Obama administration opposes Siegelman's appeal

Chris Rizo Nov. 17, 2009, 2:26am

Don Siegelman (D)

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline)-Disagreeing with 91 former state attorneys general, the Obama administration says former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman's appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court should be rejected.

The Obama administration says federal prosecutors have proven their bribery case against Siegelman, a Democrat. The Justice Department filed papers Friday outlining their objections to the appeal.

"Under a standard that requires not just a quid pro quo, but one that is verbally spelled out with all 'i's dotted and 't's crossed, all but the most careless public officials will be able to avoid criminal liability for exchanging official action for campaign contributions," Court papers said.

In a friend-of-the-court brief, the bipartisan group of former attorneys general said the case raises important free speech issues.

They 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.

A group of nine law professors filed a similar brief earlier 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.

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

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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