Ex-Alabama Governor to Be Freed on Appeal
    The Associated Press
    Friday 28 March 2008    Montgomery, Ala. – Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman is not just getting to go home after spending nine months in federal prison. He’s also getting a chance to testify before Congress about possible political influence over his prosecution.    A federal appeals court on Thursday ordered Siegelman released pending the appeal of his corruption case, just hours after the House Judiciary Committee announced that it wants to hear his views when it probes claims of selective prosecution by the Justice Department.    The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in its ruling Thursday, said the former governor had raised “substantial questions of fact and law” in challenging his conviction.    The once-popular Democrat began serving a sentence of more than seven years last June on his conviction on six bribery-related counts and one obstruction count. Siegelman, 62, has been serving the sentence at a federal prison in Oakdale, La.    “It’s a sweet day. He’s an innocent man and he’s been in prison for nine months,” said Siegelman’s attorney, Vince Kilborn.    Siegelman has maintained that certain Republicans targeted him after he was elected governor in 1998. The House committee has begun reviewing his case as part of a broader investigation into allegations of political meddling in federal prosecutions.    The committee hopes to hear from Siegelman in May. Committee Chairman John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat, believes Siegelman “would have a lot to add to the committee’s investigation into selective prosecution,” committee spokeswoman Melanie Roussell said.    Federal prosecutors accused Siegelman of appointing then-HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy to a hospital regulatory board in exchange for Scrushy arranging $500,000 in contributions to Siegelman’s campaign for a statewide lottery.    Scrushy, who was tried along with Siegelman, also was convicted on bribery counts and is serving a sentence of nearly seven years. The 11th Circuit, based in Atlanta, has ruled that the multimillionaire Birmingham businessman is a potential flight risk, but that Siegelman is not.    The court refused Thursday to reconsider an earlier ruling denying Scrushy’s request to be released on bond while his conviction is being appealed.    Scrushy attorney Art Leach said he is disappointed his client will have to remain in prison for at least another six months while the case is appealed.    “I am extremely disappointed, particularly after they said in the Siegelman case that there are substantial issues on appeal,” Leach said.    Siegelman also was convicted of a separate obstruction of justice charge concerning $9,200 he received from a lobbyist to help with the purchase of a motorcycle. His attorneys have said it was a legitimate transaction.    Kilborn said that he and other attorneys were working to have Siegelman released from the Louisiana prison as soon as they can deliver a certified copy of the court’s order to prison officials. It was not immediately clear when that would occur.    U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller had refused to allow Siegelman to remain free on appeal while challenging his conviction. But the 11th Circuit said Thursday he met the legal standard to be freed in the “complex and protracted” case.    Chief prosecutor Louis Franklin said he was “very disappointed” by the ruling, but still expects the appellate court will rule against Siegelman’s appeal.    “I don’t view this as a setback. The order is very short and concise and only deals with whether he is entitled to bond pending appeal,” Franklin said.    The appeals process had been delayed for months after the court reporter during the trial died and the transcript was not completed as it normally would have.  ——- 

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