House leaders are beginning an investigation this week of the prosecution of Don Siegelman, the former Democratic governor of Alabama who was imprisoned in June on federal corruption charges. The case could become the centerpiece of a Democratic effort to show that the Justice Department engaged in political prosecutions.Note that the Democrats are disputing Siegelman's prosecution, not his guilt.
Recalling the comments of Alabama's Democrat party chair, "if it could happen to him, it could happen to anybody," I want my $500,000.
The case is considered unusual by many legal experts because actions like those Mr. Siegelman was accused of — exchanging a seat on the state hospital licensing board for a contribution to an education lottery campaign he was pushing — are hardly uncommon in state capitals around the country.
"It's unusual to see a bribery prosecution where the payment wasn't to the defendant," said David A. Sklansky, a former federal prosecutor who teaches at the law school at the University of California, Berkeley. "It seems to me the conduct in this case was similar to a lot of what we take as normal for politics."
"My sense is, there is a great unease with what has gone on here," said Jack Miller, former chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party. "It's kind of, if it could happen to him, it could happen to anybody."
"My sole motivation for pushing the prosecution was a firmly held belief, supported by overwhelming evidence and the law, that former Governor Siegelman had broken the law and traded his public office for personal and political favors," Louis V. Franklin Sr., the acting United States attorney in Montgomery, said in one statement.
In June 2006 Mr. Siegelman was convicted by a federal jury in Montgomery of accepting $500,000 from Richard M. Scrushy, then the chief executive of the HealthSouth Corporation, in return for an appointment to the state hospital licensing board.