As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Siegelman Convictions Upheld

An appeals court in Atlanta upheld most of the charges against Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, throwing out only two.

A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta struck down two of the seven charges that Siegelman was convicted of and ordered a new sentencing hearing. That means Siegelman's seven-year sentence could be reduced.

He won't get off entirely: The court upheld key bribery, conspiracy and obstruction counts against him in what prosecutors described as a scheme that put Scrushy on a state hospital regulatory board when he was at the helm of HealthSouth. The court upheld all six counts against (Richard) Scrushy and his sentence of almost seven years.

Siegelman, 63, and Scrushy, 56, were convicted in 2006 by a federal court jury in Montgomery, where Siegelman was a prominent Democrat with a political career dating back three decades.

Siegelman has claimed his prosecution was pushed by Republicans, including former White House adviser Karl Rove, a claim career federal prosecutors who handled the case have emphatically denied. Rove, a Texas strategist, was once heavily involved in Alabama politics.

It's important to recognize the context, the way Scott Horton, who maybe knows more about this case than any living human, does. The three-judge panel were all Republicans, two of whom had an "active record of political engagement in G.O.P. causes." They delivered the opinion “per curiam," without putting their name on it. And much of the evidence that would exonerate Siegelman was outside the purview of the judges in this appeal.

Nearly all the disclosures that undermined confidence in the fairness of the Siegelman trial occurred after the trial record was closed–and none of these disclosures were examined by the Court of Appeals. Even though the appeals court looked into jury misconduct, it did not have before it the much more powerful evidence of misconduct that a whistleblowing member of the prosecution team subsequently disclosed to the Justice Department—because the Bush Justice Department, in violation of its plain ethical duties, chose to keep all of that secret. So although an appeal has been taken and resolved, not one of the truly significant issues with the Siegelman case was ever briefed or argued. That remains for the future.

Siegelman has responded to the verdict by saying that the fight will continue. As for Karl Rove, his big sit-down with the House Judiciary Committee, which can include questions about his involvement in the Siegelman case, will now not happen for several weeks, according to his lawyers.

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