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Ex-Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman heads back to prison for bribery

August 03, 2012|By Michael Muskal
  • Former Gov. Don Siegelman, left, enters the federal courthouse in Montgomery, Ala.
Former Gov. Don Siegelman, left, enters the federal courthouse in Montgomery,… (Amanda Sowards / Montgomery…)

Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman on Friday was ordered back to prison for his conviction on bribery and other charges, ending years-long appeals in the case.

“I apologize to people for the embarrassment my actions have caused,” Siegelman said, according to media reports of the proceedings. District Court Judge Mark Fuller in Montgomery, Ala., sentenced Siegelman to 78 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release.

Siegelman, 66, and former HealthSouth Chief Richard Scrushy were convicted in 2006 of arranging $500,000 in contributions to Siegelman's campaign for a state lottery; the governor later named Scrushy to the state’s hospital regulatory board.

Siegelman, a Democrat who was involved in Alabama politics for more than a quarter of a century, served in several top offices including attorney general and one term as governor, from 1999 to 2003.

His supporters have maintained he was prosecuted because of the political animosity from Republicans in the most recent Bush administration. His allies have waged an aggressive media campaign to get Siegelman's conviction overturned, with some calling for federal investigations or a presidential pardon.

About 90 of Siegelman’s former colleagues in the attorney general’s office filed briefs urging that he not be sent back to prison. Many questioned whether the campaign contributions at the heart of the case were actually bribes.

In 2006, a federal jury found both Siegelman and Scrushy guilty on seven of the 33 counts in the indictment, but two co-defendants were acquitted on all charges.

Among the counts on which Siegelman was convicted were bribery and obstruction of justice. In his defense, the former governor argued that Scrushy had been on the state hospital regulatory board during several preceding GOP administrations and that the contribution was unrelated to any appointment.

Siegelman was sentenced to more than seven years in prison and a $50,000 fine and began serving his time. But in 2008, a federal appeals court released him pending appeals of his conviction. In 2009, the appeals court rejected a request for a new trial, but did drop two of the seven convictions and ordered a new sentencing hearing.

The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year refused to hear the case.

On Friday, Fuller sentenced Siegelman to 6 1/2 years in prison, but decreased the sentence by the almost nine months the former governor has already served. Scrushy recently completed nearly five years in custody. Fuller also ordered probation and a $50,000 fine for Siegelman, who is to surrender in September.

“The outcome of this case reflects the unflagging commitment of the Department of Justice to hold public officials accountable for corruption,” Assistant Atty. Gen. Lanny A. Breuer said in a statement emailed to reporters Friday. “The Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section is determined to continue to vigorously pursue bribery cases involving federal, state and local officials.”

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Join Michael on Google+. Email: michael.muskal@latimes.com

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