Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman was returned to federal prison yesterday. Siegelman was found guilty of bribery charges in 2006 in a highly controversial case. He had previously served 9 months in an Oakdale, Louisiana federal prison, but was released to appeal his case. The former governor lost the appeal, and is now attempting to get a pardon from President Obama.
Siegelman was accused of taking bribes from former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy. Scrushy was released from federal prison after a six year sentence for his part in the crime on July 25th of this year. At issue was a $500,000 donation Scrushy made to a fund Siegelman favored. Prosecutors claim that Scrushy received placement on a state hospital board in return for his donation.
This is where the case gets tricky. Scrushy had served on the same board under the three previous governors. The connection between his donation to a fund, which is legal, and being placed on the board is tenuous at best. This is not something that is generally considered a crime in this country, and if it is, there should be thousands of arrests pending nationwide.
There are also possible links to Karl Rove, an adviser under former President George W. Bush. There were connections between prosecutors in Siegelman’s case, and his opponent when he last ran for governor. U.S. Attorney Leura Canary was one of the prosecutors, and her husband, Bill Canary, worked for Bob Riley’s campaign. The Canary’s have ties to Karl Rove. A Republican operative named Dana Jill Simpson of Rainsville, Alabama filed a sworn statement claiming she overheard a conference call in which Bill Canary said Siegelman was not a political threat as Karl would have the Justice Department pursue him.
Political prosecutions were common under the Bush years. In a post at The Brad Blog, Dana Siegelman (Don’s daughter) points out that Democrats faced seven times as many prosecutions as Republicans during the Bush years. Controversy was no stranger to the Bush Justice Department. One of the larger scandals involved the firing of several US attorneys in 2006.
The case got a little national attention, but was largely ignored. Siegelman attended the Democratic National Convention last week in an attempt to gain momentum for a pardon. He spoke with Fox News’ Neil Cavuto (video below) who was surprisingly sympathetic to the former governor’s case. Cavuto is a fairly conservative commentator on Fox News, but he seemed to think Siegelman had not committed any crime.
Siegelman’s daughter Dana is continuing the fight to free her father while he is in prison. She has a petition online, which can be found here. The odds of the president granting a pardon before the election are slim. If President Obama loses, I believe he would definitely pardon Siegelman as he would have nothing to lose. If President Obama is re-elected, the situation gets a little cloudier.
This case has all the makings of a political hit job. Siegelman did not receive anything of personal value from his supposed transaction with Scrushy. The HealthSouth CEO made a donation, which millions of people do everyday. There is no proof that Siegelman gave anything in return for the donation. Scrushy was placed on the same state hospital board he had been on under previous governors, including Republicans. When conservative commentators are coming to a Democrats defense, odds are they are innocent. Governor Siegalman deserves a pardon.