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August 3, 2012

"Former Gov. Don Siegelman sentenced to 78 months in prison"

The title of this post is the headline of this local article reporting on a former Alabama Governor's resentencing outcome this afternoon in federal district court.  Here are the basics:

A federal judge sentenced former Gov. Don Siegelman to 78 months in prison.  U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller handed down the sentence -- 10 months less than what he originally gave Siegelman -- after hearing emotional statements by Siegelman in Montgomery federal court.

Before sentence was passed, Siegelman, his voice cracking, told Fuller that he was sorry for his actions and the embarrassment and disappointment he has caused.  "I do have deep regrets and remorse for my actions," Siegelman said at his sentencing hearing this afternoon.

Siegelman, said he wanted to apologize to the judge, his family and to the people of Alabama.  "I'd like to apologize to the people of Alabama for the embarrassment my actions have caused," Siegelman said.  Siegelman, 66, stood before the same federal judge that sentenced him to more than seven years in prison in 2007, and pleaded for mercy....

A federal jury in 2006 convicted Siegelman of federal funds bribery on allegations that he sold a seat on a hospital regulatory board to former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy in exchange for $500,000 in donations to Siegelman's 1999 referendum campaign to establish a state lottery.

Siegelman served nine months of an 88-month sentence before being released in March 2008 on an appeal bond.  A federal appeals court tossed out two of the charges against him, which prompted today's resentencing.  Siegelman's lawyers had asked for time served plus community service or a lengthy probation.  Prosecutors asked that Siegelman be given 88 months again.

Fuller said he acknowledged Siegelman had good things for the state, but he simply could not give a person who solicited a bribe less prison time than the person who paid it. Scrushy was sentenced to almost seven years in prison although Fuller later cut that by a year.

Fuller said he had no animosity toward Siegelman but noted that today was the first time he heard Siegelman say he respected the system. "Governor Siegelman it has been a long seven years, good luck to you, sir," Fuller said.

August 3, 2012 at 04:36 PM | Permalink

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Here are some parts of the article not included in the excerpt given:

"Siegelman told Fuller that he did not intentionally break the law, but a jury found him guilty and he respected that.

"If I had known I was coming close to the line where a campaign contribution becomes a bribe and a crime, I would have stopped," Siegelman said....

Assistant U.S. Attorney Louis Franklin disputed that Siegelman had accepted responsibility.

Franklin said what they were not seeing in court today was the Siegelman who went on the national media circuit "blaming everybody other than himself for what he did."

"First it was the Canarys and Karl Rove," Franklin said, describing how Siegelman once maintained the case was motivated by GOP desires to end his political career." ###

The entry as given reflects more than a little amnesia. As the news story (but not the entry) notes, Siegelman went on a crusade about how he was innocent as the driven snow, and the whole thing was just a vindictive, fabricated, politically based prosecution tracing back to that ever-useful Democratic boogeyman, Karl Rove.

But the entry provides no reminder of that. Nor did what Siegelman had to say at sentencing. Then, magically, all the prosecution-trashing just gets dropped down the memory hole. Instead, Siegelman "respects" the verdict, feels "regret" and "remorse" for his behavior, and apologizes for bringing shame to the people of Alabama.

What was missing was any apology for his years of falsely accusing the prosecutors of putting on a political case. The court of appeals didn't buy that argument, and now we hear from the horse's mouth that -- guess what -- it wasn't a concocted prosecution after all. Siegelman could scarcely "respect" the verdict if it were.

I haven't heard his lawyers apologize either for falsely accusing their adversaries of dishonesty and political motivation. Well, hey, look, whatever. Defense lawyers can make any accusation they want -- to paraphrase the movie, a fat fee means never having to say you're sorry.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 3, 2012 7:08:20 PM

I thought the public effort to blame a Rove-centered conspiracy was ridiculous. About as ridiculous as the charges and conviction of Siegleman and Scrushy for this ridiculous "crime." I mean, really, donating money to someone in return for getting a position on a board? Doesn't everyone know how administrations of both parties pick ambassadors?

Posted by: Thinkaboutit | Aug 4, 2012 12:09:58 AM

Thinkaboutit --

I had no problem with Siegelman's "this-is-how-business-gets-done" defense; it's better than most one sees in federal court. What I had a problem with (like you) was with Siegelman's claim that it was all a political concoction weaved together to get him. It wasn't. He did what the prosecution claimed he did. If his actions are to be made legal, that's a decision for Congress. AUSAs are employed to enforce the statutes as written, not as they (or anyone else) thinks they ought to be written.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 4, 2012 7:12:46 AM

The article doesn't say a defendant said he was innocent and that the case against him was wrong & unfair? Maybe "the entry" realizes how the system works. One side says they are innocent, and in a case of this sort (see, e.g., Libby) using the typical defense that it is all political, but often loses.

Do prosecutors who lose, though they still think the person is guilty at sin, always apologize to the defendant for going full press for years against him/her?

Yes, "at sentencing," the person lost their case, and has to go through a little dance. Both sides know it is partially an act, just like prosecutors do some theater themselves in court. The one-sided tone of Bill Otis' remarks is fine. He is coming from this from one side. But, still it is striking that there is so much spleen here against one side. Various defense attorneys and prosecutors are more philosophical about the system. Going the full measure, I guess. Just like some defense attorneys here do.

Posted by: Joe | Aug 4, 2012 9:08:19 AM

Anyone who buy's what Bill Otis and Alabama's Republican old guard are selling should read the story 60-minutes did on the case:

http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-18560_162-3859830.html

This New York Times editorial raises compelling questions about the case, too:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/10/opinion/10mon4.html

This whole "acceptance of responsibility" (say uncle!) thing often smells of a tyrannical system's pathetic ruse to cover its tracks.

Posted by: John K | Aug 4, 2012 9:21:30 AM

Bill: "AUSAs are employed to enforce the statutes as written, not as they (or anyone else) thinks they ought to be written."

Really? How then do you explain what's often characterized by the media as the "creative application" of "novel theories" of law employed somewhat frequently by prosecutors?

Posted by: John K | Aug 4, 2012 9:32:52 AM

John K --

By the fact that the media are in bed with the ACLU, etc., as your prior entry wonderfully illustrates.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 4, 2012 6:03:09 PM

Once again, as the innocent person on the receiving end of Federal charges, I will say that HAD the jury wrongfully convicted me (which was NOT beyond the realm of possibility! I was accused of money laundering, (18 USC 1956), and without dispute DID do each financial transaction I was accused of--such as buying a boat (which the prosecution divided into 3 criminal counts---the initial down payment, and the rest of the down payment, which I wired from 2 separate accounts (which obviously meant I was "concealing" money, right? ha)--so 2 more charges)...anyway HAD the jury convicted me...how could I EVER be sorry? I just did NOT do the crime I was accused of (knowing I was using bad money). The justice system says that each of those counts (of wiring money to buy a boat) merits a possible TEN YEAR SENTENCE!!! Had I been found guilty and had the judge given me 30 years (3 consecutive 10 year sentences, which the judge, in their discretion could do), and had I had a second chance to stand in front of the judge, I too, would be crying and begging for mercy. Even though I would never be able to swallow my "guilt", I would do ANYTHING to get a break, even lie about my sorrow and culpability. What choice do you have? If Seigleman stood there and continued his defiance, he would get hammered. If he begged for mercy, he is still going to get hammered. (Finally showing some remorse, are ya? Beaten you down enough, have we? well, too late for you)

Posted by: folly | Aug 5, 2012 8:11:08 AM

Curious about the dollar-and-cents cost of your defense, folly. $250,000, over or under?

Posted by: John K | Aug 5, 2012 1:32:09 PM

folly --

Siegelman never claimed that he didn't do what the prosecution said he did. He just said he didn't know or think it should be a crime, because that's how business gets done.

When you don't deny doing what the indictment says you did, it's not exactly a surprise that you admit it at sentencing.

The difference between Siegelman and you is that, to my knowledge, you've never claimed that your prosecution was rigged by Karl Rove. Siegelman did. But the claim was absurd, so it's just as well he effectively ate it.

Siegelman did it. The jury so found. What's wrong with his admiting it at sentencing? Do you think it would be better if guilty defendants remainded defiant? Why?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 5, 2012 2:58:26 PM

I'd rather not discuss my defense costs at this time, as am still dealing with the Government (almost a year and half after acquittal)--but I am still paying for it, and possibly will be paying for years.(I owe thanks to my defense attorney for working with me to do this)
I also do not think what I was charged with should have been a crime. I have read the Congressional Intent behind money laundering, and both Congress when fashioning the laws, and the average "person on the street" would define it as sophisticated and deliberate movement of dirty drug and Mob money---whereas I accepted checks from a person I trusted, deposited in an account in my own name and spent it. The definition of money laundering has gotten more and more expansive through precedent. There should be a lot more involved to subject a person to a life destroying Federal Indictment.
Not only do I think I should have not been charged, and that what I did should not have been a crime--but I also believe there was prosecutorial maliciousness too. I believe I was indicted to get my spouse to fold like a deck of cards.
Can I prove it? Not when I am spending every dime and all my time defending myself. But circumstancially? think I could make the case.
What Seigelman did was to open his mouth, which I was (quite rightfully) advised not to do. I am also just a small person in the scheme of things, while he was a large and political target.
I also identify and give credit that his was a "twisted" (like a pretzel) crime--which I define as something that may not be totally obvious, or is open to interpretation. (Obvious crimes would be murder, rape, embezzlement (can you accidentally embezzle?) I give him credit for stating he did not realize how close to the line he was coming (despite the obvious prosecutorial mindset to the contrary).

Posted by: folly | Aug 5, 2012 4:50:32 PM

folly --

"What Seigelman did was to open his mouth, which I was (quite rightfully) advised not to do."

Actually he opened his pocket, into which a great deal of dough got inserted.

"I am also just a small person in the scheme of things, while he was a large and political target."

He was "political" only in the sense that he was governor, and thus had the power to adopt a pay-to-play scheme. This crosses party lines, see, e.g., jailbird George Ryan R-Ill.

"I also identify and give credit that his was a 'twisted (like a pretzel) crime--which I define as something that may not be totally obvious, or is open to interpretation."

Sure, but so what? Lots of times, politicians can be given money legally (I have contributed to them often), and other times, they can be given money illegally (bribes and payoffs). This is not exactly new.

"I give him credit for stating he did not realize how close to the line he was coming (despite the obvious prosecutorial mindset to the contrary)."

Wasn't it the jury's mindset, not the prosecutor's, that was the key to his conviction? You say the jury got it right in your case; how do you know it didn't get it right in Siegelman's? Or is the jury right only when it acquits?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 5, 2012 5:48:48 PM

Jesus, Bill. The money didn't go into Siegleman's pocket. It went into a fund to promote a state lottery. Your prosecutorial mindset and inclination to demonize whomever cops/agents point to as a bad guy are trampling the facts.

The statutes used to ruin folly's life were concocted in the 1970s to take down wealthy, lawyered-up mobsters and drug kingpins. In quick order the feds began using them to ruin the lives of people like folly...people who typically lack the resources to fight back. Today they're the statute for many/most of the people the feds target.

Their key characteristic is their vague, sweeping nature. Show them the man and the feds will find the crime.

Posted by: John K | Aug 5, 2012 7:45:00 PM

John K --

"Jesus, Bill. The money didn't go into Siegleman's pocket. It went into a fund to promote a state lottery."

You can't possibly be that naive. Siegelman certainly wasn't. That's exactly why he used the "That's-the-way-we-do-business-around-here" defense.

Pay-to-play, John. It's not exactly new to politics.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 5, 2012 8:53:56 PM

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