MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Character witnesses on Friday asked a federal judge to not send a former Alabama governor back to prison, although the judge said there is “no doubt” Don Siegelman bribed an ex-hospital executive.
U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller said Siegelman’s sentence would not be longer than the seven years and four months he originally received. The 66-year-old Siegelman looked older but appeared in good spirits as he entered the courthouse and declined to comment. He was expected to testify on his own behalf.
Siegelman and former HealthSouth chief Richard Scrushy were convicted in 2006. Prosecutors say they arranged $500,000 in contributions to the Democrat’s campaign for a state lottery in exchange for the governor appointing Scrushy to an important hospital regulatory board.
Siegelman, who served one term from 1999 to 2003, was originally sentenced to more than seven years in prison. He served about nine months before being released pending his appeals. The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year refused to hear his case.
Scrushy recently finished his nearly five-year prison sentence in Houston.
Several character witnesses took the stand in Siegelman’s behalf, including his adult daughter, Dana Siegelman.
She called her father a “wonderful man” and that he felt guilty when he had to go to prison the first time.
“He was devastated that he had let us down,” she said referring to herself, her mother, Lori, and her brother, Joseph.
Former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods also testified on the ex-governor’s behalf.
Siegelman served as Alabama’s attorney general before he was governor, and 90 or so of his former colleagues had filed court briefs urging that he not be sent back to jail. They did so because they know and like their former colleague and many questioned whether campaign contributions constitute bribes.
Woods said it would serve no good purpose for Siegelman to be back in jail and that the public would be better off if he served community service.
Over the years, supporters have blasted Siegelman’s prosecution, claiming it was driven by partisan politics. Backers have waged an aggressive Internet campaign to get Siegelman’s conviction overturned, with some suggesting President Barack Obama, a fellow Democrat, should pardon him.
One of character witnesses was Sephira Shuttlesworth, the widow of the late civil rights leader Fred Shuttlesworth. She said Siegelman spent a lot of time with her husband in the days before he died.
“The Don Siegelman that I know is not one who intentionally would do the things I’m hearing about,” she said. “The people I walk with love Don Siegelman.”
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