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Last updated 12:42PM ET
March 6, 2021
Judge Releases Details of Refusal to Release Siegelman
(APR - Alabama Public Radio ) - A federal judge explained to an appeals court Wednesday that he refused to release former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman from prison pending the outcome of his appeal partly because it is unlikely to be successful.

Under orders of the appellate court, U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller issued a 30-page opinion detailing his reasons for denying Siegelman's request to be released from federal prison on an appeal bond.

Fuller said the issues defined by Siegelman are not sufficient to show that there is a substantial chance he will win the appeal of his conviction to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

"Siegelman failed to meet his burden," Fuller wrote.

Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy were convicted last year of bribery and other charges in a government corruption case.

Siegelman was accused of appointing Scrushy to an important hospital regulatory board in exchange for Scrushy arranging $500,000 in contributions to Siegelman's campaign for a statewide lottery. Siegelman was also convicted of a separate obstruction of justice charge concerning $9,200 he received from former lobbyist Lanny Young to help with the purchase of a motorcycle. Prosecutors contended Siegelman and his former aide Nick Bailey conspired to cover up the transaction.

In June 2007, a year after their convictions, Fuller ordered Siegelman and Scrushy taken into custody immediately at the end of their sentencing hearing as their attorneys were asking that they be released while the convictions were appealed.

In October, Fuller issued a four-page opinion at the request of appeals court Judges Susan Black and Stanley Marcus giving his reasons for not releasing Siegelman. In November the judges asked Fuller to write a more detailed response.

In his ruling Wednesday, Fuller said defense attorneys had not convinced him Siegelman's obstruction of justice conviction was beyond the scope of the federal law.

"The evidence presented at trial established that knowing the FBI and others were conducting a criminal investigation, Siegelman and Bailey engaged in a series of actions which a reasonable jury could easily have found constituted a scheme intended to cover up the fact that Young had paid a bribe to Siegelman," Fuller wrote.

Young and Bailey were both key witnesses against Siegelman at last year's trial. Both pleaded guilty and received lighter sentences in exchange for their testimony.

Fuller also discounted Siegelman's argument that his indictment on the bribery charges came more than five years after the 1999 meeting between Siegelman and Scrushy, when prosecutors say the scheme to put Scrushy on the hospital board was hatched. That would put it outside the federal statute of limitations in bribery cases.

Fuller said Siegelman should have made that argument before the beginning of his trial in May 2006.

"Siegelman waived this defense by failing to timely assert it," Fuller wrote.

Siegelman's attorneys have argued that a prime part of their appeal will be that the government did not prove there was a "quid pro quo" agreement between Siegelman and Scrushy, as required in federal bribery cases.

Fuller said his instructions to jurors sufficiently explained the quid pro quo argument.

The judge said that Siegelman had personally guaranteed a more than $700,000 loan to the Alabama Education Foundation, which ran the lottery campaign. Fuller said the second $250,000 check arranged by Scrushy was used to help payoff that loan.

Fuller also said that Siegelman made efforts to hide the contributions arranged by Scrushy and violated the Alabama Fair Campaign Practices Act by not reporting the first $250,000 donation to the Secretary of State's office in a timely manner.

Fuller also dismissed claims that Siegelman's more than seven-year prison sentence was unfair.

"The sentence Siegelman received was the sentence the court deemed reasonable," Fuller said.

Siegelman's attorney David McDonald said Wednesday he was glad to finally see the opinion from Fuller.

"There's not a thing in there that was a surprise. I'm just grateful to have an order we can respond to," McDonald said.

Fuller's order came two days after McDonald had filed a motion asking the 11th Circuit to release Siegelman on bond. McDonald's reasons for the request included the delay in receiving Fuller's order and the fact that the appeal has been delayed because the transcript of the trial has not been completed. The transcript was delayed by the death of the original court reporter.

Chief prosecutor Louis Franklin said Fuller's opinion backs up his contention that the conviction will stand on appeal.

"There was so much evidence presented in this case and it all pointed there was a bribe and quid pro quo. Scrushy was buying and Siegelman was selling," Franklin said.

Scrushy, who was sentenced to almost seven years in prison, has also asked to be released on appeal bond. Fuller has denied that request.

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