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Siegelman released from prison, returns home for house arrest

By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter

After serving a six-year prison sentence, former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman is back home in Alabama after being released from a Federal prison in Louisiana Wednesday morning.

The former governor arrived at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport in the afternoon, where he was greeted by family, friends and supporters. He left the prison in Oakdale, Louisiana, earlier in the day.

“We are overjoyed at the thought that we will have him back with us again,” his attorney Gregory B. Craig said in a statement. “At a time of such unrest and uncertainty, the world will be a better place with Don Siegelman back in it.”

Siegelman, who was the last Democratic governor of the State, had been serving a prison sentence for bribery and obstruction of justice.

A Federal Court found him guilty of trading government favors for campaign donations.

Prosecutors said Siegelman accepted a $500,000 donation from Richard Scrushy, the founder of HealthSouth, for a seat on the State’s hospital regulatory board.

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The donation was to Siegelman’s campaign for a State lottery to fund education in the State.

He was also found guilty of several other charges, including charges that he tried to hide money he received from a lobbyist.

During his original trial, Siegelman was indicted on 33 felony counts but was acquitted on 25 of them.  A 2009 appeal resulted in two of the seven guilty charges being struck down and his sentence being reduced.

Siegelman, who is now 70, remains in Federal custody and will finish out his sentence on house arrest. While he remains in felony custody, he won’t be able to speak to the media and must report to a Federal probation office, according to one of his longtime aides Chip Hill.

Throughout both of his Federal trials, Siegelman maintained his innocence and essentially said his prosecution was a political witch hunt. Allegations arose that his prosecution was at the insistence of Justice Department officials appointed by former President George Bush. The allegations even resulted in an investigation by the US House, but nothing ever came of it.

“The victims of his unjust prosecution were not only the former Governor and his family but the millions of Alabamians who stood to benefit from his initiatives, including his work to increase education funding, recruit industry to the state, and reform the state’s regressive tax structure,” said US Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Alabama. “I want to welcome Governor Siegleman back home. I pray God’s blessings on him and his family.”

Last month, Siegelman appealed to former President Barack Obama for clemency, but his administration denied the request on the final day.

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“While I am disappointed that our efforts did not lead to a presidential pardon, I believe that the faith and heart of the man have not been deterred by his unjust prosecution and imprisonment, and I know that his passion and commitment to public service is still needed in our state,” Sewell said Wednesday.

The former governor was not just the governor, he was a powerful political figure in the State for years, having served as secretary of state, attorney general, lieutenant governor and then governor from 1999–2003.

Siegelman will remain on restrictive probation for about six months, according to his aide.

Chip Brownlee is a former political reporter, online content manager and webmaster at the Alabama Political Reporter. He is now a reporter at The Trace, a non-profit newsroom covering guns in America.



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