Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman was wrongly tried and convicted and deserves to be a free man helping the people of America. Instead, he has been jailed, unable to be out on bail while he appeals his sentence. That’s right — he’s being treated like a flight risk even though he is one of America’s most venerable Democratic politicians.Gov. Siegelman was sentenced to over seven years in jail for something he did not personally benefit from. And to be sure, it was much less severe, than say, revealing the identities of members of the CIA, spending billions on companies you will be working for when you leave Washington and move back to Texas, or firing very good attorneys because they don’t roll the way you do.
In fact this man was singled out to be persecuted by Karl Rove. Which in and of itself means he most likely is innocent. Ninety-percent of the charges leveled against him were thrown out before the trial. He was found innocent of over a dozen others in the trial.
Don Siegelman was a highly popular Democratic Governor of Alabama. He is the only person to ever have served Alabama by being elected to its four highest offices.
What horrific crime did he commit? Siegalman was convicted of appointing someone to a state board that the same man had been appointed to by three previous governors, in return for a contribution in support of a referendum campaign.
This May, Governor Siegleman and his family joined our Hillel Shabbos dinner at my home. He married a Jewish woman and his children have been raised as Jews, though he himself is a Catholic. His daughter studied in Long Beach and now is a graduate student in Israel. From the day I had a chance to spend with Gov. Siegelman, both my wife and I can attest that he is a decent, loving and righteous man of genuine character, who needs all of our help to get out of jail now!
Wikipedia has a very good synopsis of the injustice served, including, major questions about the jury and the judge, and Rove’s involvement. This recent blog on Time.com has a good introduction to the case.
(1) Governor Siegelman is currently incarcerated at a Bureau of Prisons facility, having been refused release on bail pending appeal. Indeed, he was even denied 45 days to report to prison to give him time to put his affairs in order, an opportunity which is commonly granted.
(2) A lawyer who had worked in the campaign of Governor Siegelman’s opponent in the 2006 gubernatorial contest has sworn in a recent affidavit that the spouse of the federal prosecutor in this case stated that his wife and another federal prosecutor would “take care of” Mr. Siegelman and that he had talked with a political operative for the White House concerning such assurances.
(3) In an unrelated but recent case, a low-level employee in another state administration was prosecuted and convicted by another U.S. Attorney before a U.S. Court of Appeals ordered her immediate release from prison and reversed the trial verdict calling the prosecution evidence “beyond thin.”
(4) Another former Governor of Alabama was convicted of corruption charges a few years ago in a case where he personally benefited from his action and was sentenced to probation. That case was handled by the same lead prosecutor as in the Siegelman case.
(5) The sentence sought by the prosecutor in Governor Siegelman’s case was excessively disproportionate, and the sentence imposed – 7 years, 4 months – was harsh.
(6) There are numerous apparently legitimate (and arguably compelling) appealable issues in this case, as confirmed by a number of legal scholars. There have been allegations of jury misconduct and the possible introduction of extrinsic evidence into the jury deliberation process that have not been fully investigated. For this reason, and because Governor Siegelman is not in any way a flight risk, the denial of a bond pending appeal appears inappropriate.