Government Files Response to Scrushy/Siegelman Motions for Acquittal

MONTGOMERY, Ala., Aug. 19, 2006 -- The government filed its response a few minutes prior to  midnight Friday to supplemental Motions of Acquittal filed by attorneys for businessman Richard Scrushy and former Governor Don Siegelman.

The motions are part of the post-trial phase of the government corruption case which led to the conviction of Scrushy on six counts of bribery, conspiracy and mail fraud and the conviction of Siegelman on seven counts having to do with bribery, conspiracy, obstruction of justice and mail fraud.  The two men were convicted on June 29, 2006.

"This Court should deny the Motions because the evidence presented at trial was certainly sufficient to sustain Defendants' convictions, and in fact overwhelmingly established their guilt as found by the jury. To grant Defendants' petition to overrule the jury's verdicts, this Court would have to graft additional elements onto the relevant statutes under which Defendants were convicted and ignore the mountain of evidence proving their culpability for their criminal actions. Rather, a review of the law and facts compels the denial of the Motions."

Countering defense claims, the government "readily acknowledges that there was no direct eyewitness to quid pro quo discussions between Defendants Siegelman and Scrushy, nor any electronic surveillance of such conversations."  However, the government goes on to say the defendants "misstate the law and defy common sense in expressly demanding such proof." (my bold)

The filing says defendants' "cornerstone argument" and therefore the motions "fail on legal and factual grounds."

The government also states "the statutes for which the jury convicted Defendants do not require the Hobbs Act's formulation of a quid pro quo element, especially so in this case where the payments from Defendant Scrushy to Defendant Siegelman were not remotely qualified as legitimate campaign contributions.  Second, even if the statutes charged required proof of a Hobbs Act quid pro quo element (which they do not), the evidence presented at trial established such an agreement between Defendants."

Prosecutors say the evidence presented in the trial allows a rational jurror to "conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Defendants had a specific agreement that Defendant Siegelman and Defendant Scrushy would provide HealthSouth with membership on, representation at, and influence over the CON Board in exchange for Defendant Scrushy's fraudulent, concealed, and corrupt payments of $500,000. As a result, this Court should deny the Motions."

The government argues the defendants arguments regarding the McCormick case as it applies to this case and the "explicit" or "specific" quid pro quo element sometimes required for Hobbs Act cases premised on campaign contributions are flawed -  "the evidence is clear that first there was no such "campaign contribution" in this case remotely resembling the type of unconcealed, legitimate political financing at issue in McCormick...On this record, the financial transactions in this case were far beyond the pale of the routine and transparent political donations that concerned the McCormick Court. The financial corruption of CON Board Member Adams is not even arguably a campaign contribution -- on its face and in every detail it is a hidden financial interest unrelated to any political campaign."

The prosecutors argue that even the $500,000 in payments do not qualify under the McCormick case cited by the defendants.

"Rather than direct payment from Defendant Scrushy to Defendant Siegelman's AELF campaign, properly and timely reported under Alabama law, rather even than a payment from Defendant Scrushy to the institution holding the note guaranteed by Defendant Siegelman, or even from Defendant Scrushy to the AEF nominally liable for the note, this transaction was elaborately and coercively laundered through third parties for the express purpose of concealment, it was held for long periods until applied for Defendant Siegelman's personal benefit as a loan guarantor, and, despite its massive size, it was not reported as campaign related until several months after the criminal investigation in this case had begun and the Alabama Attorney General's Office had contacted Defendant Siegelman's office....there was no "campaign contribution" meriting any protection or concern under McCormick."

"The circumstances of elaborate concealment are again overwhelming evidence of a specific quid pro quo by which Defendants would, as charged in the indictment, exchange money for HealthSouth having membership on, representation at, and influence over the CON Board."

The government also challenges the use by the defense of using what the government refers to as "these unofficial transcripts."  The filing says the court "should not rely upon them in redering its decision."

"In the Motion, Defendants quote and cite extensively to unofficial transcripts of the proceedings at trial.  Defendants do not reveal the source of these transcripts, but in no way intimate that they are the official record of the proceeding."

Furthermore the prosecution argues, "A review of all the evidence as distinguished from the snippets of testimony referenced by Defendants, eviscerates Defendants' petition for this Court to overturn the jury's verdicts on Counts Three and Four."

Also in reference to counts three and four and the issues of direct vs. circumstantial evidence,  the government quotes from the 11th Circuit:

"Direct evidence of an agreement, however, is unnecessary: proof of such an agreement may rest upon inferences drawn from relevant and competent circumstantial evidence.  To hold otherwise would allow defendants to escape liability with winks and nods, even when the evidence as a whole proves that there has been a meeting of the minds to exchange official action for money."

The defendants have until August 25th to file their written replies.  However, late Saturday, through a press release, Scrushy attorney Terry Butts said, "Reviewing the government's response to our Rule 29 Motion, we now understand why the government did not want to and in fact, did not file a written response to our original motion during the trial. "  Butts' statement called the case "baseless" and said a "detailed reply" would be filed on Friday.

Reported by Helen Hammons