By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Politcal Reporter
US Representative Terri Sewell is calling on President Barack H. Obama to pardon former Governor Don Siegelman (D).
Congresswoman Sewell said in a statement, “I am proud of President Obama’s historic record on clemency, which exemplifies our belief that our Nation is one of second chances. On Monday, President Obama commuted the sentences of 9 Alabamians, including several from the 7th Congressional District. All of these individuals have demonstrated a willingness to make the most of their second chance, through educational courses, vocational training, and drug treatment.”
Rep. Sewell said, “In President Obama’s final month in office, I also strongly support a pardon for former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. It is time to remind the public that our justice system is not a safe harbor for political vindictiveness.”
For nearly three decades, George Wallace (D) dominated Alabama politics. Following Wallace’s last term (1983-1987) Republicans have dominated gubernatorial races, winning 7 of the last 8 governor’s races. The lone Democratic victory for the state’s top office in that period was Siegelman in 1998, when Siegelman defeated incumbent Gov. Fob James (R). Siegelman was defeated seeking a second term in 2002 by then Congressman Bob Riley (R).
Following his term as Governor, an investigation by the US Department of Justice raised questions about the ethical conduct of Siegelman while Governor. The feds brought one case against Siegelman; but federal judge U. W. Clemon threw most of the evidence out of court on technicalities leading to those charges being dropped.
Federal prosecutors brought a second set of charges against Siegelman. This time they accused him of accepting $500,000 for his lottery campaign from Healthsouth CEO Richard Scrushy (who himself had earlier been acquitted on federal charges of falsifying Healthsouth financial statements). Federal prosecutors argued that the money was a quid pro quo bribe in order to get Scrushy back on the Certificate of Need Board so that Scrushy could lobby the other members of the Board to grant him a permit to build Healthsouth’s new digital hospital on US Highway 280 near the I-459 junction.
Siegelman got his money to advertise a controversial lottery plan; but the widely criticized state lottery plan was rejected by state voters. Scrushy received a certificate of need to build the new hospital in Birmingham near the Shelby County line; but was removed from Healthsouth after it was revealed that his company had been submitting financial statements that dramatically inflated the company’s earnings. The unfinished digital hospital was ultimately old to Trinity, who finished the project and moved their operations there. The defense acknowledged the facts of the case but argued that this was not bribery and not corruption; but jurors found Siegelman and Scrushy both guilty. Mutliple appeals by Siegelman have failed to overturn that verdict.
Gov. Siegelman is currently serving a 78 month sentence in Oakdale Federal Prison in Louisiana. Without a pardon or sentence commutation, Gov. Siegelman will finish his prison term in August.
According to recent hacked emails made public by WikiLeaks, Hillary Clinton’s (D) campaign chair John Podesta has asked White House Counsel Neil Eggleston for a presidential pardon for Siegelman and has urged Pres. Obama to read the Siegelman case file.
American Spectator’s Lou Dubose has recently written an editorial urging President Obama to grant a Presidential pardon to Siegelman.