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Siegelman Seeks Reversal Based on Ruling in Skilling Case

Message Roger Shuler

Cross Posted atLegal Schnauzer

Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman is asking a federal appeals court toreverse convictions against him, based on the U.S. Supreme Court's recent ruling that narrowed honest-services fraud law.

Siegelman and codefendant Richard Scrushy say the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals should overturn their convictions because of the Supreme Court's findings ina case involving former Enron executive Jeffrey Skilling. Attorneys for Siegelman and Scrushy filed briefs with the 11th Circuit yesterday.

Sam Heldman, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney, saidrevisions in honest-services lawrequire a reversal in the Siegelman case:

In June, the Supreme Court of the United States told the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals to consider Governor Siegelman's appeal again, with guidance from the Supreme Court's new decision in Skilling v. United States.

Today, Governor Siegelman filed his brief with the Eleventh Circuit, explaining that under the Skilling decision, all charges against Governor Siegelman should be dismissed.

One issue, Heldman said, is that the jury was tainted by instructions on a law that the Supreme Court now has held was unconstitutionally vague:

Most of the case against Governor Siegelman is based on the law that the Supreme Court addressed in Skilling, the so-called "honest services" law. The Supreme Court held in Skilling that the reach of that law is much narrower than prosecutors had long believed. It covers only true bribery and kickback cases. Governor Siegelman's case is not a bribery case. It is purely a case about lawful contributions to the lottery campaign, not a case about bribery. Governor Siegelman did not get a penny from those campaign contributions for himself. Under Skilling, there simply was no crime.

This leaves only two charges against Governor Siegelman, under laws other than the "honest services" statute. But Skilling requires dismissal of those charges as well. In charging Governor Siegelman under those other laws, the prosecutors in this case have tried to expand those laws beyond the words that Congress wrote. The Supreme Court in Skilling emphasized that in our system, criminal laws must be carefully written to give notice in advance of what is prohibited, and that prosecutors cannot stretch the laws to cover the prosecutors' chosen targets. Here again, Governor Siegelman simply did not break any laws.

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I live in Birmingham, Alabama, and work in higher education. I became interested in justice-related issues after experiencing gross judicial corruption in Alabama state courts. This corruption has a strong political component. The corrupt judges are (more...)
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