WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court might decide as early as Monday whether to accept or reject former Gov. Don Siegelman’s request that the justices hear his appeal.
If they accept, Siegelman and his attorneys could be standing before the justices later this year arguing that prosecutors incorrectly twisted a regular political contribution into a bribery scheme, posing a criminal threat to all elected officials and their donors.
If they deny, Siegelman is likely headed back to court in Alabama, where his re-sentencing has been delayed while his appeal has been pending.
Siegelman’s request, along with one by HealthSouth found Richard Scrushy, was reviewed by the justices Thursday, according to the court’s record, which means Monday is the earliest possible day for them to announce whether they want to hear the case. Either way, the outcome could have a far-reaching impact on how public corruption is investigated and prosecuted across the country.
Siegelman and Scrushy were convicted in 2006 by a jury in Montgomery for exchanging $500,000 in contributions to Siegelman’s lottery campaign for an appointment to a state health board.
In their appeals, Siegelman and Scrushy say the justices need to limit prosecutors who might pursue cases of corruption and bribery without strong enough evidence that a specific deal was cut between the donor and the elected official.
“By granting review, this court would have the opportunity to right an injustice, to exonerate a man who has committed no crime, and to clarify the law in a manner that will be important to all candidates, elected officials and politically engaged citizens,” his lawyers wrote in their February petition to the Supreme Court. Their argument has gained support from election law professors and 113 former state attorneys general — Republican and Democratic — who say there needs to be a higher standard of proof that a public official’s action was directly linked to a political donation.