MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) – A federal judge on Thursday refused to free former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman from prison while he continues to appeal his 2006 bribery conviction.
U.S. District Judge Clay Land said while Siegelman raised significant issues about his prosecution, he believes it is unlikely that the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will grant him a new trial when they hear arguments in his case in January. Land said the appellate court already ruled against similar tainted trial claims by Siegelman’s co-defendant Richard Scrushy.
“We’re obviously disappointed with the day’s ruling but we look forward to the upcoming oral arguments before the 11th Circuit,” said Siegelman’s son, Joseph Siegelman, who now serves as one of his father’s lawyers.
A federal jury convicted Siegelman of selling a seat on a hospital regulatory board to Scrushy in exchange for $500,000 in campaigns donations to Siegelman’s 1999 effort to establish a state lottery. Siegelman was also convicted of obstruction of justice.
The 11th Circuit will hear arguments on Jan. 13 in Siegelman’s request for a new trial. The former Democratic governor is arguing that his prosecution was tainted by the involvement of a prosecutor with ties to GOP politics.
Then-U.S. Attorney Leura Canary announced her recusal from the investigation in 2002, three years before Siegelman was indicted, after defense lawyers made an issue of her husband’s work in GOP politics. Siegelman’s lawyers argued she still remained improperly involved in the case.
In his order, Land said there was some evidence that Canary did not completely “divorce” herself completely from the case, and he believes the trial court should have let Siegelman get more information through documents or testimony.
However, Land said the 11th Circuit ruled against similar discovery requests by Scrushy, and Siegelman had not proven why the appeals court would rule any differently for him. Land said it’s speculative to assume that the discovery, if received, would bolster the prosecutorial misconduct claim.
Justice Department lawyer John-Alex Romano told Land that Canary had no decision-making role in the case and handled only the management duties of her office.
Siegelman, 68, has been serving a 6 1/2-year sentence at a Louisiana prison camp.
Joseph Siegelman said he was concerned that his father looked frail when he saw him in court earlier this week. However, he said his father has tried to maintain a positive outlook.
Defense lawyers also say the trial judge made legal mistakes when sentencing Siegelman. Land said it is unlikely that the appellate court will shorten Siegelman’s sentence.
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