The Associated Press is reporting that a federal district court judge in Florida is delaying ruling on whether the judge who presided in the political show trial of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman should be allowed to decide if Siegelman and former HealthSouth chief Richard Scrushy deserve a new trial. What the wire service does not explain is what a Florida judge was doing with the case in the first place.
U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle apparently issued a ruling last week saying he would wait to decide until another court rules on other appeals filed by Siegelman and Scrushy, who were convicted by a tainted jury and a federal judge in Montgomery who critics claim had a conflict of interest and should not be allowed to continue hearing post-trial challenges. It is also not clear whether the wire service is talking about the Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta or the U.S. Supreme Court.
The judge in question is Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller, appointed by President Bush in August of 2002, just in time to preside in what some observers have described as a political show trial designed to get Siegelman out of the way so he would have no chance of challenging Governor Bob Riley’s reelection in 2006.
Riley was handed the election over Siegelman in 2002 by 3,120 votes after the count changed over night and the Republican Attorney General cut off any hope of a recount.
The Eleventh U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta threw out several counts against Siegelman, but rejected throwing out the entire case. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal, but first asked the three-judge panel (all appointed by Republican presidents) to reconsider their ruling in light of recent high court decisions questioning the vague, arbitrary nature of “honest services” mail and wire fraud statutes, and the overuse of that law by prosecutors rather than more clear laws dealing with bribery.
As usual, Siegelman’s attorneys simply relied upon the wire service bureau in Alabama to report on the case and failed to contact the real journalists who have actually given the case the factual coverage it deserved. If they would like to discuss this new development in the case, my e-mail address and phone number are listed on this Web site.
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