Sunday, January 20, 2013

Watch List: Siegelman's Pardon Strategy

Tim Lockette of the Anniston Star has written an informative artilce re the current status of the search for clemency by former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman. And the news is more than a little surprising. Siegelman is apparently seeking something like a commutation of sentence and a full presidential pardon at the same time! More specifically, he is seeking a commutation of sentence on the basis of innocence! As Lockette reports, Siegelman's advisors are "still struggling with the fact that the commutation application seems to require an admission of guilt."

To add to the freakishly long odds of accomplishing this goal, Siegelman currently has no application for clemency in the Department of Justice! Why he would have no application in the mix as we went through the last December of the fourth year of the President's first term is quite the mystery.

Lockette notes the 66-year old Siegelman is serving out a 6-year federal prison sentence for "public corruption."  
A few years after leaving office, Siegelman was brought to trial after giving former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy — a $500,000 contributor to a fund that supported Siegelman’s campaign for a lottery — a seat on a state hospital board. It has become one of the most hotly debated court cases of recent years, with Siegelman’s supporters pointing out that politicians often give appointments to political donors, and questioning the tactics of the prosecution. More than 100 former attorneys general signed a court brief requesting his release. But it wasn’t enough to convince the jury, or the appeals courts that heard the case afterward. 
In addition over 40,000 people have signed an online petition, supporting clemency for the former governor. If President Obama is as stingy with clemency during his second term, as he was in his first, the picture does not look good for Siegelman, generally or specifically:
 “The more leniency a president shows, the less controversial any pardon is likely to be,” Ruckman said, explaining that when the practice is perceived as normal for any given president, people tend to scrutinize it less. Otherwise, Ruckman said, “You have to explain why this one petitioner jumped to the front of the line.” 
So, one might conclude that Siegelman could benefit from the learning process of another former governor:
But past political clout means little when someone is seeking clemency, Ruckman said. It might even be a bad thing. Ruckman cited another jailed politician, former Illinois Gov. George Ryan, now in prison on a corruption charge. He said Ryan first appealed directly to the president for a pardon, then filed a clemency petition arguing his innocence. Neither worked — probably because of the potential political fallout if a president bypassed the process to pardon a politician. It was a tough learning process for Ryan, Ruckman said. “If you try to get everything, you can wind up with nothing,” he said. 
Lockette's full story on Siegelman's case here

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