the primary. The Democrats who have announced they are running include James Anderson, Michel Nicrosi, and Giles Perkins.
"Surely the people of Alabama expect a higher standard from their chief law enforcement officer than simply not being indicted by a federal grand jury," Strange said in a statement issued after the announcement. "The public deserves an attorney general who is at work fighting public corruption instead of defending his office for months with over $100,000 of taxpayer money."
Strange has mentioned the investigation and the money spent on outside attorneys repeatedly when criticizing King. Strange is a former partner at Bradley Arant.
King, who was appointed to his position by Gov. Bob Riley in 2004 and ran successfully for a full term in 2006, did list some of his accomplishments during the Thursday statement. He talked about his work on behalf of victims.
With his arm around his wife, he said the "protracted ordeal" had deeply affected Paige and their three children. Unlike the spouses of some public officials, Paige King maintains a low profile and rarely appears at public events.
"She, even more than I, has had to explain to (their children) that the news reports and the schoolhouse gossip were not reasons to worry," King said. "She, like I, has explained that, once justice arrives, it is fair, and that they can be proud that their dad has done nothing wrong. Because of my calling into public service, my wife and my children have been painfully touched by this matter."
While the grand jury met in Montgomery, the U.S. attorney in the Northern District of Alabama conducted the investigation.
President Obama appointed Vance to one of the three U.S. attorney positions in Alabama. The investigation began under former U.S. Attorney Alice Martin, who was appointed to the position by President George W. Bush.
"Holding the office of the attorney general or U.S. attorney is a position of sacred trust. A prosecutor is vested with one of the highest callings in preserving our freedom and upholding our sense of justice, but that authority and responsibility can also be misused and abused if it goes unchecked," King said Thursday. "If the person holding such an office sets out to settle political scores, the very powers that protect and defend can also destroy reputations and hurt innocent people."

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

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South Union Street is the blog of Montgomery Advertiser political reporters Markeshia Ricks and Sebastian Kitchen. Always check here for the latest on the Legislature, elections and other activities and players in Alabama.

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