Former governor now lives in small cell 23 hours a day
By Bob Johnson
Associated Press Writer
MONTGOMERY — Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, who once lived in the governor’s mansion and crisscrossed the state on airplanes to announce new industries and meet with civic leaders, is now confined to a small prison cell 23 hours a day, with no way to even know what time of day it is.
One of his lawyers, David McDonald, visited the 61-year-old Siegelman at the federal penitentiary in Atlanta on Tuesday and said the former governor, after 12 nights in custody, has lost weight, doesn’t like the food, but is in good spirits.
“He said he’s being treated respectfully,” McDonald said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press shortly after leaving the prison.
But he said it’s not the life one would expect for a former governor who was one of the state’s most successful politicians and who several times flew to Europe and the Far East to recruit industry to come to Alabama.
“He’s locked in a small cell 23 hours a day. There’s hardly room to walk around,” McDonald said.
“He said the food is not edible. He’s lost 10 to 20 pounds.”
Sharing a cell
Siegelman is sharing the cell with former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy. McDonald said he did not see Scrushy when he met with Siegelman in an interview room at the prison Tuesday.
Siegelman and Scrushy were convicted last year on bribery and other charges in a government corruption case.
U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller on June 28 sentenced Siegelman to more than seven years in prison and Scrushy to almost seven years and ordered both men to begin their sentences immediately.
They were taken to the Atlanta facility that night to be processed into the federal prison system.
McDonald said he hopes Siegelman will be transferred to a minimum security facility or prison camp where he will have more room.
He said seeing Siegelman in prison was “truly, truly shocking.”
“He was wearing orange pants, blue slippers and kind of a faded blue khaki-type shirt. He pulled it off. He still looked dignified,” McDonald said.
He said prison life is not easy for Siegelman and Scrushy, who eat their meals inside the cell and are allowed to leave it only for one hour a day, when they can pace up and down a narrow hallway.
Siegelman is allowed to make one phone call a day — usually to his wife, Lori.
He said Lori has been to the prison to visit her husband several times.
“The conditions would be bad enough for a career criminal. It seems like overkill for someone like the governor,” McDonald said.
He said the worst time of day for Siegelman, who has only one book — a Bible — in his prison cell, is after supper about 6 p.m. until lights out at about 10 p.m.
“All they can do is sit there,” McDonald said.
No sense of time
He said there are no clocks, no radio, no television and no way of knowing the time.
He said Siegelman has spent much of his time doing push-ups, sit-ups and other exercises.
“He says that’s about all he can do to keep from going crazy,” McDonald said.
He said he and Siegelman spent much of their time Tuesday discussing a brief Siegelman’s attorneys are planning to file — probably within the next week — asking that the former governor be let out of prison while his conviction is being appealed to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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