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Defense rests in Siegelman trial

By Bob Johnson
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — Defense teams in the federal government corruption case against former Gov. Don Siegelman, ex-HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy and two others rested their cases Monday in rapid succession after spending a little more than a day calling witnesses.

Siegelman's attorney, Vince Kilbourn, did not call any witnesses and rested shortly after attorneys for Scrushy and Siegelman's former chief of staff, Paul Hamrick, had wrapped up their cases.

Earlier Monday, the defense for former state transportation director Mack Roberts, which had begun its rebuttal Friday afternoon, did the same. None of the four defendants was called to testify.

The short defense presentations came after prosecutors had spent six weeks trying to prove that Siegelman traded government favors for gifts and campaign contributions when he was governor and lieutenant governor from 1995 to 2003.

Defense attorneys for Siegelman and others have described the prosecution's case as being built on the claims of con artists who have pleaded guilty and are now lying about the Siegelman administration to get lighter sentences. Throughout the prosecution's case, they have cross-examined government witnesses seeking to weaken or negate the testimony.

Charges against Siegelman and Hamrick include bribery, racketeering and conspiracy. Scrushy is charged with bribery and mail fraud and Roberts with mail fraud.

With the defense resting, U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller said today will be spent hearing motions from attorneys and discussing the judge's charge to jurors.

He said final arguments will be Wednesday and that he expects jurors to begin deliberations Thursday.

Siegelman and Hamrick are accused in part of getting gifts and campaign contributions from political insider Lanny Young in exchange for helping with Young's state business deals. Young and a former top Siegelman aide, Nick Bailey, were key government witnesses. Both have pleaded guilty in the corruption case and awaiting sentencing.

Siegelmam attorney Vince Kilbourn said the defense did not call any witnesses because the prosecution had failed to prove its case.

"There's no reason to put anything forward to prove Lanny Young is a con man and that Nick Baiely is a liar," he said.

But the chief prosecutor, Louis Franklin, was optimistic with the close of testimony.

"I know it sounds like a broken record, but I have felt good about this case from day one," he said.

Siegelman said the jurors "know this case is non-existent." The best witnesses the government had, he said, "are convicted felons waiting for a lighter sentence."

Scrushy agreed with the defense's abrupt end. "The governor did the right thing. There was no evidence. There was nothing for him to rebut," he said.

"All of the manipulating and the government's spin we have seen fall to the ground," Scrushy said.

Hamrick rested after calling just two witnesses, attempting to contradict prosecution claims that he helped Young, a landfill developer and lobbyist, to get state help for a client, Waste Management Inc.

During the short defense of Scrushy on Monday, witnesses testified that he did not seek a seat on an influential state hospital regulatory board and did not try to unduly influence the panel after he was appointed by Siegelman.

The witnesses called for Roberts also contradicted the prosecution's claim that he got the job as a political payoff to his former boss, toll bridge developer Jim Allen, and that he received financial help from Allen as a quid-pro-quo for assisting Allen's state business deals when he ran the highway agency.

Former Alabama Power Co. CEO Elmer Harris, the chairman of Don Siegelman's transition team when he was elected governor in 1998, testified Monday that Scrushy said he had no interest in serving on the Certificate of Need Review Board. The prosecution claims he was named to the panel in exchange for arranging for $500,000 in contributions to Siegelman's campaign for a statewide lottery.

"He did not want to serve on the CON Board. He was not going to serve on the CON Board. He was going to tell Don Siegelman he didn't want to do it," Harris said.

Harris was called by the defense to challenge testimony of Bailey, who said Siegelman told him that Scrushy had agreed to arrange the campaign donations in exchange for a seat on the CON Board. Bailey has pleaded guilty and defense attorneys say he is lying to in hopes of getting a lighter sentence.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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