91 former AGs file brief in Siegelman case

Chris Rizo Sep. 14, 2009, 2:21pm

Don Siegelman (D)

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline)-- A bipartisan group of 91 former state attorneys general are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear an appeal by former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman.

The former Democratic governor is appealing his federal bribery conviction. The former attorneys general, in a brief filed Thursday, said the case raises important free speech issues.

In court papers, the former attorneys general said it was not against the law for Siegelman to appoint former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy to a hospital regulatory board after Scrushy arranged for $500,000 in donations to Siegelman's campaign for a statewide lottery.

They said there was no agreement between the governor and Scrushy concerning the appointment.

"This case concerns the criminalization of conduct protected by the First Amendment - the giving and receiving of campaign contributions," the group's amicus brief said.

Last month, a group of nine law professors filed a similar brief with the high court, raising First Amendment issues. The group of professors were represented by Jesse Choper of the University of California at Berkeley School of Law.

Siegelman, who is out on bail pending appeal, and Scrushy were convicted in 2006 of bribery and other charges. Siegelman was sentenced to more than seven years in federal prison and Scrushy to nearly seven years.

Although the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dropped two charges against Siegelman, the court upheld much of his conviction. The appeals court, meanwhile, upheld all of Scrushy's conviction. He is currently serving his sentence in a federal prison in Texas.

Government prosecutors have until Oct. 14 to respond to Siegelman and Scrushy's appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Siegelman was the governor of Alabama from 1999 to 2003. He served as the state's attorney general before being elected governor.

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