Monday, August 6, 2007

HEALTHSOUTH...You remember, one of the Darlings on Wall Street, not your Health!

Sentencing Starts in HealthSouth Scandal
Tuesday June 26, 8:52 pm ET
By Bob Johnson, Associated Press Writer
Sentencing Hearing Begins for Siegelman, Scrushy

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- Prosecutors urged a federal judge Tuesday to consider charges on which former Gov. Don Siegelman was acquitted in determining his sentence in a government corruption case with former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy.

It was all part of a pay-to-play scheme," prosecutor J.B. Perrine said.

But Siegelman attorney Susan James argued that U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller should only consider the seven counts where jurors found him guilty, not the 27 others, including racketeering and extortion, on which he was acquitted.

The sentencing hearing that began Tuesday will determine if Siegelman and Scrushy remain free or spend much of the rest of their lives in prison. It is expected to last all week.

Fuller said he expects to rule early Wednesday on a range of potential sentence Siegelman could receive based on the sentencing report and attorney arguments. But the judge could give a higher or lower sentence based on witnesses both sides are expected to call concerning other circumstances the judge should consider.

A sentencing hearing began Tuesday that will determine if former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy remain free or spend much of the rest of their lives in prison.

U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller will sentence Siegelman and Scrushy, convicted of bribery and related crimes in a government corruption case, after hearing testimony in a proceeding expected to last all week.

Prosecutors have asked Fuller to severely punish Siegelman and Scrushy to send a message that government corruption won't be tolerated. Prosecutors have requested sentences of 30 years in prison for Siegelman, 25 years for Scrushy and that both men pay millions of dollars in fines.

Attorneys for Siegelman, 61, and Scrushy, 54, have asked that they be given probation and have said the sentences proposed by prosecutors would be life sentences because of their ages.

Following a two-month trial, jurors on June 29, 2006 found Siegelman and Scrushy guilty of bribery, conspiracy and mail fraud in a scheme in which Siegelman was accused of appointing Scrushy to an important hospital regulatory board in exchange for Scrushy arranging $500,000 in contributions to Siegelman's campaign for a statewide lottery.

Siegelman was also convicted of obstruction of justice for trying to cover up $9,200 given to him by a lobbyist to help him purchase a motorcycle.

Both Siegelman and Scrushy have said that regardless of the sentence, they plan to appeal their convictions to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

They contend there was no personal benefit or quid-pro-quo and no crime involved in their dealings. Defense attorneys say they will also claim on appeal that prosecutors did not indict Siegelman and Scrushy until after the statute of limitations on federal bribery charges had run out and that Fuller erred when he did not order a new trial because of allegations that jurors communicated with each other by e-mail during the trial.

Defense attorneys have said that if Fuller orders prison sentences, they will ask that their clients be allowed to remain free until the appeals process is completed, which could take a year or longer. Prosecutors say they will ask Fuller to order that any prison sentences begin right away.

Siegelman and Scrushy were once among the brightest stars in politics and business in Alabama.

Siegelman was a state Democratic Party official in Birmingham when he was elected secretary of state in 1978. He soon became one of the state's most popular politicians, eventually serving as attorney general and lieutenant governor before being elected governor in 1998. Scrushy founded a small health care company in Birmingham in the early 1980s that would grow into HealthSouth Corp., one of the nation's leaders in outpatient surgery and rehabilitative health care.

He was fired as a $1.7 billion accounting scandal was uncovered, but he was acquitted of criminal charges in the fraud by a federal court jury in Birmingham.

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