Seven years, four months for Siegelman

More than the guy who’s supposed to have bribed him, though he never pocketed a nickle of the purported “bribe.”

He actually got more time than Richard Scrushy, the zillionaire who’s accused of having bribed him.

Here’s the latest.

Scott Horton has been all over this story (as has Glyn Wilson of the Locust Fork Journal blog) and it’s had a couple of mentions in the mainstream press, but the basic media narrative is still “corrupt politician goes down” rather than “political persecution succeeds.” Other than Horton, with TPM cheerleading, and Wilson, who seems to know the case cold but whose blog I hadn’t heard of before, no one is covering “the Siegelman scandal” yet. But given some of the lurid details &#8212 the woman who gave an affidavit about the husband of one of the two female U.S. Attorneys for Alabama boasting that “his girls” were going to put Siegelman out of action had her house torched and her car run off the road &#8212 plus the Justice Department angle, the Abramoff angle, and the Rove angle, this one smells to me like a major scandal brewing.

This would be a better country if big campaign contributions didn’t buy official favors: ambassadorships, for example. But the theory under which Siegelman was prosecuted would, if carried out consistently, put virtually every governor, every mayor, and everyone in the White House Personnel Office in prison. It’s hard to believe the prosecution was brought in good faith, and it fits into what seems to be a pattern of DoJ under Ashcroft and Gonzales going selectively after Democratic officials. Time for some hearings, I think.

Footnote Horton expresses outrage that Siegelman was sentenced more harshly due to conduct that was charged against him but of which the jury acquitted him, and for refusing to express remorse. (The second complaint echoes the one made on behalf of Scooter Libby by, among others, Richard Cohen.) You won’t get any argument from me about how outrageous those practices are, but Horton is wrong to imply that they reflect some special animus against Siegelman. Those are the rules, in the Kafkaesque world of the sentencing guidelines, and they apply to everyone.

On the other hand, I’ve never before heard of a defendant getting additional time for criticizing the prosecutor and the court. That doesn’t mean it’s unique, but I wonder if it’s Constitutional?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: