Thursday, 14 April 2016 00:00

Editorial: Don Siegelman deserves a pardon

Written by Editorial | The Anniston Star

Over the course of 2015, President Barack Obama used the clemency powers of his office to free more than 100 federal prisoners, most of whom were nonviolent offenders who had been sentenced by overly harsh narcotics laws. The releases were, Obama said in late December, “another step forward in upholding our ideals of justice and fairness.” Those “men and women … had served their debt to society,” he said.

“Although nine years have passed, Gov. Siegelman’s unjust conviction continues to eat away at the integrity of the justice system,” reads part of the letter, which was delivered to the White House Wednesday. “Many legal scholars as well as the public at large believe that the prosecution of Gov. Siegelman was a perversion of justice.”

The central charge against Siegelman, a Democrat elected in a heavily Republican state, boils down to this. As governor, Siegelman was looking to promote an election on whether or not the state should create a lottery. One generous contributor to the special lottery campaign fund was Richard Scrushy, the high-flying CEO of HealthSouth who wished to be appointed to a state hospital board. Bush-appointed federal prosecutors claimed Scrushy’s $500,000 contribution to the lottery campaign was the price to gain an appointment by Siegelman to the state board.

Despite the lack of a smoking gun explicitly showing Siegelman sold a seat on the state hospital board, federal prosecutors won a conviction on their second attempt. The first one was abandoned by prosecutors over a dispute over evidence with the federal judge in the case.

After he retired, that judge, U.W. Clemon, wrote that the “2004 prosecution of Mr. Siegelman in the Northern District of Alabama was the most unfounded criminal case over which I presided in my entire judicial career. In my judgment, his prosecution was completely without legal merit; and it could not have been accomplished without the approval of the Department of Justice.”

It’s been firmly established that the Bush administration Justice Department wasn’t above playing politics.

So, if the standard becomes politicians appointing contributors to valued posts, then plenty U.S. ambassadors will have to be brought home today. That’s a standard that isn’t confined to Siegelman. In fact, in 2013 Bloomberg News reported that 26 ambassadors appointed by Obama had contributed a total of $13.6 million to Democratic Party causes.

We urge President Obama to heed the letter from the bipartisan collection of former prosecutors and pardon Don Siegelman.

Link to original article from The Anniston Star

Read 5103 times Last modified on Thursday, 14 April 2016 12:05