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Former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy, center, enters federal court with family and supporters for the sentencing phase of his federal corruption trial, Tuesday in Montgomery.
AP photo by Rob Carr
Former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy, center, enters federal court with family and supporters for the sentencing phase of his federal corruption trial, Tuesday in Montgomery.

Sentencing hearings begin for Siegelman and Scrushy

By Bob Johnson
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — Prosecutors urged a federal judge Tuesday to consider charges on which former Gov. Don Siegelman was acquitted in determining his sentence in a government corruption case with former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy.

"It was all part of a pay-to-play scheme," prosecutor J.B. Perrine said.

But Siegelman attorney Susan James argued that U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller should consider only the seven counts where jurors found him guilty, not the 27 others, including racketeering and extortion, on which he was acquitted.

The sentencing hearing that began Tuesday will determine if Siegelman and Scrushy remain free or spend much of the rest of their lives in prison. It is expected to last all week.

Fuller said he expects to rule early Wednesday on a range of potential sentence Siegelman could receive based on the sentencing report and attorney arguments. But the judge could give a higher or lower sentence based on witnesses both sides are expected to call concerning other circumstances the judge should consider.

Siegelman, 61, and Scrushy, 54, each were convicted last year on six charges of bribery, conspiracy and mail fraud, and Siegelman also was convicted on one obstruction of justice charge. But Siegelman also was acquitted on the 27 other counts, and two former Cabinet members who were tried with Siegelman and Scrushy were found not guilty on all charges against them.

"The government is asking that he be penalized for every single thing he was charged with whether he was found guilty or not," James said.

Fuller said there is case law that would allow him to consider more than just the charges where the jury returned guilty verdicts.

"It is permissible for the court to use acquitted conduct if the court finds it was proven by a preponderance of the evidence," Fuller said.

Fuller did rule that he would not consider more than $3 million in profit that HealthSouth has made from a rehabilitation hospital built in Phenix City and approved by the Certificate of Need Board. Scrushy was off the board at the time of the vote and Fuller said he saw no evidence that Scrushy influenced the majority of members of the board to vote to approve the hospital.

Attorneys said Fuller's ruling would likely reduce the final sentence for Scrushy.

Later Tuesday, Fuller heard emotional testimony from Maj. Gen. Mike Sumrall, who was adjutant general of the Alabama National Guard when Siegelman was governor and currently works in the Pentagon as an adviser to the chairman of the Joint chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace.

Sumrall described Siegelman meeting with National Guard troops in the days following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He remembered Siegelman as a caring, diligent leader and said he never saw him do anything he would consider corrupt or illegal.

"I saw acts of kindness on his part time and time again," Sumrall said.

Sumrall told Fuller about going with Siegelman to Carbon Hill after a devastating tornado hit the North Alabama town. He said Siegelman spent time with a man who had lost his farm to the storm.

"The governor put his arm around this guy and they just sat and cried for a few moments. That's the kind of man I dealt with," Sumrall said.

Fuller had not planned to hear character witnesses for Siegelman and Scrushy until later this week, but agreed to hear Sumrall early so the general could return to Washington.

Fuller held a brief private meeting with attorneys concerning a medical condition of Scrushy's that could effect Scrushy's sentence.

Asked later by reporters about the medical problem, Scrushy said, "That's personal."

He wouldn't identify the problem, but when asked if it was life threatening, Scrushy said, "It could be if it's not attended to."

Prosecutors have asked Fuller to severely punish Siegelman and Scrushy to send a message that government corruption won't be tolerated. Prosecutors have requested sentences of 30 years in prison for Siegelman, and 25 years for Scrushy, plus a $1 million fine for Siegelman and $7.2 million for Scrushy.

Attorneys for Siegelman and Scrushy have asked they be given probation and have said the sentences proposed by prosecutors would be life sentences because of their ages. Siegelman has asked that he be allowed to do community service instead of going to prison.

Supporters of Siegelman and Scrushy filled the courtroom and overflowed into a second courtroom where the proceedings were being shown by closed circuit television. Outside the courthouse, about a dozen Scrushy supporters staged a protest, claiming the guilty verdicts were a miscarriage of justice.

Following a two-month trial, jurors on June 29, 2006, found Siegelman and Scrushy guilty of bribery, conspiracy and mail fraud in a scheme in which Siegelman was accused of appointing Scrushy to an important hospital regulatory board in exchange for Scrushy arranging $500,000 in contributions to Siegelman's campaign for a statewide lottery.

Siegelman was also convicted of obstruction of justice for trying to cover up $9,200 given to him by a lobbyist to help him purchase a motorcycle.

James argued Tuesday that Fuller should not consider charges against Siegelman concerning a bogus Montgomery warehouse deal, bribery of a Cherokee County commissioner concerning a landfill and other charges where Siegelman was found not guilty.

James also asked Fuller to consider Siegelman's financial condition.

"The toll the trial has taken has prevented the governor from being able to earn an income. The legal fees in this case have continued to mount," she said.

Both Siegelman and Scrushy have said that regardless of the sentence, they plan to appeal their convictions to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

They contend there was no personal benefit or quid-pro-quo and no crime involved in their dealings. Defense attorneys also say the statute of limitations had run on the bribery charges and a new trial should have been ordered because of allegations that jurors communicated with each other by e-mail during the trial.

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

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