After spending almost a year in prison, ex-Gov. Don Siegelman (D-AL), released while his appeal to his conviction progresses, appeared on 60 Minutes last night to give his account of the key facts of his case and issue a challenge to Karl Rove. He also admitted, when asked if the prosecution had managed to destroy his political ambitions, “oh, they’ve accomplished that, I think.”
In February, 60 Minutes reported on what has become known as the textbook example of a political prosecution by the Bush administration’s Justice Department.
Nick Bailey, the prosecution’s star witness in the case, 60 Minutes reported, had been coached to the point where he had to write his carefully recollected testimony over and over again to make sure he got it right. Bailey, a former Siegelman aide, testified at trial that Siegelman had told him that businessman Richard Scrushy had given him a $250,000 contribution to his state lottery campaign, and that all he wanted for it was an appointment on a state health board.
Last night, Siegelman gave his side — that Scrushy, who had supported Siegelman’s opponent, had given the money at Siegelman’s request, that there had been no strings attached, and that Scrushy had not even wanted the spot on the board.
Seigelman also challenged Rove to testify to Congress. Rove has given blanket denials to playing any role in the Siegelman case and lately has taken to bashing 60 Minutes for reporting allegations by Dana Jill Simpson, a Republican Alabama lawyer who’s testified to being involved in conversations where Rove’s role in the prosecution was discussed. In his latest interview with GQ, Rove called CBS “a shoddy operation.”
And there was also this memorable quote from the interview, where Siegelman describes watching February’s broadcast of the 60 Minutes segment with his fellow inmates:
“Well immediately people were standing up, sayin’, ‘You got screwed.’ And I’d say, ‘Well, you know, I think there were a lot of ya’ll that got screwed.’ And then, one guy stood up and said, ‘No, I was guilty. You got screwed.'”
Siegelman will also be appearing on Dan Abrams’ show tonight on MSNBC.