Legal Magazine

Sonny Reagan's Efforts to Get an Independent Investigation Might Do Him More Harm Than Good

Posted on the 29 September 2014 by Rogershuler @RogerShuler

Sonny Reagan's efforts to get an independent investigation might do him more harm than good

Sonny Reagan (right) and former
Governor Bob Riley

Sonny Reagan has a curious way of defending himself.
The high-profile member of the Alabama Attorney General's Office stands accused of leaking information related to a grand-jury investigation in Lee County and taking other action to "impede or obstruct" the investigation.
Those are serious allegations, coming from Acting Attorney General Van Davis. So how does Reagan respond? By more or less admitting the first charge and trying to change the subject on the second one. Along the way, Reagan offers excuses that seem to come from "the dog ate my homework" playbook.
How do we know? From reading Reagan's own words in a letter to Attorney General Luther Strange (with copies to Governor Robert Bentley, among others), seeking an independent investigation under direction of the governor's office.
The Reagan letter, dated September 22, 2014, can be read at the link below. It is a curious piece of work. Reagan wrote the letter less than one week after news broke about efforts to quash his testimony before the grand jury, a proceeding that ended with Reagan invoking his Fifth Amendment right not to answer questions for fear that he might incriminate himself.
Sonny Reagan letter
How does Reagan answer the charge that he had "undisclosed communications with individuals affiliated with people indicted or under investigation by the Lee County Special Grand Jury"? Well, he certainly doesn't deny it.
In the second paragraph of his letter, Reagan says (in so many words) that, "Hey, I've been in state government a long time, I know a lot of people, and I talk to them all the time--whether the AG's office is conducting a sensitive criminal probe or not."
Reagan "categorically denies" that any of his communications have been "improper." But he also makes no effort to disclose with whom he has communicated or what they talked about.
As for those aforementioned excuses, Reagan claims that no one in his chain of command ever told him to cut back on his chatterbox ways during a grand-jury investigation at the highest levels of state government. Reagan has been a lawyer for some 12 years and doesn't know to keep his yap shut about grand-jury information? That excuse might have to improve to reach the level of lame.
As for the charge that Reagan had taken other action to impede or obstruct the investigation . . . well, Reagan doesn't seem to want to touch that. In paragraphs three and four of his letter, he immediately changes the subject to an apparent office feud he had with Special Prosecutor Matt Hart.
What does any such feud have to do with the obstruction allegations against Reagan? We can't see that there is any connection, and Van Davis has not publicly pointed to any ties.
Bill Britt, of Alabama Political Reporter, reports that multiple individuals in the justice system have been made aware of the serious nature of the charges against Reagan--that they go way beyond an office feud. Writes Britt:
Reagan testified before the Lee County Grand Jury on August 27, 2014. He testified for almost an hour before asking to speak with his attorney, Bill Baxley (defense attorneys are not allowed in grand jury hearings). After meeting with Baxley, an emergency appeal was made to Lee County Circuit Court Judge Hughes to have Reagan’s Grand Jury testimony quashed. However, Judge Hughes, after being made aware of the prosecutions evidence against Reagan, (in camera) ordered that he resume his testimony. It was at this point that Reagan took the fifth on advice of council.
On Wednesday, September 17, the Alabama Criminal Court of Appeals unsealed documents that revealed that Deputy Attorney General Reagan unsuccessfully tried to quash his subpoena to testify before the Lee County Grand Jury. After being served a subpoena to appear before the Lee County Grand Jury on August 27, 2014, Reagan filed a sealed writ of mandamus to quash the Lee County subpoena.
In their denial, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals also ordered that secret Grand Jury testimony be reveled to General Strange, in order that he might see for himself the evidence against Reagan. Even though Strange had recused himself from the Lee County investigation, the court took these extraordinary measures because they believed the Attorney General must be made aware of the seriousness of Reagan’s actions.

So, a circuit judge and an appellate court saw evidence against Reagan and clearly found it compelling. The appellate panel was concerned enough to unveil secret grand-jury testimony for Reagan's boss. And when things started looking bleak, Reagan decided to take the fifth.
That seems to leave Sonny Reagan in a vulnerable position, and Luther Strange has placed him on administrative leave. By the way, does the governor have the authority to appoint an independent investigator related to a grand-jury probe? Reagan does not point to any such authority in his letter.
On top of all that, we see signs that Reagan's credibility is shaky. More on that in an upcoming post.

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