Don Eugene Siegelman
is an American Democratic Party
The Democratic Party is one of two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Republican Party. The party's socially liberal and progressive platform is largely considered center-left in the U.S. political spectrum. The party has the lengthiest record of continuous...
politician who held numerous offices in Alabama
Alabama is a state located in the southeastern region of the United States. It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Georgia to the east, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and Mississippi to the west. Alabama ranks 30th in total land area and ranks second in the size of its inland...
. He was the 51st
Governor of Alabama for one term from 1999 to 2003. Siegelman is the only person in the history of Alabama to be elected to serve in all four of the top statewide elected offices: Secretary of State
The Secretary of State of Alabama is one of the constitutional officers of the U.S. state of Alabama. The office actually predates the statehood of Alabama, dating back to the Alabama Territory. From 1819 to 1901, the Secretary of State served a two-year term until the State Constitution was...
, Attorney General, 26th Lieutenant Governor
and Governor. He served in Alabama politics for 26 years.
After the expiration of his governorship, two of Alabama's United States Attorney
United States Attorneys represent the United States federal government in United States district court and United States court of appeals. There are 93 U.S. Attorneys stationed throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands...
s began a criminal investigation against him on accusations of corruption while in office. Indictments came in 2004 and again in 2005, and in 2006 he was convicted on corruption charges. Since then there have been counter-accusations by various former attorneys general and officials that his prosecution was intentionally wrongful, engineered by presidential advisor Karl Rove
Karl Christian Rove was Senior Advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff to former President George W. Bush until Rove's resignation on August 31, 2007. He has headed the Office of Political Affairs, the Office of Public Liaison, and the White House Office of Strategic Initiatives...
and officials of the U.S. Department of Justice to gain political advantage. On March 6, 2009, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit is a federal court with appellate jurisdiction over the district courts in the following districts:* Middle District of Alabama...
upheld key bribery, conspiracy and obstruction counts against Siegelman and refused his request for a new trial, finding no evidence that the conviction was unjust. The Court struck down two of the seven original charges and ordered a new sentencing hearing, opening the possibility that Siegelman's seven-year prison sentence might be reduced.
Personal life and earlier career
Don Siegelman was born and raised in Mobile, Alabama
Mobile is the third most populous city in the Southern US state of Alabama and is the county seat of Mobile County. It is located on the Mobile River and the central Gulf Coast of the United States. The population within the city limits was 195,111 during the 2010 census. It is the largest...
. Siegelman is married to Lori Allen, and they have two children, Dana and Joseph. Siegelman is Catholic, and his wife Lori is Jewish; they raised their children Jewish. He has studied martial arts for decades and holds a black belt in Kyokushin
is a style of stand-up, full contact karate, founded in 1964 by Korean-Japanese karate master, who was born under the name Choi Young-Eui . Kyokushinkai is Japanese for "the society of the ultimate truth". Kyokushin is rooted in a philosophy of self-improvement, discipline and hard training...
He earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Alabama
The University of Alabama is a public coeducational university located in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, United States....
, where he was a brother of the Delta Kappa Epsilon
Delta Kappa Epsilon is a fraternity founded at Yale College in 1844 by 15 men of the sophomore class who had not been invited to join the two existing societies...
fraternity (Psi chapter), in 1968, and a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center
Georgetown University Law Center is the law school of Georgetown University, located in Washington, D.C.. Established in 1870, the Law Center offers J.D., LL.M., and S.J.D. degrees in law...
in 1972. He was then a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford
The University of Oxford is a university located in Oxford, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest surviving university in the world and the oldest in the English-speaking world. Although its exact date of foundation is unclear, there is evidence of teaching as far back as 1096...
from 1972-1973 studying international lawhttp://howtheworldchanged.org/speakers.htmlhttp://fs.huntingdon.edu/jlewis/al/RobinALindex.htm
. While at the University of Alabama, Siegelman served as the President of the Student Government Association. While in law school, Siegelman worked as an officer in the United States Capitol Police
The United States Capitol Police is a federal police force charged with protecting the United States Congress within the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its territories.-History:...
to meet his expenses.
In 1979, Siegelman was elected Secretary of State of Alabama. He served as Secretary of State from 1979 to 1987, then as state Attorney General from 1987 to 1991, then as Lieutenant Governor from 1995 to 1999. In 1998, he won election to governor on his first attempt with 57% of the vote, including over 90% of the African-American electorate.
Siegelman's term as governor took place in the midst of explosive growth in Alabama's automotive manufacturing industry. The first new major plant, for Mercedes-Benz, had come to Alabama in the administration of Governor Jim Folsom, Jr.
James Elisha Folsom, Jr. is an American Democratic politician who was the 50th Governor of Alabama from April 22, 1993 to January 16, 1995.-Early life and career:...
During Siegelman's administration, Mercedes agreed to double the size of that plant. Siegelman became an energetic industrial recruiter, visiting several countries and securing commitments from Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai to build major assembly plants in Alabama.
Governor Siegelman presided over eight executions (seven by electric chair
Execution by electrocution, usually performed using an electric chair, is an execution method originating in the United States in which the condemned person is strapped to a specially built wooden chair and electrocuted through electrodes placed on the body...
, one by lethal injection
Lethal injection is the practice of injecting a person with a fatal dose of drugs for the express purpose of causing the immediate death of the subject. The main application for this procedure is capital punishment, but the term may also be applied in a broad sense to euthanasia and suicide...
), including that of Lynda Lyon Block
Lynda Cheryl Lyon Block was an American convicted murderess....
, the first female executed in the state since 1957. He also oversaw the transition from electrocution as a sole method to lethal injection as the primary method.
Siegelman was the first native Mobilian to be elected to the state's highest office. Siegelman was also the first governor to have a non-Christian wife, his wife Lori being Jewish.
State lottery and universal education
Siegelman attempted to capitalize early in his administration on what had been the keystone issue of his campaign: a state lottery
Lotteries in the United States are run by 46 jurisdictions; 43 states, plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands.In the US, the lottery is subject to the laws of each jurisdiction; there is no national lottery.- History :...
, with the proceeds funding free tuition at state universities for most high school graduates. Disregarding the advice of some supporters, Siegelman supported a bill that placed the lottery on a free-standing referendum ballot in 1999. The measure was defeated. Some advisers had suggested that Siegelman wait until the regular 2000 elections, when anti-gambling interests would command a smaller percentage of the electorate.
After the defeat of the lottery, Siegelman struggled to deal with serious state budget problems. Alabama's tax system is historically sensitive to economic downturns, and tax revenues were down during most of his administration. Despite this, observers felt that Siegelman did a decent job of managing the limited revenue produced by this system during a national economic downturn.
Siegelman launched the "Alabama Reading Initiative", an early education literacy program that was praised by both Democratic and Republican officials, and emulated by several other states.
2002 election controversy
Representative Bob Riley
Robert Renfroe "Bob" Riley is an American politician in the Republican Party. He was the 52nd Governor of Alabama, first elected in 2002, and re-elected in 2006.-Early life:...
defeated Siegelman's November 2002 reelection bid by the narrowest margin in Alabama history: approximately 3,000 votes. The result was controversial, as on the night of the election, Siegelman was initially declared the winner by the Associated Press
The Associated Press is an American news agency. The AP is a cooperative owned by its contributing newspapers, radio and television stations in the United States, which both contribute stories to the AP and use material written by its staff journalists...
. Later, a voting machine malfunction in a single county, Baldwin County, was claimed to have produced the votes needed to give Siegelman the election. When the malfunction was corrected, Riley emerged the winner. Democratic Party officials objected, stating that the recount had been performed by local Republican election officials after Democratic observers had left the site of the vote counting, thus rendering verification of the recount results impossible. The state's Attorney General, Republican Bill Pryor, affirmed the recounted vote totals, securing Riley's election. Largely as a result of this controversy, the Alabama Legislature amended the election code to provide for automatic, supervised recounts in close races.
The 2004 trial
On May 27, 2004, Siegelman was served an indictment on federal charges, but the day after his trial began, prosecutors abruptly dropped all charges. The judge threw out much of the prosecution's evidence and stated that that no new charges could be refiled based on the disallowed evidence.
The 2006 conviction
On October 26, 2005, Siegelman was indicted on new charges of bribery and mail fraud in connection with Richard M. Scrushy
Richard Marin Scrushy is an American business man and founder of HealthSouth Corporation, a global healthcare company based in Birmingham, Alabama....
, founder and former CEO of HealthSouth
HealthSouth Corporation , based in Birmingham, Alabama, is the nation’s largest owner and operator of inpatient rehabilitative hospitals. Operating in 26 states across the country and in Puerto Rico, HealthSouth serves patients through its network of inpatient rehabilitation hospitals , outpatient...
. Two former Siegelman aides were charged in the indictment as well. Siegelman was accused of trading government favors for campaign donations when he was governor from 1999 to 2003 and lieutenant governor from 1995 to 1999. Scrushy was accused of arranging $500,000 in donations to Siegelman's campaign for a state lottery fund for universal education in exchange for a seat on a state hospital regulatory board, a non-paying position. Scrushy, who had served on the state hospital regulatory board over the past three Republican administrations, had recently been investigated for his part in the HealthSouth Corporation fraud scandal which cost shareholders billions.
During his trial, Siegelman continued his campaign for reelection, running in the Democratic primary against Lt. Governor Lucy Baxley
Lucy Baxley served as the 28th Lieutenant Governor of Alabama, from 2003 to 2007 and was the Democratic candidate for Governor in 2006. Though Alabama has had a female governor, Baxley is the first woman to hold the state's office of lieutenant governor.-Personal:Baxley was born in 1937 near...
and minor candidates. On June 6, despite Baxley's relatively low-profile campaign, she easily defeated Siegelman with almost 60% of the vote compared to Siegelman's 36%. Baxley went on to lose to incumbent Bob Riley in the general election by a large margin.
On June 29, 2006, just three weeks after losing the primary, a federal jury found both Siegelman and Scrushy guilty on seven of the 33 counts in the indictment. Two codefendants, his former chief of staff, Paul Hamrick and his transportation director, Mack Roberts, were acquitted of all charges. Siegelman was convicted on one count of bribery, one count of conspiracy to commit honest services
Honest services fraud refers to a 28-word sentence of , added by the United States Congress in 1988, which states: "For the purposes of this chapter, the term, scheme or artifice to defraud includes a scheme or artifice to deprive another of the intangible right of honest services."The statute...
mail fraud, four counts of honest services mail fraud, and one count of obstruction of justice
The crime of obstruction of justice, in United States jurisdictions, refers to the crime of interfering with the work of police, investigators, regulatory agencies, prosecutors, or other officials...
. Siegelman was acquitted on 25 counts, including the indictment's allegations of a widespread RICO
The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, commonly referred to as the RICO Act or simply RICO, is a United States federal law that provides for extended criminal penalties and a civil cause of action for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization...
conspiracy. Siegelman was represented by Mobile attorneys Vince Kilborn and David McDonald, along with Greenwood attorney Hiram Eastland and Notre Dame law professor G. Robert Blakey
George Robert Blakey is an American attorney and law professor. He is best known for his work in connection with drafting the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and for scholarship on that subject.-Education and family:Blakey graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1957,...
, who is an authority on RICO. Siegelman was sentenced by Judge Mark Everett Fuller to more than seven years in federal prison and a $50,000 fine.
Siegelman has said in his defense that Scrushy had been on the board of the state hospital regulatory board during several preceding governorships and that his contribution towards the state lottery fund for universal education was unrelated. He says that such charges, in addition to being unfounded, are without precedent. Scrushy remains in federal prison.
Release from federal prison
On Thursday, March 27, 2008, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals approved the release of former Governor Siegelman from federal prison while he appeals his conviction in the corruption case. He was released on Friday the 28th. Siegelman has stated that he wants to see Karl Rove
Karl Christian Rove was Senior Advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff to former President George W. Bush until Rove's resignation on August 31, 2007. He has headed the Office of Political Affairs, the Office of Public Liaison, and the White House Office of Strategic Initiatives...
held in contempt for refusing to testify before a House committee that is investigating Siegelman's conviction. Although Siegelman was convicted, his argument is he may not have been investigated if not for Rove.
The 2009 appeal
On March 6, 2009, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld key bribery, conspiracy and obstruction counts against Siegelman and refused his request for a new trial, finding no evidence that the conviction was unjust. The Court did strike down two of the seven charges on which Siegelman was convicted, and it ordered a new sentencing hearing. That means Siegelman's seven-year sentence could be reduced.
Testimony of the star witness
Witness Nick Bailey, who provided the cornerstone testimony upon which the conviction was based, was subsequently convicted of extortion; upon being given 10 years in prison Bailey cooperated with prosecutors to lighten his own sentence. Although he engaged in over 70 interviews with the prosecution against Siegelman, none of the notes detailing these interviews were shared with the defense. In addition, after the case was tried it was confirmed that the check he testified he saw Scrushy write for Siegelman was actually written days later, when he was not actually present.
Partiality of the jury
Documents indicated that prosecutors interviewed two jurors while the court was reviewing charges of juror misconduct, in violation of the judge's instruction that no contact with jurors should occur without his permission.
Karl Rove connection
Allegations that Siegelman was prosecuted at the insistence of Bush-appointed officials at the Justice Department, as well as the insistence of Leura Canary
Leura Garrett Canary is the United States Attorney for the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama. She is married to career Republican activist William Canary....
, a U.S. Attorney in Montgomery whose husband was Alabama's top Republican operative and who had for years worked closely with Karl Rove, led federal courts to release the accused on bail.
In June 2007, a Republican lawyer, Dana Jill Simpson of Rainsville, Alabama
Rainsville is a city in DeKalb County, Alabama, United States. At the 2000 census the population was 4,499. Rainsville is located on top of Sand Mountain.Rainsville was incorporated in October 1956....
, signed a sworn statement that, five years earlier, she had heard that Karl Rove was preparing to neutralize Siegelman politically with an investigation headed by the U.S. Department of Justice. Simpson later told The Birmingham News
The Birmingham News is the principal daily newspaper for Birmingham, Alabama, United States, and the largest newspaper in Alabama. The paper is owned by Advance Publications...
that her affidavit's wording could be interpreted in two ways, and stated that she had written her affidavit herself, whereas in her Congressional testimony she had admitted to having help from a Siegelman supporter.
According to Simpson's statement, she was on a Republican campaign conference call in 2002 when she heard Bill Canary
Bill Canary, also William Canary, is a Republican campaign consultant in Alabama. His wife, Leura Canary, is the United States Attorney for the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama....
tell other campaign workers not to worry about Siegelman because Canary's "girls" and "Karl" would make sure the Justice Department pursued the Democrat so he was not a political threat in the future. "Canary's girls" supposedly included his wife, Leura Canary, who is United States Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama, and United States Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama Alice Martin
Alice Martin is the United States Attorney for the U. S. District Court, Northern District of Alabama. She was nominated by George W. Bush and has served since September 29, 2001...
. Leura Canary did not submit voluntary recusal paperwork until two months after Siegelman attorney David Cromwell Johnson's press conference in March 2002.
In interviews with the press, Simpson has emphasized that she heard Rove's name mentioned in a phone conversation in which the discussion turned to Siegelman, clarified that she heard someone involved in a 2002 conference call refer to a meeting between Mr. Rove and Justice Department officials on the subject of Siegelman, and revealed that Karl Rove ordered her to "catch Siegelman cheating on his wife." The Anniston Star
published an editorial stating that, "If that's his story, then Rove should not hesitate to go under oath and answer questions before a congressional committee."
Despite claims to 60 Minutes
about having met and spoken with Rove repeatedly over the previous several years, in her sworn testimony to Congress in 2007 Simpson did not mention having spoken with him or met with him. Nor has she produced any phone records, pay stubs, receipts or other documentation to prove that she worked for either Karl Rove or the Republican Party. On the other hand, Raw Story
reports that Karl Rove advised Bill Canary on managing Republican Bob Riley's gubernatorial campaign against Siegelman in the election fraud controversy of 2002, based on the testimony of "two Republican lawyers who have asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation," one of whom is close to Alabama's Republican National Committee.
Simpson's house burned down soon after she began whistleblowing, and Simpson's car was driven off the road by a private investigator and wrecked. As a result of the timing of these incidents, Simpson said, "Anytime you speak truth to power, there are great risks. I've been attacked," explaining she felt a "moral obligation" to speak up.
Alleged Misconduct by Attorney General
In November 2008, new documents revealed alleged misconduct by the Bush-appointed U.S. attorney and other prosecutors in the case. Extensive and unusual contact between the prosecution and the jury were alleged to have occurred. According to Time
, a Department of Justice Staffer furnished the new documents at the risk of losing her job. The documents included e-mails written by Canary, long after her recusal, offering legal advice to subordinates handling the case. At the time Canary wrote the e-mails, her husband was publicly supporting the state's Republican governor, Bob Riley. In one of Leura Canary's e-mails made public by Time
, dated September 19, 2005, she forwarded senior prosecutors on the Siegelman case a three-page political commentary by Siegelman. Canary highlighted a single passage which, she told her subordinates, "Ya'll need to read, because he refers to a 'survey' which allegedly shows that 67% of Alabamans believe the investigation of him to be politically motivated ... Perhaps [this is] grounds not to let [Siegelman] discuss court activities in the media!" At Siegleman's sentencing, the prosecutors urged the judge to use these public statements by Siegelman as grounds for increasing his prison sentence.
Confinement and sentencing
A petition from 44 former State Attorneys General noted that Governor Siegelman was "denied 45 days to report to prison to give him time to put his affairs in order, an opportunity which is commonly granted" and observed that "because Governor Siegelman is not in any way a flight risk, the denial of a bond pending appeal appears inappropriate, and the shackling of the Governor in handcuffs and leg irons as he was taken out of the courtroom was shocking." The petition noted in contrast that when "another former Governor of Alabama was convicted of corruption charges a few years ago in a case where he personally benefited from his action," unlike Siegelman, he was merely sentenced to probation and that case "was handled by the same lead prosecutor." The petition from the former state attorneys general then noted that "The sentence sought by the prosecutor in Governor Siegelman's case 30 years was excessively disproportionate."
In July 2007, 44 former State Attorneys General, both Democrats and Republicans, filed a petition to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees requesting further investigation of the Siegelman prosecution.
On July 17, 2007, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers
John Conyers, Jr. is the U.S. Representative for , serving since 1965 . He is a member of the Democratic Party...
(D, MI-14) and Reps. Linda Sánchez
Linda T. Sánchez is the U.S. Representative for , serving since 2003. She is a member of the Democratic Party.-Early life, education and career:...
(D, CA-39), Artur Davis
Artur Genestre Davis is a former member of the United States House of Representatives for , serving from 2003 to 2011 when he was succeeded by Terri Sewell, also a member of the Democratic Party....
(D, AL-07), and Tammy Baldwin
Tammy Suzanne Green Baldwin is the U.S. Representative for Wisconsin's 2nd congressional district, serving since 1999. She is a member of the Democratic Party. In September 2011, Baldwin announced she would be a candidate in the 2012 U.S...
(D, WI-02) sent a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales
Alberto R. Gonzales was the 80th Attorney General of the United States. Gonzales was appointed to the post in February 2005 by President George W. Bush. Gonzales was the first Hispanic Attorney General in U.S. history and the highest-ranking Hispanic government official ever...
, asking him to provide documents and information about former Alabama Democratic Governor Don Siegelman's recent conviction, among others, that may have been part of a pattern of selective political prosecutions by a number of U.S. Attorneys across the country. The deadline for the Attorney General's office to provide the information to Congress was July 27, 2007. The documents had not been produced by August 28, 2007, the date that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced that he would resign. In an editorial that day, The New York Times
said that despite Gonzales' departure, "[M]any questions remain to be answered. High on the list: what role politics played in dubious prosecutions, like those of former Gov. Don Siegelman of Alabama, and Georgia Thompson
Georgia L. Thompson is a current Wisconsin civil servant who was convicted of federal corruption charges in 2006, but released by an appeals court in 2007 when her conviction was overturned....
, a Wisconsin civil servant." Press reports have suggested that perhaps U.S. Attorney Leura Canary did not follow proper Department of Justice procedures in recusing herself from the Siegelman matter, since there were no filings to that effect made in court and Justice refused to disclose her recusal form under the Freedom of Information Act.
On October 10, 2007, the House Judiciary Committee released testimony in which Dana Jill Simpson alleged Rove "had spoken with the Department of Justice" about "pursuing" Siegelman with help from two of Alabama's U.S. attorneys and that Rob Riley had named the judge who would eventually be assigned to the case. She also claimed Rob Riley told her the judge would "hang Don Siegelman." In contrast with what she told 60 Minutes
, in her sworn testimony she never mentioned having met or spoken with Karl Rove.
Siegelman defenders point out that over 100 charges were thrown out by three different judges. Further, they argue that there was a conflict of interest in the prosecution against Siegelman, since the investigating U.S. Attorney was married to his political opponent's campaign manager. Siegelman defenders argue that the sentence is unprecedented and the punishment excessive because, for example, former Alabama Governor H. Guy Hunt
Harold Guy Hunt was an American politician who served as the 49th Governor of Alabama from 1987 to 1993. He was the first Republican to serve as governor of the state since Reconstruction.- Early life :...
, a Republican, was found guilty in state court of personally pocketing $200,000, and state prosecutors sought probation, not jail time, in the Hunt case.
Federal Communications Commission investigation
aired an investigative segment on the case called "The Prosecution of Governor Siegelman" on February 24, 2008. During the broadcast, CBS affiliate WHNT in Huntsville, Alabama, did not air this segment of the program, but claimed to have had technical issues with the signal. Scott Horton of Harper's Magazine
has stated that he contacted CBS News in New York regarding the issue and claims that he was told that there were no transmission issues, and that WHNT had functioning transmitters at the time. Horton also accused the station of a history of political hostility toward Siegelman. Horton, a longtime proponent of charges that Siegelman's prosecution was politically motivated, offered no evidence to support his claims. The station responded to the controversy by rebroadcasting the report later that night, and again the next day. In March 2008, the Federal Communications Commission began an investigation into why the north Alabama television station went dark during a February 24 broadcast of the "60 Minutes" installment. The investigation resulted in no action.