CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, headed to federal prison next week to serve a 69-month sentence on federal corruption charges, told The Daily Caller that he’s at the Democratic National Convention to lay the groundwork for what he hopes will be a future pardon from President Barack Obama.
“I am going to try to get a commutation of sentence and eventually a pardon,” Siegelman told TheDC in a Monday interview inside the convention center.
Siegelman says he isn’t lobbying for Obama to take action before he returns to prison to complete his sentence, or even before the November election. But he’s hoping to make contact with the sort of people that can eventually help him.
“Those people will be able to act in my stead with the president when the time is right,” the former governor said, “and that is after the election and not now.”
“The purpose of this trip is primarily just to talk to those people who have an understanding about this case and who also may have some bearing on the outcome of the pardon or the outcome of a commutation,” Siegelman said, declining to name specifically who he is meeting with.
In 2006, Siegelman was convicted on federal corruption charges that stemmed from the allegation that he gave former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy a seat on a hospital regulatory board in exchange for $500,000 in donations for a pro-lottery campaign he was organizing.
Siegelman says he wasn’t intentionally committing a crime at the time. “If I had known I was coming close to the line where a campaign contribution becomes a bribe and a crime, I would have stopped,” Siegelman said at his resentencing hearing in August.
Siegelman was granted permission by U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller to travel to Charlotte for the convention.
He’s set to return to prison by Sept. 11 in Oakdale, La., where he previously was incarcerated for 9 months before being released while appealing his conviction.
Despite his protests, prosecutors maintain that Siegelman still broke the law by appointing Scrushy to the board after the CEO made the campaign contributions.
“We are here to hold him accountable for what he did and what he did was to corrupt the office to which he had been elected,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Louis Franklin said at the August hearing.
Sitting at a roundtable inside the convention center Monday, Siegelman proclaimed his innocence as son, Joseph, and daughter, Dana — both along for the trip this week — looked on.
“This case represents an important turning point in American democracy,” Siegelman said, “because it has set a new legal standard that for convicting people of bribery where there is no evidence of an expressed agreement whatsoever.”