Why Is Don Siegelman Still in Jail?
Bennett L. Gershman
Professor of Law, Pace
Posted: 04/17/2013 3:16 pm
Actually, the first question is why Don Siegelman was prosecuted and jailed at all. The second question is why President Obama has not yet pardoned him or commuted his sentence. Of all the abusive, vindictive, and politically-driven prosecutions by the U.S. Department of Justice, the prosecution of Don Siegleman stands at the top. Over a hundred Attorneys General from both political parties have condemned the legality of his prosecution. The House Judiciary Committee has documented the partisan cabal between the Bush White House and the Justice Department to take down Siegelman and destroy his career. Commentary by journalists, academics, and disinterested observers has uniformly decried the legal and ethical irregularities that contaminated his prosecution and blackened the reputation of the Justice Department. Despite all this, President Obama, apparently on advice from his “Pardon Attorneys,” has refused to grant Siegelman a pardon or commute his seven-year sentence. Why?
Don Siegelman at one time was the most powerful and popular Democrat in the blood-red state of Alabama. A former Rhodes Scholar, Siegelman was Governor from 1998-2002, and previously held many important state positions, including attorney general. He lost reelection in 2002 to Republican Bob Riley after a few thousand votes from a small rural county mysteriously were discovered in a polling place vacated by Democratic poll-watchers after polls closed. Siegelman, voter surveys showed, was expected to win a rematch against any Republican opponent. But that was before federal prosecutors began their hunt.
In 2004, Siegelman was indicted by the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, Alice Martin, for bid-rigging on state contracts. The indictment was dismissed almost immediately by Federal District Judge U.W. Clemon, one of the most senior federal judges in Alabama, for lack of evidence. Judge Clemon stated that the Siegelman prosecution “was completely without legal merit” and, indeed, “was the most unfounded criminal case over which I presided in my entire judicial career.”