Siegelman was sent to solitary confinement last week after he was quoted extensively in a Washington Post (WaPo) article about the case of former Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell, whose 2014 conviction on public-corruption charges was reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) last Wednesday. The nation's high court twice has declined to hear Siegelman's case, even though it presents issues that are almost identical to those in the McDonnell case.
Many of the issues raised in the McDonnell case could have been resolved in 2010, or maybe even earlier, if SCOTUS had heard the Siegelman case. That the high court is hearing the case of McDonnell (a Republican) while ignoring the case of Siegelman (a Democrat) raises all kinds of ugly questions.
Those issues get even uglier when you consider that Siegelman wound up in solitary confinement just days after discussing the McDonnell case with Washington Post reporter Robert Barnes. Officials with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) claimed Siegelman was punished mainly for selling a shirt to raise funds for a documentary, called Atticus v. the Architect, about his case.
I'm not sure anyone, especially Siegleman, is buying that. Here is what he said in a letter to supporters about his return to the general prison population:
For unsaid reasons, I was directed to go back to the camp. Just had dinner with a group of guys, have a new bed assignment. I should be getting my personal property back from the "Special Housing Unit" tomorrow.
I'll keep you posted on any new developments
What prompted BOP officials to make such a stupid move in the first place, so closely aligned with the Washington Post interview? Here is Siegelman's best guess:
I suspect the BOP figured out that my donating a T-shirt to raise money for the International Documentary Association, to help produce a documentary on "The Political Assassination of Don Siegelman," was protected by the First Amendment. . . .
All is well for the moment. . . .
Court records show that McDonnell, his wife, and family received $177,000 in luxury items from businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr., but McDonnell supporters say evidence shows the former governor never took official action on Williams' behalf. The gifts were legal under Virginia law.
That factual scenario is quite different from the one in Siegelman, but the cases still raise similar legal issues. Writes WaPo's Barnes:
“Quid pro quo” translates from the Latin to “something for something.” McDonnell’s attorneys acknowledge the governor got something — Virginia’s laws did not forbid the gifts — but said he gave nothing.
Siegelman’s case is the reverse. He gave Alabama health-care executive Richard Scrushy a new term on an important industry regulatory board. But Scrushy’s offering was a $500,000 campaign contribution to push a referendum measure for a lottery that would benefit the state’s underfunded school system. (Note: This information from The Washington Post is inaccurate, and it has been widely misreported at numerous news outlets. Please see Editor's Note at the end of this post for explanation.)
“The Siegelman case was different from all others,” Siegelman said, in the detached tone of the Georgetown Law graduate that he is. “There was no personal benefit, not a penny of any financial gain. There wasn’t any self-enrichment scheme. There was no testimony of a quid pro quo, much less an explicit or express quid pro quo. And the contribution was not even to me but to a ballot initiative.”
Andrew P. Miller, a former Virginia attorney general, agrees with Siegelman, a Democrat, and McDonnell, a Republican. Miller helped drum up support for both men as they presented their cases to the Supreme Court.
“I’m bipartisan in my concern about this,” he said.
Experts who have followed both cases say they see similarities--and differences. Writes Barnes:
The similarity [Milller] sees is that both men were rising stars in their respective parties brought down by prosecutors appointed by the president of the opposite party.
Grant Woods, a former Republican attorney general from Arizona, said that, if anything, Siegelman had the bigger complaint.
“The Siegelman case to me is a complete travesty of justice from start to finish,” Woods said. The McDonnell case, on the other hand, “is just more of an interesting legal question.”
Editor's note: The information from The Washington Post regarding Scrushy's alleged $500,000 donation to Siegelman's lottery campaign is inaccurate. That figure has been misreported numerous times at multiple news outlets, including ours. We attempted to set the record straight in an April 8, 2013, post titled "Richard Scrushy: Convictions in the Siegelman case are grouded in former aide's flawed testimony."
Scrushy says prosecutors repeatedly told the press during the 2006 trial that he gave Siegelman $500,000 to support the then-governor's education lottery campaign. The story obviously has legs because 10 years later--just last week, in fact--The Washington Post was repeating it. Scrushy, however, has said multiple times--in 2013 and again this week--that it is not true.
We will provide details on the actual events in an upcoming post, but here is the gist of it:
* Scrushy gave $250,000, via HealthSouth, to help the Alabama Democratic Party pay down debt from the lottery initiative, which already had been defeated. Scrushy gave no money to support the lottery campaign.
* A Maryland company, Integrated Health Services (IHS), gave $250,000 for the lottery campaign, but Scrushy said he was not involved with that.
* Scrushy only agreed to help pay down the Alabama Democratic Party's debt after former Alabama Power CEO Elmer Harris asked him to. And Siegelman, Scrushy said, played no role in that effort.