Siegelman Makes Statement After Return Home

Siegelman says he prayed to God many times thanking him for those helping to stop the injustices of his case.
Siegelman says he prayed to God many times thanking him for those helping to stop the injustices of his case.

Birmingham, Al. (WSFA) -- Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman made a brief statement at a news conference Friday night after returning to his home state from a Louisiana prison facility.

Siegelman, who was still wearing the tattered prison clothes he left the prison in, appeared briefly at the Boy Scout office near his Birmingham home to speak with the media.

Here is what he had to say:

"It's been a long nine months, as most of you know, it was nine months ago this very evening (3/28) that I was handcuffed and shackled and taken to the basement of the Federal Courthouse in Montgomery and later placed in the back of an old Chevy sedan and driven to the federal penatentary in Atlanta.

And while I lost my freedom, I never lost my faith. Each and every day for the last nine months I got up and thanked God for my blessings multiple times a day. I thanked God for my friends and my family who kept writing me inspiring letters and lifting my spirits with their prayers and their actions. And I thanked God for the national media, the outpouring of support and the spotlighting they did on the injustices in my case. 

On numerous occasion during the last nine months I thanked God for Congressman John Conyers, the Chairman of United States Congress Committee on the Judiciary, and the courage of Congressman Artur Davis and the other members of the Judiciary Committee who are determined to dig out the truth.

And when I heard the news yesterday (Thursday) that the 11th Circuit [Court of Appeals] granted our motion for me to be out on bond pending appeal, I thanked God once again...because it was nine months ago this very night when we couldn't get the district court to even entertain that same motion.

And I know that you can anticipate the joy I have for being back with my Alabama family, but you can really never imagine the joy that I have at this moment as I leave to be with my real family Joseph, Dana and Laurie and my brothers."

Siegelman did not take any questions from the media.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals approved Siegelman's release Thursday on bond, pending the appeal of the seven corruption charges a jury convicted him on last year.

Days before Judge Mark Fuller sent him to prison in 2007, Siegelman acted like the seasoned politician he is, appealing to the people who held his fate after the jury delivered the guilty verdict.

"The 11th Circuit is, frankly the best and the brightest of the judges around the country," he said at the time.

Thursday, two judges on that bench ordered Siegelman's release, saying he isn't a flight risk, and his appeal raises 'significant questions of law.'

Siegelman's attorneys watched as the appeals court sent the case back to Judge Mark Fuller twice, asking him to defend his decision to jail the former Governor while the appeal went forward.

"It's so overdue," said Siegelman attorney Susan James.  "It's certainly very promising to us, because we are absolutely convinced we are right and it could have happened nine months ago."

Siegelman's lawyers have pounded away at the theory the case was politically motivated, and gained a lot of ground in national media.

But there are big strikes against him as well.

Siegelman's closest aide, Nick Bailey, provided what many say was the key testimony to convict. He pleaded guilty to similar charges and is halfway through an 18 month sentence.

"You're put in these positions of incredible power and very little oversight," Bailey said in 2007.

Another Siegelman crony, Lanny Young, also pleaded guilty and provided testimony. But Siegelman also predicted he would win a new trial.

"The 11th Circuit will come in like Shaquille O'Neal and slam dunk a new trial for me," Siegelman said just a few days before sentencing.

Now, with his release, many political analysts say that's closer to reality.

"He could walk home and he probably wouldn't mind doing that," said Susan James.

Siegelman's attorneys say he was completely surprised with the decison when told Thursday night.

The next step is to get certified copies to the Louisiana prison so they will unlock the doors to Siegelman's cell.

What does the decision mean?

University of Alabama political scientist William Stewart says Siegelman may never go back to prison.

Stewart believes if a Democrat wins the presidential election, Siegelman will likely receive a pardon.

Alabama's Democratic party applauded the court's decision.

In a released statement, executive director Jim Spearman said "This is the correct step that should have been taken many months ago by Judge Fuller. Fortunately, the 11th Circuit is righting this wrong."

Party chairman Joe Turnham also called for the U.S. Attorney General to conduct an independent investigation of what he called political prosecutions.

Alabama Republicans dismissed the court's action, saying they were disappointed with Siegelman's release.

Party chairman Mike Hubbard said Siegelman's release pending appeal "...does not change the conviction by a jury of his peers. It would be premature to turn this development into anything other than a formality."

The court's move comes the same day the U.S. House Judiciary Committee said it wanted Siegelman to testify in Washington.

A committee spokeswoman says Siegelman might go before Congress in early May.

Michigan Democrat John Conyers asked for Siegelman, saying lawmakers are not getting much information elswhere including the Justice Department.

Siegelman's co-defendant in the corruption case, Richard Scrushy, will remain in prison because prosecutors convinced the court he is a flight risk.