If 30 months of prison time was too stiff a sentence for Scooter Libby, then seven years is far too long for former Gov. Don Siegelman (D-AL), according to one of his lawyers.
Montgomery-based attorney Susan James, who handled Siegelman's sentencing hearing, predicts that President Bush's decision to commute Libby's sentence will be referenced in briefs across the country soon -- including her own.
"[Bush] has basically come in and said the sentence is too harsh," James said. "I'll find some way to weave that into our argument."
Siegelman was convicted on corruption charges stemming from appointing a healthcare CEO, Robert Scrushy, to a public board. Like Libby, he was also convicted of obstruction of justice charges, which were related to a $9,000 motorcycle transaction. But unlike Libby, who was give six to eight weeks to report to jail, Siegelman was taken into custody immediately after the judge announced his sentence. Before the commutation announcement this evening, Siegelman's lawyers had argued that he should have been allowed to remain free while awaiting his appeal.
"He doesn't want to be treated like Paris Hilton, but he does want to be treated fairly like Scooter Libby," said another one of Siegelman's lawyers, Vince Kilborn.
Siegelman's lawyers plan to argue before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals that his sentence violated his right to a jury trial because the judge took into consideration charges on which he was acquitted. Federal judges have been allowed to consider material from acquitted charges since 1997, though that was before a 2005 Supreme Court decision that made federal sentencing guidelines advisory. Siegelman's lawyers said there are questions there to be worked out still.
Siegelman has maintained throughout his trial that his prosecution has been politically motivated. An affidavit signed by a Republican lawyer has supported this claim by implicating White House strategist Karl Rove as having a hand in the case. The affidavit has not been entered into evidence so far in the case, and will not be part of the appeal, James said. But it may be included as evidence for a new trial or in a habeas petition.