A pair of 7-year sentences
Siegelman, Scrushy taken immediately into custody
MONTGOMERY (AP) — Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman was sentenced to more than seven years in federal prison and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy got nearly seven years Thursday and both were immediately taken into custody on their bribery convictions.
The judge, who said they had damaged the public's trust in state government, denied defense pleas, some tearful, to let them remain free on appeal. He had been urged to grant leniency because of the positive impact they have had in Alabama during their careers.
"While it is true the good far exceeds the bad, I must impose a fair punishment to reassure all that come before this court that justice is blind," U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller said in sentencing Siegelman.
The two once-prominent figures in politics and business — Siegelman is 61, Scrushy 54 — were escorted out of the courtroom by U.S. marshals and not allowed to talk to family members. Scrushy's family cried quietly in the courtroom. Siegelman's wife, Lori, left immediately. Asked by reporters about her husband's sentence and being immediately taken into custody, she said, "I expected it." She got into her car without further comment.
Fines, community service
Siegelman was fined $50,000 due immediately, plus $181,325 to a state agency where prosecutors said kickbacks were made. He is to perform 500 hours of community service when his sentence of seven years, four months is completed.
Scrushy was fined $150,000 due immediately, plus ordered to pay restitution of $267,000 to United Way of Central Alabama. He also was ordered to perform 500 hours of community service when released after serving six years and 10 months.
Both are to be on supervised release for three years when their terms end.
Both have promised appeals.
Fuller had increased the possible sentence range for Siegelman to more than 15 years earlier Thursday and left Scrushy's possible range at eight to 10 years. But he was not bound by the guidelines. Prosecutors asked 30 years for Siegelman and 25 for Scrushy, while the defense pleaded for probation for both.
Siegelman and Scrushy were convicted last year on bribery, conspiracy and mail fraud. The government accused Siegelman of naming Scrushy to a hospital regulatory board in exchange for $500,000 in donations to Siegelman's 1999 campaign for a state lottery for education. The defense contended there was no quid-pro-quo or personal benefit.
Siegelman also was convicted of obstruction of justice for trying to hide money given by a lobbyist for a motorcycle. The defense contends it was a legitimate transaction and not as depicted by prosecutors.
Chief prosecutor Franklin said the sentence "sends a message that the prosecution of this case was a righteous prosecution."
He said it also debunks claims that a Republican political vendetta was behind the probe of the Democratic governor. "It puts to rest all the speculation and the conspiracy theories," he said.
A drawn-looking Leslie Scrushy briefly addressed reporters outside the courthouse, saying a salute from her husband as he was led from the courtroom said to her "that he loves me."
"I just want to go home and be with my babies and try to explain to them what has happened in America today," she said.
Fuller was urged by prosecutor Joseph Fitzpatrick to hand down a stiff punishment.
"It will send the message that if these people can be sent to prison, it certainly can happen to a local politician," he said.
Siegelman wiped at tears as he asked the judge for mercy, apologizing to the people of Alabama but denying he took a bribe from Scrushy.
"Your honor, I am not a perfect person, but I am a good person. I have made mistakes. I have done some stupid things and some dumb things," he said.
"Judge, you can decide whether I die in prison or go home to my family. Your honor, I ask you for mercy. I ask you to send me home."
Scrushy, who earlier introduced the judge to his nine children, motioned to them during his final statement.
"God has blessed me with this family. It does concern me greatly the effect on my family if I am placed in prison," Scrushy said.
Fitzpatrick, a prosecutor in the Alabama attorney general's office who has worked with the federal prosecution on the case, admitted that both Siegelman and Scrushy have done good things for the people of Alabama.
"But your honor sometimes good men do bad things and sometimes bad men do good things," he said.
Earlier Thursday, Fuller signaled a prison term awaited both as he refused to reduce the guidelines and instead increased them.
"I am convinced the conduct Governor Siegelman engaged in damaged the public's confidence in the government of this state," Fuller said.
Scrushy told the judge his contributions to the education lottery were part of his efforts over the years to give money "because I wanted to make Alabama a better place." He said he accepted the position on the board from Siegelman for same reason he served on the same board under other governors.
"I did it because it was the right thing to do," he said.
Scrushy and his attorneys pointed to his charitable work and ministries in urging leniency.
At one point, Scrushy got up and introduced his nine children and his wife, Leslie, to Fuller. The children, ranging in age from 2-years-old to the 30s, stood in front of the courtroom as Scrushy said something about each one.
He told Fuller the children and Leslie were "ten reasons" why he would not try to flee if he is allowed to remain free while his conviction and sentence are appealed.
Attorney Susan James told Fuller she is concerned about Siegelman's safety if he is given a lengthy sentence, pointing out that as a former Alabama attorney general and governor he has a history of pushing for tough anti-crime legislation and for fighting against parole for some prisoners. She said that at his age a 10-year sentence would deprive Siegelman of much of the rest of his life.
"The rest of his productive life will be wasted while he's in prison," James said.
But chief prosecutor Louis Franklin said Siegelman deserves a harsh sentence partly because of his tough stance against crime.
"To say that when someone takes a harsh stance and then turns around and commits a crime they should be given lenient punishment, that's the height of hypocrisy," Franklin told Fuller.
Siegelman was a state Democratic Party official in Birmingham when he was elected secretary of state in 1978. He soon became one of the state's most popular politicians, eventually serving as attorney general and lieutenant governor before being elected governor in 1998. Scrushy founded a small health care company in Birmingham in the early 1980s that would grow into HealthSouth Corp., one of the nation's leaders in outpatient surgery and rehabilitative health care.
He was fired as a $1.7 billion accounting scandal was uncovered, but he was acquitted of criminal charges in the fraud by a federal court jury in Birmingham in 2005. Siegelman also had criminal charges against him dismissed after a federal judge in Birmingham struck down key evidence in an alleged Medicaid fraud case.
One of Siegelman's attorneys, Robert Blakey, gave Fuller a list of former governors of various states who have been convicted of crimes but given sentences lighter than what Siegelman would receive according to the guidelines.
The governors included former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards, sentenced to 10 years in federal prison in a racketeering case and former Alabama Gov. Guy Hunt, who received probation after being convicted in 1993 of spending money from a tax exempt inaugural fund for personal items.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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