Siegelman details recent travels

Published 12:52 am Saturday, January 24, 2015

When Don Siegelman started running statewide campaigns, I was a student who worked part-time for my folks at the newspaper office.

From the first-time he ran, he was the kind of guy who worked the crowds in courthouses and made friends in newspaper offices around the state. He has a tremendous recall of names that was necessary in the days before politicians mastered social media.

It’s hard not to like someone with his sunny personality, whether one agrees with his politics or not. It’s also hard to understand why he is serving time in federal prison for re-appointing Richard Scrushy to a non-paying board.

The former governor has been out-and-about of late, appearing first for a hearing in federal district court in Montgomery, then for an appeals hearing in Atlanta. With the help of friends, he, too, is communicating through electronic media these days. His recounting of the 49 days he traveled to the two hearings is almost too much to believe.

“Yes, I’m back at Oakdale Prison after 49 days of travel,” he wrote to a friend through CorrLinks, the email system used in federal prisons. “What might have otherwise been a seven-hour car trip to court was 49 days of travel, five buses, five vans and three airplanes, over 70 US Marshals and countless numbers of jail and prison correctional officers to shackle, handcuff, chain, ‘box’ and lock me before and after each trip and for court.”

The former governor wrote that he was taken to Oklahoma twice, Jacksonville, Fla., Harrisburg, Pa., and Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery once, Atlanta twice, the federal courthouse and county jail in Montgomery three times.

“I was always kept in solitary confinement. In the Montgomery County jail, it was all steel, except for the cement floor and the lights never went off,” he wrote.

News accounts of his court appearance in Montgomery were that he appeared unkept and unshaven. He explained why.

“The food was such that while I ate everything, I still lost weight even though I exercised in my cell every day,” he said. “From the 11th to the 29th of December I had the same under wear and T-shirt and socks that had been given to me in Oklahoma City.

“The seven hour trip to the court house, which could have been done for no cost to the taxpayers (because my lawyers were going to drive me to and from the federal courthouse in Montgomery) has cost the U.S. taxpayers God only knows how much,” he wrote.

You might recall the allegations that Richard Scrushy, Siegelman’s co-defendant, gave $500,000 to a campaign fund to promote a statewide lottery, and was in turn, reappointed to a non-paying board. After the Atlanta hearing, Scrushy, who has served his time, wrote on Facebook, “HealthSouth, did donate $250,000 to the Alabama Democratic party along with Alabama Power, Alfa Insurance and many other companies and those funds were used to pay back the money the party had borrowed to pay the marketing expenses for the Educational lottery foundation.”

None of the other CEOs were accused of bribery.

Much of this case still makes no sense. Meanwhile, Siegelman wrote, he hoped to get his prison job back – landscaping.