Government prosecutors tried three times to get former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy to provide incriminating evidence against former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, including once while their criminal trial was under way.
Scrushy refused each time, and that is why he is in federal prison, Siegelman says in an interview with The Daily Beast.
Paul Alexander, author of Machiavelli's Shadow: The Rise and Fall of Karl Rove, conducted the interview.
Siegelman provides background on his appointment of Scrushy to a hospital board:
Scrushy had just recently resigned from the board and the person I had defeated, Fob James, had appointed one of Scrushy's vice presidents to the position. When I got elected I called Scrushy and said, "I want you to serve in my administration like you did in three previous administration." And he said, "Oh, Governor, do I have to? I just resigned from that board. Can't I get you the name of somebody?" I said, "Nope, it's either you or nobody." So he went onto the board reluctantly. And this poor guy is still in prison today.
Scrushy paid dearly for refusing to give false statements to federal authorities, Siegelman says:
In an effort to get me, the prosecution went to Scrushy before they indicted him and said, "Just tell us Siegelman extorted the money; just tell us he twisted your arm." He said, "I can't do that because that's not what happened." They went to him after he was indicted and said, "Okay, we will give you another chance. Tell us Siegelman twisted your arm and tried to extort money." He said, "I can't say that because that's not what happened." During the trial, he was sitting at the defense table, and they came and got him again and gave him a third chance to throw me under the bus by lying for the prosecution and he wouldn't do it. This is not the way the justice system in this country is supposed to work.
Siegelman remains hopeful that a Barack Obama administration will support efforts to get at the truth behind the politicization of the U.S. Justice Department under George W. Bush:
There are lots of good fights, and I know that Obama is looking to end the war in Iraq, to provide health care to all Americans, to fix the economy, and to deal with global warning—there are so many important issues that are out there—but restoring people's faith and trust in the government, assuring people the Department of Justice will no longer be used as a political weapon in this country, is vital. We are not going to allow the torture of prisoners in Guantanamo, nor are we going to permit the torturing of witnesses until we get the correct testimony to put political enemies in jail in this country.
A lot of Americans are aware of the injustices that have been going on in the Bush administration. They need to know that the Obama administration is not going to tolerate these kinds of injustices. I am hopeful that the Obama administration will work with an interested House Judiciary Committee (and hopefully a Senate Judiciary Committee) in finding the truth.