Skulduggery will be afoot in the Ben May Public Library (701 Government St.) on Dec. 3. It will flicker across darkened Bernheim Hall for all to see.
“This looks like something out of a Third World country. It’s stunning how deep it all goes,” Steve Wimberly said.
The film is “Atticus v. The Architect,” a 106-minute journey through alleged political dirty tricks. Wimberly is executive producer for the initial documentary of his company Peppertree Films.
At its core is political corruption Wimberly allegedly found while researching the prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman. In 2006, the native Mobilian and notable Democrat was convicted on federal felony corruption charges and sentenced to seven years in federal prison.
A 20-year veteran of television and film production, Wimberly was tantalized by a “mutual friend” of his and Siegelman’s. Interest piqued, the filmmaker actively researched and created the film starting in 2014.
“It took over a year and a half to really get the background because the case is so complex and deals with so many levels of corruption,” Wimberly said.
The vagaries as he told them revolve Republican political consultant and former George W. Bush administration official Karl Rove and links to Heart of Dixie GOP figures. Chief among those are political operative and former Rove associate Bill Canary and his wife, Leura, the federal prosecutor who indicted Siegelman.
“We have people in the film who were there and said a meeting was set up and the sole purpose was to railroad Siegelman into jail because they couldn’t beat him at the polls. That meeting included Karl Rove, [lobbyist] Jack Abramoff, [convicted political operative] Michael Scanlon, Bill Canary and Bob Riley,” Wimberly said.
He claimed the project’s name was Operation 2010. The title was from a goal “to have taken over all three branches of Alabama government” by 2010.
Why would a national player like Karl Rove be interested in Alabama politics? Bearing in mind the state’s long history of single-party rule, its comfort with the problems accompanying such lack of oversight and Alabama’s natural conservatism, why would dirty tricks be needed to effect these changes?
“That’s a great question. Maybe you could look at it as low-hanging fruit,” Wimberly said. He also attributes Rove’s previous ties to Canary as motivation.
Wimberly also claimed a Siegelman juror contacted other jurors via email to lobby for a guilty verdict. He said she had ulterior motives.
“She went to the prosecutor after the case and said, ‘I’m going to law school, give me a job. I voted guilty and helped,’” Wimberly said. “Now she works for [Special Prosecution Division Chief] Matt Hart as a state prosecutor.”
The producer has tapped out personal resources making the film. He crowdsourced part of it and is using that avenue for promotional funds.
Wimberly has screened the work in Atlanta, in Birmingham’s Alabama Theater and at various venues around the state. One scheduled showing at Montgomery’s Capri Theater hit a snag.
“Leura Canary is a board member for the Capri and she had it blocked or banned from being played there. We wound up booking it in a larger theater and we almost filled it up,” Wimberly said. The substitute was Troy University’s 1,200-seat Davis Theater.
Artifice asked if Wimberly was familiar with former Mobile journalist Eddie Curran’s lengthy book on Siegelman, “The Governor of Goat Hill.” It was compiled through years of covering the now-convicted politico’s career and Curran maintains Seigelman’s guilt.
“I read parts of [his book] but we didn’t reach out to Eddie,” Wimberly said. “We based everything on the evidence, on our investigative work, and let it stand on what we found. I have read parts of his book and it differs greatly from the information we had. I would love to get his take on it.”
The filmmaker maintains his work isn’t partisan. One name that emerged was Obama-era U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and his private work with a Washington, D.C., firm that represented Rove.
“It’s not a pro-Siegelman documentary, no matter what people would like to believe. It’s fair and balanced because we do uncover Democratic corruption in it as well,” Wimberly said.
The film begins at 3 p.m. Tickets cost $10 and are available online at Eventbrite.
In the Nov. 16 conversation, Wimberly had cryptic news.
“I was told two hours ago there will be federal indictments from the investigative work we did, from the film. It will bring about indictments soon, probably before the movie comes to Mobile,” Wimberly said.
Despite prodding, he revealed nothing else.