Imprisoned former Alabama governor vows to clear his name, as court hearing looms

FILE: 2001: Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman in Lincoln, Alabama.

FILE: 2001: Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman in Lincoln, Alabama.  (REUTERS)

Imprisoned ex-Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman is getting a chance at a new court case, after former Clinton administration lawyer Greg Craig helped him secure a hearing this summer in his bid to overturn a 2006 federal corruption conviction -- in a trial he claims was politically tainted. 

In an exclusive statement to Fox Business Network, Siegelman said he hopes he can get a "new trial so I can clear my name and get back to my family."

In the infamous case now fading from the public spotlight, a federal jury convicted Siegelman and former HealthSouth chief executive Richard Scrushy of bribery and related charges. Prosecutors say Siegelman appointed Scrushy to a state board, in exchange for arranging $500,000 in contributions to Siegelman’s campaign pushing a state lottery. 

Siegelman and his lawyers argue the money was not a bribe and the case was tainted by the involvement of a prosecutor with ties to Republican politics.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said April 18 that arguments would be heard in late July, after years of the ex-Democratic governor saying he was railroaded by politics.

The 68-year-old Siegelman told Fox the appeals court’s decision is “a good sign there are questions that need further explanation.”

Siegelman also said his appeal is related to the court denying his motion for a new trial -- and that the motion is based on the federal prosecutor in the original case having been married to a consultant working for Siegelman's GOP political opponent.

“He was being paid to defeat me, so he and his wife, the U.S. attorney, had a financial as well as a political interest in seeing me defeated,” said Siegelman, who served a total 26 years in Alabama politics -- as governor, secretary of state, attorney general and lieutenant governor.

“Modern day politics has gotten dirtier than usual,” he added.

The U.S. attorney recused herself in that case. The prosecutor, Leura Canary, has consistently maintained that career lawyers handled the prosecution and she was not involved. 

But Siegelman claims the prosecution team issued a gag order that kept him from mentioning the political sabotage and that a federal whistle-blower revealed the prosecutor remained involved in the case “on a daily basis.”

Siegelman is serving his sentence at the federal prison in Louisiana and is scheduled to be released in August 2017. He has touted the involvement of Craig in his case. 

“I am blessed to have Greg Craig … representing me,” Siegelman said. “He is my best advocate.”

Craig has long-time connections with powerful Washington Democrats that includes helping Clinton in 1998 defend against impeachment charges, serving as White House counsel for President Obama and working as a policy adviser for the late Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy in the mid-1980s.

He also represented John Hinckley Jr., who in 1981 tried to assassinate President Reagan but was found not guilty by reason of insanity.

Craig’s original involvement in the Siegelman case reportedly was to seek executive clemency through a pardon or get the sentence commuted.

Siegelman went to prison in 2007 but was released after serving nine months of his original 88-month sentence, pending his appeal to the Supreme Court.

However, the high court in 2012 declined to hear his case, which resulted in a judge sending Siegelman back to prison, but with a shorter, 78-month sentence because an appeals court had in the interim thrown out two charges.

Fox Business Network’s Eric Spinato and The Associated Press contributed to this report.