ATLANTA (CN) – Finding “substantial questions of law or fact,” the 11th Circuit on Thursday ordered former Gov. Donald Siegelman released from prison while he appeals a bribery conviction. Siegelman’s supporters say he was prosecuted because of improper political pressure from Karl Rove – part of the pattern of that led to the firing of nine U.S. attorneys. Forty-four former state attorneys general have asked Congress to investigate his prosecution.
The 11th Circuit ruled that Siegelman could be released on bond from the federal prison in Oakdale, La., where he has served 9 months of a 7-year sentence. The court order came on the same day that the House Judiciary Committee asked the Justice Department to permit Siegelman to be released temporarily to go to Washington to testify about why he believes he was prosecuted for political reasons.
The Committee said the Justice Department has not been forthcoming with information about the case.
Siegelman’s attorneys said the former Democratic governor should have remained free during appeal – as is common with white-collar cases.
Until his conviction in June 2006, Siegelman was one of the few Democrats to wield significant political power in Alabama. A federal jury convicted him of taking $500,000 from Richard Scrushy, ex-CEO of HealthSouth Corp., for an appointment to the state hospital licensing board. The money was used to pay off a debt from Siegelman’s campaign for a state lottery to support education. Prosecutors said Siegelman was personally responsible for the debt.