Federal prosecutors pressured former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy to give false testimony against former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, Huffington Post reports today.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Feaga repeatedly said he wanted Scrushy to testify that an explicit quid pro quo was present in his dealings with Siegelman, according to a letter from Scrushy attorney Arthur Leach to John Conyers, chairman of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee.
David Fiderer, of Huffington Post, reports that Justice Department officials both in Alabama and Washington, D.C., agreed to give Scrushy favorable treatment if he would present false testimony about Siegelman.
Scrushy gave a contribution to Siegelman's campaign for an education lottery in Alabama and was appointed to a seat on a state health-care board. But Leach said that Scrushy refused to testify that he and Siegelman had a "something-for-something" agreement. Scrushy had served on the health-care board under previous Alabama governors.
In his letter to Conyers, Leach writes:
"As to the information the government wanted from Richard Scrushy, AUSA [Assistant U.S. Attorney in Alabama] Steve Feaga was always very direct as to what he wanted Mr. Scrushy to say. He wanted Richard to say that there was a quid pro quo, that is, an agreement between Richard Scrushy and Governor Siegelman to the effect that Richard would make a campaign contribution and the Governor would appoint Richard to the CON board. We repeatedly told Feaga and Franklin that there was no quid pro quo. The conversations with Feaga always ran a familiar course. We would discuss the facts as we understood them from our client and Feaga would say, "this is what I must have" and he would outline a quid pro quo which we repeatedly informed him our client could not provide because neither the campaign contribution nor the appointment to the CON board happened that way."
Feaga and fellow Alabama prosecutor Louis Franklin eventually agreed to let Scrushy out of the case in exchange for a nominal plea in state court, Leach writes. But Andew Lourie, acting chief of the Public Integrity Section in Washington, would not agree to it:
"During this discussion Mr. Lourie told me that he did not want to take me down a wrong path and that his position was fixed on a plea to misprison of a felony. I asked him whether that meant that he would not consider a misdemeanor and he told me that he would discuss it but he did not think he would approve it. He told me he would not agree to dismiss the case. Lourie said based upon the proffer that misprison of a felony was the best fit in terms of a plea and that Richard would just have to add a new portion to his proffer, that is, Richard would have to change his statement to the government."
And what would that changed statement say?
"Lourie suggested that Richard admit that he knew that the Governor was committing a crime by demanding (that is extorting) a contribution, that Richard should have rejected the Governor's demands, but because he did not, Richard would admit that he committed a crime. Mr. Scrushy rejected any such plea as completely inconsistent with the facts."
Leach told Lourie that Alabama prosecutors had agreed to get Scrushy out of the case. But Lourie indicated that officials "over his head" had nixed the idea:
"He told me that he could not discuss the decision making process any further and that he really should not have shared what he did with me and that he would be in trouble if it were known that he had shared the little information he provided to me.
"My client would not agree to plead guilty to misprison of a felony because he did not agree - and would not say - that he had done anything illegal in his dealings with Governor Siegelman."