Some truth about Don Siegelman, and his legal lynching

From Pam Miles:

I guess most people know that I have been working with Governor Siegelman for over seven years. I’m very proud that we have a very close friendship. I was with him when he was being investigated. I was there when he was indicted. I attended every hearing, every day of the trial, and was an eye witness to everything that has happened since.

This phase of Don’s long battle ended Friday, so I think this is a good time to correct a few things people think they know.

The media has written hundreds of times that “Siegleman’s supporters questioned his conviction.” That is true – but we were in good company. It’s worth noting that for the first time in history, well over a hundred former Attorneys General (Republicans and Democrats) from more than 30 states filed a brief stating that the contribution the Governor received and the appointment he made, was routine politics across the land. Top law professors across America also filed a brief stating much the same thing. In one of the 13 editorials written by the New York Times about this case, the Times said that Siegelman was convicted of something that “had never been considered a crime before.” This sentiment was echoed by an episode of “60 Minutes”, 13 MSNBC segments, conservative columnist George Will, and multiple segments by Neil Cavuto on Fox News.

Richard Scrushy had contributed to three previous Governors and received the same appointment three times. Governor Riley received large contributions from someone he appointed to the same board. There was no investigation at all. In a 2003 story, the Washington Post said that to be considered for appointment as an ambassador, an individual had to raise $250,000 for the Bush campaign. The Houston Chronicle reported that Rick Perry’s top contributors all received appointments. The burning question that remains is why did it suddenly become a crime when Scrushy contributed to Siegelman?

Grant Woods, a Republican who served as Attorney General of Arizona from 1991 to 1999, (and who chaired John McCain’s Presidential campaign) appeared in court to ask the judge for leniency, and said “no one was prosecuting the president for appointing donors to be ambassadors or other positions.”

I could write a novel about hundreds of others issues that arose during the investigation and trial, but I simply want to clarify something that people keep misstating. Richard Scrushy’s contribution did not go to Governor Siegelman. It went to the Alabama Education Foundation. The Government never charged Siegelman with personally receiving a penny. He will serve 69 months for a bribery in which he didn’t receive anything. Also, some are finding it easy to vilify Richard Scrushy. What the layman does not know, is that the Government offered Richard Scrushy three deals that would have resulted in no jail time. He rejected them because he would have had to make statements that were not true. His decision to stick to the truth cost him five years of his life.

Knowing my long involvement with the Siegelman case, many have asked how I feel about his sentencing. It’s a given that I’m sad, angry and frustrated. Again and again, I traveled to every corner of this state with him. The first time Don held my Daughter, she was 18 months old. Today she is 9. He called her every year to sing Happy Birthday. This is all personal stuff that no one wants to hear but it’s what I’m thinking about this morning.

I’d like to offer this summary: Don Siegleman is the only person to hold every constitutional office in this State. As Governor, he revolutionized early childhood education, built 1000 new schools and brought two automobile manufacturing plants to the state. He built more roads and bridges than any Governor in the last fifty years. He’s 66 years old and will be over 70 when he is released. The investigation, indictment, trial, and appeal of Don Siegelman lasted over 13 years and cost us, the taxpayer, over 100 million dollars.

Yet, the law regarding when a contribution is a bribe remains unclear and whether it is in fact a crime is completely at the discretion of the prosecutor who is looking into a particular case. We should all pray that if we make political contributions, we are on the good side of those prosecutors. Please be aware that whether your contribution is a bribe is not clearly defined in the law. The decision to prosecute your contribution as a bribe rests solely in the hands of a prosecutor. Let’s hope that he or she is honest and not politically motivated.

For the record, it’s not supposed to be that way.

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