MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A bipartisan group of more than 100 former state attorneys general has asked President Barack Obama to pardon ex-Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, who is nearing the end of a six-year prison sentence for bribery and obstruction of justice.
Former New York Attorney General Bob Abrams said they believe the Democrat’s conviction nearly a decade ago was both unjust and tarnished by politics. The letter from the group, which also supported Siegelman’s unsuccessful legal appeals, was delivered to the White House on Wednesday.
“Although nine years have passed, Gov. Siegelman’s unjust conviction continues to eat away at the integrity of the justice system,” the former attorneys general wrote. “Many legal scholars as well as the public at large believe that the prosecution of Gov. Siegelman was a perversion of justice.”
Presidential intervention in the form of a pardon or sentence commutation is likely Siegelman’s final hope of getting his prison time reduced. Appellate courts have upheld his conviction.
The 70-year-old ex-governor is serving a 6 ½ year sentence for bribery and obstruction of justice. A federal jury in 2006 convicted Siegelman on charges that he sold a seat on a state regulatory board to HealthSouth founder Richard Scrushy in exchange for $500,000 in donations to Siegelman’s signature political issue, a 1999 campaign to establish a state lottery. Siegelman also was convicted on a separate obstruction of justice charge.
The attorneys general wrote that it was questionable if the evidence in the case supported a conviction and that Siegelman did not personally benefit from the transaction. There was no direct evidence of the two men verbalizing an agreement to swap the donation for the appointment. Prosecutors at trial relied on what the two men told their subordinates about the donation.
Siegelman for decades was a dominant figure in Alabama politics, holding the offices of secretary of state, attorney general, lieutenant governor and governor. He served as Alabama’s governor from 1999 to 2002. He was the last Democrat to hold the position of governor in the deeply red state.
The U.S. Supreme Court in January refused to hear Siegelman’s appeal. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year rejected Siegelman’s request for a new sentencing hearing and trial, saying there was no evidence that a federal attorney, whose husband worked in GOP politics, influenced the case after her recusal years before the trial.
U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller, the judge who presided over Siegelman’s trial and handed down his sentence, resigned from the bench last year after his arrest on a misdemeanor battery charge. The Judicial Council of the U.S. 11th Circuit found that Fuller’s behavior “might constitute one or more grounds for impeachment.”