Former Alabama governor Don E. Siegelman was sent to solitary confinement this week at the Louisiana facility in which he is imprisoned on political corruption charges, according to his son Joseph Siegelman.
Siegelman, 70, was quoted extensively in a Washington Post article this week on former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell, whose 2014 conviction on public corruption charges was reviewed by the Supreme Court on Wednesday.
Siegelman was transferred to solitary confinement at the federal correctional institution at Oakdale, La., on Monday after the story was posted online, according to his son, who said he found the timing suspicious.
But Bureau of Prison officials, who refused to confirm that the former governor was in solitary confinement, said that there was no link.
“The allegation that Mr. Siegelman was punished for talking to a reporter is false,” a spokesman for the bureau said in an emailed statement. “Due to confidentiality concerns, we cannot speak specifically about disciplinary matters of a particular inmate.”
Joseph Siegelman said his father had told him he was being punished for three infractions: running a business from prison, misuse of the mail and a catch-all prohibition against behavior that is disruptive of prison operations.
An official at the prison said the incident report was about a T-shirt that Siegelman sold on eBay, which was mentioned in The Post article and had been reported on in Alabama media.
An unknown bidder paid $4,500 for it, and the proceeds are supposed to go toward completing a documentary about Siegelman’s case called “Atticus vs. the Architect.” According to the note Siegelman posted during the eBay auction, the T-shirts can be purchased at the prison commissary. Alabama media also reported on the sale.
The Post interviewed Siegelman by telephone April 22 after a request for an in-person interview was denied. The longtime state officer-holder has a substantial following who believe that vague federal corruption laws give politically ambitious prosecutors too much leeway in deciding what and whom to investigate.
Several Supreme Court justices expressed similar concerns during Wednesday’s hearing on McDonnell. The court, though, had turned down Siegelman’s request that it review his conviction.
Siegelman and his supporters have been active in drawing attention to his case.
During the interview with The Post, the former governor said he had spent 27 days in solitary confinement last year after he had conducted what prison officials said was an unauthorized interview on the Thom Hartmann Program, a liberal radio show.
The interview with The Post was authorized, and conducted while Siegelman was in the office of a prison counselor.
Siegelman’s long-running legal case began when he was indicted in 2004. The state’s last Democratic governor, he was convicted of appointing Alabama health-care executive Richard Scrushy to an important industry regulatory board in exchange for Scrushy’s $500,000 campaign contribution to a state referendum on a lottery, the proceeds of which would go to the state’s underfunded schools.
Siegelman’s many supporters say the prosecution was politically motivated — the “architect” in the documentary title refers to Republican strategist Karl Rove.
“There was no personal benefit, not a penny of any financial gain,” Siegelman said in the interview. “There wasn’t any self-enrichment scheme. There was no testimony of a quid pro quo, much less an explicit or express quid pro quo. And the contribution was not even to me but to a ballot initiative.”
Nevertheless, a series of reviews have upheld his conviction and the Supreme Court declined to grant Siegelman full review. He is completing his multi-year sentence and said he hopes to move to home confinement or a halfway house in 2017.