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Attorneys for ex-governor, ex-CEO appeal ruling

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Attorneys for former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy have asked a federal appeals court to dismiss all charges against them in a federal government corruption case.

Siegelman’s attorneys filed briefs yesterday with the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals asking them to throw out the charges because of a recent Supreme Court ruling that raised questions concerning a white collar crime law that was the basis of most of the charges.

Siegelman and Scrushy were convicted in 2006 of bribery and other charges in a government corruption case. Prosecutors accused Siegelman of appointing Scrushy to an influential hospital regulatory board in exchange for Scrushy arranging $500,000 in contributions to Siegelman’s campaign for a statewide lottery.

The 11th Circuit earlier upheld most of the charges against Siegelman and all of those against Scrushy, but the Supreme Court sent the cases back to the 11th Circuit after its ruling concerning the “honest services bribery” law. It’s a law that said it’s a crime for a public official to deprive citizens of honest services while in office. The Supreme Court found problems with the law in the conviction in June of former Enron chief Jeffrey Skilling.

Siegelman’s attorneys argued in the brief to the 11th Circuit that most of the case against Siegelman was based on the “honest services” law and that jurors may have been influenced by that law when considering other charges.

In a separate brief, Scrushy’s attorneys argued that the Supreme Court’s decision in the Skilling case “requires reversal of the conspiracy and honest service bribery charges” against Scrushy. Scrushy’s attorneys argue that at the least their client should be granted a new trial.

Scrushy’s brief argues that his campaign contribution to Siegelman was not a bribe.

“Siegelman was not paid anything,” the filing said.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Justice Department, Laura Sweeney, declined to comment saying prosecutors would state their position in future court filings. She said prosecutors are preparing a response to Siegelman’s request to have the charges dismissed.

Siegelman’s attorney Sam Heldman said the former governor should have never been charged under the “honest services” law to begin with because he did not personally gain from the contributions to the lottery campaign.

“We show in our brief that campaign contributions, especially contributions to a referendum campaign, are not bribes that can be charged as honest services violations after the Skilling decision,” Heldman said.

During the trial, prosecutors argued that Siegelman personally benefited because he had personally guaranteed a loan to the campaign.

Heldman said Siegelman guaranteed the loan after Scrushy had been appointed to the board and the “campaign loan indisputably had nothing to do with the appointment.”

The appeals court judges have not indicated when they might rule in the case.

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