Imprisoned businessman Richard Scrushy, a defendant in the most controversial federal prosecution of the decade, last week repeated his call for the presiding judge to remove himself even as the disputes widened to include reported Supreme Court contender Elena Kagan, up to $50 billion in scandal-ridden Air Force contracts, and Karl Rove's best-selling new memoir.
Scrushy, now serving a seven-year sentence for arranging $500,000 in donations to a non-profit at the request of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, requested last week that Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller of Montgomery rule on recusal requests filed last summer, or else withdraw.
Scrushy and Siegelman have argued that the judge is disqualified after being enriched by $300 million in Bush-era contracts via the judge's closely held company Doss Aviation for such services as refueling Air Force planes and training pilots.
"Quite simply, there is no valid reason for this Court's failure to dispose of this motion in a timely fashion," wrote Scrushy's attorneys last week.
The former HealthSouth CEO's conviction is based on his donations to the Alabama Education Foundation in 1999 and 2000 at the request of then-governor Siegelman. In June 2007, Fuller ordered seven-year terms for defendants. The judge sent them immediately to prison in shackles with no appeal bond, with solitary confinement initially for Siegelman.
A Republican former billionaire, Scrushy has argued that he was an innocent bystander caught up in a plan by the Bush Justice Department to eliminate the Democrat Siegelman from politics. "I'm the first person in history," Scrushy has said, "to be sent to prison for making a charitable donation."
Both the Bush and Obama Justice Departments have maintained that neither Fuller nor they have done anything wrong.
Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller (Phil Fleming Photo)
$50 Billion In Air Force Contracts At Stake
Meanwhile, I reported last week that a factor prompting Siegelman's prosecution was the aim of some Republicans to see up to $50 billion in awards for next-generation Air Force refueling tankers go to Europe's multi-national consortium EADS and Northrop Grumman.
The EADS-led plan would replace Boeing Corp., the previous tanker builder. Years ago, EADS used competitive intelligence agents to show that Boeing had bribed an Air Force procurement officer. My article noted that an EADS victory would enable an assembly plant in Alabama, as advocated by four European heads of state, major global financiers and some U.S. politicians.
"The ring of truth in the article," Siegelman wrote me last week after publication and follow-up, "is that Republicans wanted EADs, and I was close to Boeing because I had helped them expand their National Missile Defense Center in Huntsville and had them locate a manufacturing facility for the Delta IV and Delta II Rockets in Decatur, AL."