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Supreme Court turns down appeal from Siegelman

Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman’s attempt to challenge his public corruption conviction was turned down by the Supreme Court. (Dave Martin/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The Supreme Court on Monday turned down former Alabama governor Don Siegelman’s attempt to challenge his public corruption conviction.

Siegelman and former Alabama hospital executive Richard Scrushy were found guilty on charges Scrushy made $500,000 in political contributions to one of Siegelman’s favored causes so that the governor would name him to a state hospital board.

Siegelman, who did not benefit financially from the transactions, argued that the court should set a higher standard for when political contributions can be prosecuted as bribes.

“Most if not all officials are responsive in at least some degree to those who contribute,” Siegelman told the court in his brief.

The justices made no comment in turning down the case. Justice Elena Kagan recused herself, likely because of her work on the case while she was President Obama’s solicitor general.

Siegelman, a Democrat, was supported by more than 100 former state attorneys general who asked the court to review the case in order to impose higher standards. As it stands, they argued, the law gives “unwarranted latitude to prosecutors in targeting, for whatever reasons, those politicians and contributors whose lives and careers they desire to imperil.”

But the Obama administration said a standard that required an “express” agreement between the parties would be too much.

“Under a standard that requires not just a quid pro quo but one that is verbally spelled out with all the “i”s dotted and “t”s crossed, all but the most careless public officials will be able to avoid criminal liability for exchanging official action for campaign contributions,” Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. wrote.

Siegelman was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2007. He was released after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit threw out two counts of his conviction.

He will likely return to prison after resentencing before a federal district judge.

Scrushy’s sentence was reduced after the appeals court’s action. He remained in prison and is scheduled for release this summer.

Robert Barnes has been a Washington Post reporter and editor since 1987. He has covered the Supreme Court since November 2006.

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