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Judge seals Siegelman’s motion for new trial

By Bob Johnson
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — A motion seeking a new trial for former Gov. Don Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy on grounds that jurors who convicted them communicated with each other over the Internet was ordered sealed by a federal judge Tuesday and removed from public view.

U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller ordered the motion placed under seal after one juror, whose name was supposed to have been blacked out, was identified in an exhibit filed Monday with the original motion.

Fuller has scheduled a telephone conference call with attorneys for noon to discuss the motion.

Prosecutor Steve Feaga discounted the motion Tuesday, calling it “a fishing expedition by desperate convicted criminals.”

“They are desperate and willing to do anything to avoid the consequences of their criminal acts,” Feaga said.

The motion includes a statement from juror Charlie Stanford, who said, “I feel like I’ve done the wrong thing concerning the verdict.”

Stanford said in the statement that some jurors brought into deliberations information that apparently came from the Internet.

“It was upsetting in there and very tense. I was confused between all the evidence and other Internet stuff and information some jurors brought in and was talking about. I don’t think they should have done that,” Stanford said in the statement.

David McDonald, an attorney for Siegelman, said attorneys thought they had marked out Stanford’s name when the motion was filed, but the name appeared in the filing.

Stanford could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Siegelman and Scrushy were found guilty after a two-month federal court trial on bribery and conspiracy charges in a scheme where prosecutors said Scrushy arranged $500,000 in contributions to Siegelman’s campaign for a statewide lottery in exchange for being appointed by Siegelman to a seat on an influential hospital regulatory board.

Two other defendants, Siegelman’s former chief of staff Paul Hamrick and his former transportation director Mack Roberts, were found not guilty.

A sentencing date has not been scheduled for Siegelman and Scrushy. Fuller has not yet ruled on earlier defense motions asking that the convictions be thrown out for various reasons, including that prosecutors filed the bribery charges more than five years after the crime allegedly occurred, in violation of the federal statute of limitations.

The motion asks Fuller to allow defense attorneys to subpoena jurors’ computers, e-mail records and cell phone records of text messaging. The motion also asks Fuller to schedule a hearing where all 12 jurors could be questioned.

Feaga said prosecutors do not believe jurors did anything wrong and would oppose any effort by defense attorneys to subpoena juror records or to in any way “invade the providence of the jury.”

‘Fair and just verdict’

“It was a fair and just verdict. These defendants are guilty,” Feaga said.

Scrushy’s chief attorney, Art Leach, declined to discuss the motion Tuesday.

“I think the motion is strong enough on its own,” Leach said.

In his sworn statement, juror Stanford described a tense atmosphere in the jury room and said he felt pressured by Fuller, who twice asked jurors to keep deliberating after they had reported being deadlocked.

“I just wanted to get out of there and so did everbody else. It was very upsetting in there, and very tense,” Stanford said. He said the trial would have ended in a hung jury if Fuller had not asked jurors to keep deliberating.

The new trial motion also cites e-mails written between at least three jurors discussing the case before a verdict was reached, in violation of Fuller’s instructions.

The judge warned jurors at the end of each day’s testimony and before lunch and other breaks not to discuss the case among themselves outside deliberations.

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

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