Supporters believe Democrat Don Siegelman was the victim of political prosecution by the Justice Department.
Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, who has been serving a seven-year federal prison sentence for bribery, was ordered released from prison Thursday pending appeal. The House Judiciary Committee had already requested that the Department of Justice release Siegelman to testify about the circumstances of his prosecution and conviction, which Siegelman and his supporters, including many in the blogosphere, contend was politically motivated. On Thursday, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that there were “substantial questions” about his case, without specifying what those questions were. Siegelman will be free on bond during the appeals process; on Thursday his wife and daughter were headed to Oakdale, La., to pick him up and bring him back to Birmingham.
An immediate question raised by Siegelman’s legal team is whether the ex-governor, as a white-collar criminal, should ever have been incarcerated while the appeals process continued. It is common practice in white-collar cases for defendants to remain free on bond. Siegelman was also shackled in the courtroom, another departure from white-collar convention. But for Siegelman’s supporters, the overriding issue is determining whether the ex-governor was the victim of a political prosecution directed by the Department of Justice in Washington. Siegelman was the last Democrat to hold the office of governor in Alabama, and lost reelection to the office in 2002 by the narrowest margin in state history. The case is controversial in Alabama; a recent “60 Minutes” broadcast raising doubts about the prosecution was mysteriously blacked out in the northern part of the state.
Siegelman was indicted on federal charges in 2004, but the charges were thrown out “with prejudice” by a judge on the second day of his trial, meaning they could not be refiled using the same evidence. Federal prosecutors filed new charges in 2005. Siegelman was accused of providing favors to HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy in return for campaign donations. Both Scrushy and Siegelman were convicted in 2006, Siegelman on six counts of fraud and bribery and one count of obstruction of justice.
In 2007, attorney Dana Jill Simpson signed a sworn statement saying that she’d been on a Republican campaign conference call in 2002 when she heard Bill Canary, a GOP campaign consultant whose wife, Leura, is U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Alabama, say that his “girls” and “Karl” would make sure Siegelman was not politically viable in the future. Simpson took “girls” and “Karl” to mean Leura and Karl Rove, the Bush advisor.
The Alabama state GOP issued a statement about the 11th Circuit’s ruling. “The former Governor’s release pending appeal does not change the conviction by a jury of his peers. It would be premature to turn this development into anything other than a formality.”
Mark Schone is Salon's executive news editor. More Mark Schone.
More Related Stories
- GOP: Party of crybabies
- Developers evict historic women's shelter to build luxury hotel
- Guantánamo prisoner on hunger strike cries for help on Twitter
- 3 possible solutions to international tax avoidance
- “I just want the U.S. to send my father home”
- Army weapons engineer tied to white nationalist organizations
- Ted Cruz against the world
- David Vitter's hypocritical, punitive, horrible new amendment
- Louie Gohmert: Women should be forced to carry nonviable pregnancies to term
- Could hackers destroy the U.S. power grid?
- Democrats may be even worse than Republicans at regulating Wall Street
- Eric Holder versus journalism
- A progressive defense of drones
- There's no substitute for government disaster relief
- Holder signed off on search warrant for reporter
- Mississippi could begin prosecuting women for miscarriages
- Mike Judge: "Bowling for Columbine" made me pro-gun
- Closing Gitmo is not enough
- Murkowski: Palin too disengaged to run for Senate
- In IRS scandal, new GOP tactic is ignorance
- Code Pink activist berates Obama at national security speech
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11
War Room is our political news and commentary blog, with coverage and commentary throughout the day.