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Siegelman, Scrushy ask court for leniency

By Bob Johnson
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — Former Gov. Don Siegelman and ex-HealthSouth CEO Rich-ard Scrushy have made personal pleas for mercy in arguing that prison terms recommended by prosecutors in their corruption case would be "life sentences."

Defense filings made public Wednesday say the government's recommended sentences of 30 years for Siegelman and 25 years for Scrushy would be devastating to their families.

Scrushy's filing talks about his nine children, including five ages 14, 12, 7, 4 and 2, who still live at home with Scrushy and his wife, Leslie.

"The sentence the government requests would imprison Richard Scrushy for the entirety of his children's childhood and past their teenage years into adulthood. It would irreparably harm those children to have to grow up without their daddy," said Scrushy's filing.

Fear of harm

Siegelman's filing talks about his lifetime of government service going back to volunteer work as a teenager and including his years as secretary of state, attorney general, lieutenant governor and governor.

The filing said Siegelman might be harmed in prison because of the anti-crime stances he has taken over the years.

"The climate in the prison system is anti-Don Siegelman," Siegelman's filing said.

Siegelman, 61, and Scrushy, 54, were convicted in June 2006 on charges of bribery, conspiracy and mail fraud. Siegelman was accused of appointing Scrushy to a hospital regulatory board in exchange for Scrushy arranging $500,000 in donations to Siegelman's 1999 campaign for a lottery to support education programs.

Siegelman was also convicted on a separate obstruction of justice charge.

Prosecutors have asked U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller to hand Siegelman and Scrushy the stiff sentences, claiming in court filings that their actions were "part of a systematic and pervasive corruption of the office of governor." Siegelman and Scrushy, who contend no crime was committed, have both asked that they be given probation and not sentenced to prison.

Siegelman and Scrushy plan to appeal their convictions to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals after they are sentenced. The appeals court has not ruled on a motion filed by Scrushy asking Fuller to step down before sentencing because of an alleged conflict.

Chief prosecutor Louis Franklin did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

In interviews with The Associated Press Wednesday, Siegelman and Scrushy both maintained their innocence and said the prison sentences recommended by the government are much stiffer than penalties handed out in other cases for similar offenses.

"It's a life sentence. It would be devastating to me and all of my children when I did nothing wrong. It would be horrible," said Scrushy, who also has five grandchildren. Scrushy said he doesn't understand why the government "is trying to do these things to me and my family."

But in their filing, prosecutors said the proposed sentences are warranted because the actions of Siegelman and Scrushy may have caused "a loss of public confidence in government."

Siegelman said Wednesday that instead of sending him to prison, he hopes the judge asks him to do community service, such as working with youth groups.

"It would be humbling to me to be put before young people to help them learn leadership skills to help improve their lives," Siegelman said.

He said a 30-year sentence would be devastating to him, his wife, Lori, and their children, Dana and Joseph, and would most likely mean he would die in prison.

"I don't think anyone expects me to live until I am 92 years old."

Siegelman said he believes he has already received one of the worst punishments that can be given to a lifelong politician — losing his right to vote. Because of the felony conviction, he said he was unable to vote in the general election last November and in a state referendum last week.

"I had voted in every election in my life that I've been eligible to vote in. Not being able to go to the polls with my wife is humiliating and it's hurtful that I can't participate in the one thing I've worked my life to try to improve," Siegelman said.

In his filing, Siegelman's attorneys mention that when he was secretary of state his wife was severely injured by a drunken driver who drove into their car. The filing said the accident motivated Siegelman to continue in government service and to run for attorney general.

While continuing to maintain his innocence, Siegelman said Wednesday that he regrets any embarrassment the case has caused the state and his family.

"I have been humbled and humiliated. My children have been subjected to ridicule and that too is hurtful. I am asking the judge to consider my life's work," Siegelman said.

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

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