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Monday, July 27, 2009

The Siegelman Ordeal and Its Impact On a Family

Much has been written about the political prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, and much of it has focused on the governor himself and those who targeted him.

But what about the Siegelman family? What is it like to see your husband/ father/son/brother sent to prison for bogus reasons? What's it like to know that a loved one can become a political prisoner in modern America?

Joan Brunwasser, of OpEd News, helps answer some of these questions when she presents an insightful interview with Dana Siegelman, the former governor's daughter.

Dana Siegelman, who lives in California where she attended college, recalls how she first learned that her father was facing serious trouble:

I was 19 when the case was introduced to me [2004]. The way it was introduced is especially interesting. I was asleep at home in Birmingham. I had started school at California State University in Long Beach and was home for the summer interning at a company and saving money before I moved back for my sophomore year.

Both Mom and Dad were out of town, so I was baby-sitter on duty for my younger brother. The doorbell rings, it's around 8 a.m. I roll out of bed; my curly hair had become an Afro, no make-up, boxer shorts, and t-shirt. All I can see is a young man through the art glass window on the door. I open the door and surrounding the entrance there are suddenly cameras snapping and approximately 5-8 video crews that are filming. At this realization, I shut the door but a crack and ask the young man what is going on. He sticks a mike in my face and says "Your father has been indicted, what do you think about it?"

Dana Siegelman had confidence in her father's innocence, but she looked into the facts and the law herself:

I was going into my sophomore year and was home for the summer. I knew my dad was a good person, yet, I also know how important knowing the facts are. So, I did my own research on his case so I would understand it and see for myself whether or not he seemed guilty. I came to the conclusion that our government is full of s***! No one ever believed he would be convicted. Even people who didn't vote for him were surprised when the second indictment brought a conviction. Not only that, but most people thought it suspicious that the second indictment came when Dad announced he was running again. If he had stayed out of the race, then they would have saved taxpayers' money.

How has the prosecution affected the Siegelman family:

This has by far been the most challenging experience of my life, and also the most rewarding. Even though it's broken our family financially, and, at first, spiritually, our relationships with one another have grown. We have had each other to lean on. All of us stepped out of our comfort zones to help with my dad. We never thought we'd be visiting this incredible man in prison, but it only proved that he continued to deserve the respect and admiration we'd always had for him.


What was it like to visit her father in prison?

When I came back to Alabama, my dad had finally been situated in the Oakdale penitentiary in Louisiana. Before that, he was moved from Georgia, to Oklahoma, to Texas, and finally, to Louisiana. Because he was moved around so many times, I was unable to speak to him or even write him for two and a half months! Once I was in Alabama, I visited him often, which was a difficult feat considering it was an eight-hour drive each way. Visitations were on Saturday and Sunday from about 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Then, we would head back home.

What was it like trying to get through college while her family was caught in a legal storm?

All four years in college, no one knew anything about my dad's case. In fact, my friends only knew him to be a lawyer. It was not until he was actually sentenced and taken away abruptly in handcuffs and shackles that I reached out to everyone I knew for help.

I don't know anyone who could have handled that experience with as much confidence, positiveness, and grace (as my dad did). It was a testimony to his character and we have learned from it. In fact, if it were not for Dad going to prison, I don't know if the government or the American people would have paid nearly as much attention to other politically motivated cases.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dana,

What a wonderful testimony to the power of the human spirit to triumph over adversity. I am so very proud of your ability to
"go on" rather than "go under" in these circumstances. Love you much, Jackie