MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman says he's disappointed — but not surprised — that a federal appeals court threw out two bribery convictions against him and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy, but let stand most of their other 2006 corruption convictions.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in a ruling Tuesday that there was not enough evidence to convict Siegelman and Scrushy of two bribery counts, which involved a hospital license and equipment. But the appeals court rejected a request for a new trial and let stand convictions on five counts against Siegelman and four against Scrushy. The court said they must be resentenced to reflect the reduced number of counts.
Siegelman was unaware of the decision until contacted by The Associated Press
"This does not come as a surprise. This whole thing has been a disappointment," said Siegleman, who vowed to continue his appeals.
Scrushy's attorney, Art Leach, said he had not had time to study the decision. But he said his client, who has been in federal prison nearly five years, would argue for a shorter sentence with two convictions thrown out.
Justice Department spokeswoman Laura Sweeney said prosecutors were pleased with the decision.
The two were convicted in 2006 on charges accusing Siegelman of appointing Scrushy to a state hospital regulatory board in return for Scrushy arranging $500,000 in donations to then-Gov. Siegelman's unsuccessful campaign for a state lottery. Siegelman, a Democrat who was governor from 1999 to 2003, was sentenced to more than seven years in prison and Scrushy to nearly seven years.
The 11th Circuit had thrown out the same two counts earlier against Siegelman, but not Scrushy. Then they appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which sent the case back to the 11th Circuit for another review based on the "honest services bribery" law. That law saw says it's a crime for a public official to deprive citizens of honest services while in office, and the Supreme Court had found problems with the law in the conviction of former Enron chief Jeffrey Skilling.
In Tuesday's 3-0 ruling, the 11th Circuit said the two counts can't stand against either after the Supreme Court's ruling.
The two counts accused Scrushy of self-dealing on the board to benefit his company by getting approval for a hospital license and a PET scanner. The 11th Circuit said there was an "absolute lack of any evidence" that Siegelman was part of any self-dealing by Scrushy.
On Scrushy's case, the appeals court said, "After Skilling, his conviction cannot rest upon the self-dealing theory articulated in the indictment."
The appeals court left intact convictions on the other counts, including Siegleman's for obstruction of justice. It involved a series of "sham check transactions" to hide $9,200 that convicted lobbyist Lanny Young provided to pay for a motorcycle for the governor.
The appeals court rejected Siegelman's and Scrushy's request for a new trial based on allegations of jury misconduct and Siegelman's contention that his sentence was unfairly high because he had criticized federal prosecutors.
The appeals court said U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller did not abuse his discretion when he gave Siegelman a sentence that went above sentencing guidelines because his conduct resulted in a loss of public confidence in the executive.
Siegelman said he will keep appealing because the case poses a danger to any politician who accepts campaign contributions from someone and then picks that person to serve on a government board. He remains free as he appeals.
"We expect to win in the end because if not, every politician from George Bush and Barack Obama to every member of Congress and every governor would be subject to prosecution," he said.
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