Courtroom Blog: Minute-by-Minute Updates On Siegelman Proceedings
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WHNT) – Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman has been resentenced to 78 months in prison for his corruption conviction.
U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller told Siegelman he must also pay a $50,000 fine, immediately. He will have to serve three years supervised probation once he is released, and perform 500 hours of community service.
2:33pm: The judge is now addressing Siegelman.
2:26pm: Defense attorney Joe Espy is now giving a rebuttal. He said this sentencing is different from the last one. He says this time, Siegelman has been to prison. He’s been on the other side and has already been punished.
Judge Fuller is asking Espy to address “post-sentence rehabilitation,” meaning, what Siegelman has done for rehabilitation while he’s been out of prison.
Espy said Siegelman needs to be allowed to go out and help people. He’s asking the judge for ‘one more chance,’ for Siegelman.
2:14pm: The U.S. Attorney’s Office is up now. The attorney speaking says every defendant who comes before the judge has a family, and doesn’t want to go to prison. the attorney says the law is the law, though, and a public official has a great duty to uphold that law.
The prosecutor says the court should show mercy on defendants who make rash decisions on ‘spur-of-the-moment’ things, not something that was planned out and carried out over a long process.
As a society, we expect our leaders not to cross that line that Siegelman spoke of, the prosecutor said. He finished with that.
U.S. Attorney Louis Franklin is now up. He said the sentence should be based on evidence, and even though family and friends of Siegelman gave compelling, emotional statements, that is not evidence. He urged the judge not to be swayed by sympathy.
Franklin said Siegelman clearly has a lot of good attributes, but “that is not why we’re here today.”
He said a sentence of probation would send a bad message to “other dirty politicians.”
“They can come to court, cry, and get a better sentence than [a] crack dealer out here on the corner,” Franklin said.
Franklin said the Siegelman the court saw today is not the one who has been on speaking tours blaming Karl Rove, George W. Bush, Leura Canary and others for his problems.
Franklin asked for the judge to sentence Siegelman to 88 months in prison. He then sat down.
2:05pm: Don Siegelman is now on the stand. He thanked the judge and asked for forgiveness. He said he has respect for the law and the judicial system, and accepts the jury’s decision. He also said he respects the opinions of the court and wants to apologize for his actions. He said his actions have caused embarassment to his family, and to the state of Alabama.
Siegelman cries on the stand as he apologizes to his family. He said he deeply regrets the things he did that brought everyone to this point today. He said if he had known he was getting close to the line where politics ends and crime begins, he wouldn’t cross the line.
He said he accepts the jury’s verdict and hopes to make life better for the children of Alabama.
Siegelman said the hardest thing for him is knowing he let his family down as a father. He has no greater wish than to have his children be proud of him.
If the judge should choose to let him work in the community, “I promise to work every day to work has hard as I can with every ounce of energy,” Siegelman said.
1:54pm: Siegelman’s lawyers are now presenting a closing argument. Attorney Joe Espy is crying, saying Siegelman accepts the outcome of the judicial process. The defense team presented Judge Fuller with 700 letters written on Siegelman’s behalf.
One of the letters is from Susie Edwards, a former Huntsville reporter who suffered from cancer. In the letter, Edwards wrote that Siegelman helped her get insurance and got her into M.D. Anderson in Houston for treatment. Edwards died of cancer in December 2010.
Espy said Siegelman’s talents can be used in community service. “Give him a healthy and rigid dose of community service and he will make you proud,” said Espy.
Espy wrapped up.
1:45pm: Kenneth Marshall called as a character witness. He is a paralyzed veteran, and met Don Siegelman when he was down. Siegelman invited him to functions so he could get a meal. Marshall said he and Siegelman have spent alot of time together since Siegelman was released from prison, on appeal.
Marshall was recently rushed to UAB Hospital for complications from his congestive heart failure. One of the first people the hospital called was Siegelman, who was able to find a cardiologist to help him, Marshall said. Marshall said Siegelman often takes him to movies, too.
Marshall said Siegelman doesn’t do anything for himself. Everything is for others.
“Have mercy on my friend,” Marshall said to the judge.
1:34pm: Court resumes. Dana Siegelman, defendant’s daughter, takes the stand. Dana said her dad tried to shield the family from what was happening. He never let on that he was scared or nervous as things unfolded. She was in graduate school in Israel and dropped out of school after he was sentenced. She said the shock was too much to bear.
Dana Siegelman said her dad is the most wonderful person in the world. He has always been loving, supportive, giving and generous, even if he is guilty. She also said it is hard to be the child of a politician because you have to share your dad with everyone. But then, she would meet the people her dad was helping. That made her feel guilty for being jealous of those people.
She said he always showed love when he could. He’s a humble man, and his heart is broken. He has learned what is important in life through this, Dana said.
Dana said this process has scarred her, and her brother Joseph. Joseph is in law school now, Dana said, because he’s scared what the law can do to a person. Dana said it’s tough to go out in public, and wants to crawl in a hole because her family has been so shamed.
Dana said her father doesn’t do anything for himself, and doesn’t even talk for himself anymore. She said she can’t imagine her father going back to prison. It scares her.
1:30pm: Court expected to resume any minute. We expect Siegelman’s attorneys to call two more character witnesses and then make a presentation. Siegelman may also take the stand to speak.
Prosecutors may also make a statement.
11:51am: Court is in recess until 1:30 p.m.
11:50am: Defense attorney Susan James said she will call two more character witness and then make a presentation.
11:46am: Christopher Tribble of Birmingham is on the stand. His son, Drew, was in Siegelman’s karate class. Christopher said he didn’t know Siegelman was a former governor until a few weeks ago.
11:39am: Jacqueline Damez is now on the stand. She says she met Siegelman in a karate class in Birmingham. Damez says Siegelman was a friend to her when she couldn’t find many in her new country. Damez, who is Hispanic, said her husband was harassed by police and Siegelman helped them.
11:32am: Sephira Shuttlesworth, the widow of Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, is now on the stand. She said prior to her husband’s death, he and Siegelman spent alot of time together. She said Siegelman visited nearly every Sunday morning, and would comfort Rev. Shuttlesworth after he had his stroke.
11:17am: A prosecutor is now cross-examining Grant Woods. The attorney is asking Woods how he raised money for his campaign. He also asked if all the other Attorneys General who signed a letter in support of Siegelman have to raise money to run for office, too.
The prosecutor also asked him if he thinks Siegelman is guilty. Woods said he assumed so, and that’s not why he was here. Woods said he was here to testify on behalf of “what do you do with him now.” Woods wrapped up at 11:28 a.m.
10:52am: Siegelman’s team called its first character witness, Grant Woods, an attorney from Phoenix, Arizona. Woods is a former Attorney General of Arizona, and has worked as Chief of Staff for Sen. John McCain.
Woods says he doesn’t believe someone of Siegelman’s character would do the crime he was convicted of. However, he said he respects the jury’s verdict. Woods said punishment is important, but he thinks Siegelman has been punished enough already for someone of his stature. Woods said being put in handcuffs and leg irons is a tough blow for a professional person. Siegelman has lost his law license, and can’t run for office again, or even vote. Woods said he has suffered public humiliation.
Woods said Siegelman has amazing talents and skills that could be put to good use in community service, rather than wasting away behind bars.
U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller said he had reviewed the pre-sentencig report, which outlined arguments from both sides. The judge reviewed calculations for a possible sentence. He is taking into account arguments from lawyers earlier this morning, and prosecutors’ push for a harsher sentence due to Siegelman being an elected official.
Siegelman’s lawyer, Susan James, asked for leniency and said the judge was generous in his first sentence. She also says the judge should consider the years Siegelman has been out of jail as a sentence in itself because he hasn’t had a normal life. James said Siegelman has endured substantial punishment already.
As the lawyers argued different points, Judge Fuller says the facts in this case show that it was an explicit bribe. He says a person should be able to give money to candidates, but when that contribution comes with an agreement for a position, then it is a bribe.
Louis Franklin, lead prosecutor and Deputy U.S. Attorney, said Siegelman damaged the executive branch of government and should spend more time in prison.
The judge sustained the goverment’s push for an ‘upward departure’, meaning, the government wants to increase the penalty for Siegelman’s conviction. Franklin argued Siegelman’s conduct and conviction sullied the office of the Governor of Alabama, and that he deserves more punishment than an average person convicted of the same crime.
During the appeal process, Fuller dismissed Siegelman’s claims that his 2006 corruption trial was flawed. His claims included allegations of a tainted jury and misconduct by prosecutors.
Siegelman did win part of his appeal at the federal level, where judges vacated some of the counts against Siegelman. He continued his appeal on the rest of the counts all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, but justices rejected it.
In an email to supporters on Thursday, Siegelman thanked friends for encouragement, but expressed disappointment about the experience.
“I served nine awful months in federal prison, 30 days in total isolation in solitary confinement, three weeks in a maximum-security prison side-by-side with hardened criminals,” Siegelman wrote. “Every step of this fight for justice over the past nine years has been devastating to my family and me.”
He said it may also be the last time he has contact with them for a while.
A jury found Siegelman guilty of honest services fraud, federal funds bribery and conspiracy for naming former HealthSouth CEO and founder Richard Scrushy to a state regulatory board, in exchange for a $500,000 contribution to Siegelman’s 1999 lottery campaign.
Siegelman’s lawyer says he’s been punished enough and plans to ask the judge for a sentence of community service instead of prison time.