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Last updated 2:43AM ET
March 5, 2021
Alabama
Alabama
Siegelman Returns Home
(2008-03-30)
(APR - Alabama Public Radio ) - Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman returned to his Birmingham home late Friday night, nine months to the day after he was shackled and taken off to federal prison.

Siegelman was released from a federal prison in Oakdale, La. on an appeal bond at about noon and arrived in Birmingham at about 10 p.m.

Looking thin, pale and tired, the 62-year-old Siegelman met with reporters briefly in a parking lot near his home and gave a short statement. He did not take questions.

"It's been a long nine months since I was handcuffed and shackled and placed in the back of a Chevy sedan and taken to the federal penitentiary in Atlanta. I lost my freedom, but I never lost my faith," Siegelman said.

When he arrived in Birmingham, he was wearing the same tattered shirt he had on when he left the prison in Louisiana.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday ordered Siegelman released while his conviction is being appealed.

"When I heard the news the 11th Circuit had granted my motion, I thanked God once more," the former Democratic governor said.

Siegelman was sentenced to more than seven years on his conviction in a corruption case. The order to release him came on the same day the House Judiciary Committee announced plans for Siegelman to testify before Congress in a probe of possible political meddling in federal prosecutions.

Siegelman, who was always well dressed as governor, left the prison wearing the ragged shirt that appeared to be prison clothing and wore his hair shorter than when he was in public office. He rode in a black sport utility vehicle that stopped on the road outside the lockup for Siegelman to speak briefly to reporters.

"I want to be with my family for a few days," he said, declining further remarks at that time. He said he would make a statement when he reached Birmingham, about an eight hour drive from Oakdale.

Siegelman attorney David McDonald said the former governor called him two or three times in the first couple of hours after his release.

"For nine months it has felt like a part of us were in the prison with him," McDonald said. "To have him be able to call whenever he wants, we have been like a couple of school girls on the phone."

Siegelman, 62, was placed in federal custody after being sentenced last June on six bribery-related counts and one obstruction of justice count. A federal appeals court ruled Thursday that he should be released on appeal bond while seeking to overturn his conviction.

Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy were convicted in June 2006. Federal prosecutors accused Siegelman of appointing Scrushy to a hospital regulatory board in exchange for Scrushy arranging $500,000 in contributions to Siegelman's campaign for a statewide lottery. The defense has argued there was no personal gain or quid-pro-quo in the deal.

While approving Siegelman's release, the appeals court refused to reconsider an earlier decision declining to release Scrushy. The court ruled that Scrushy is a flight risk and Siegelman is not.

In its ruling, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the former governor had raised "substantial questions of fact and law" in challenging his conviction.

The court's ruling did not specify what those questions were, but McDonald said defense attorneys only raised three issues in their motion seeking Siegelman's release on bond.

He said one of the issues was that prosecutors did not prove that there was "a quid pro quo" agreement between Scrushy and Siegelman in the bribery case. Other questions raised by defense attorneys were that the federal statute of limitations for bribery charges had expired when Siegelman and Scrushy were indicted and that prosecutors did not prove the obstruction of justice charge.

McDonald said having Siegelman out of prison will help in preparing the appeal.

"Before, we had to set up an appointment to talk to him and then we talked to him with someone standing out the door," McDonald said. "I think it makes the whole procedure better."

The House Judiciary Committee has said it wants Siegelman to testify when it probes claims of selective prosecution by the Justice Department.

Siegelman has maintained that certain Republicans targeted him after he was elected governor in 1998. The House committee has begun reviewing his case as part of a broader investigation into allegations of political influence in the work of U.S. attorneys.

The committee hopes to hear from Siegelman in May. Committee Chairman John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat, believes Siegelman "would have a lot to add to the committee's investigation into selective prosecution," committee spokeswoman Melanie Roussell said.


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