Wednesday, June 27, 2007
The sentencing hearing for former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy and former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman for their conviction on corruption charges began in U.S. District Court in Montgomery, Alabama. The government urged sentences of twenty-five years for Scrushy and thirty years for Siegelman, in both cases asking the district court to depart upward from the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. For each defendant, the government argued for a higher Guidelines calculation than that offered in the presentence report, which had put the sentence for each at about seven to nine years. Among other things, the government argued for a higher calculation of the gain from the bribery, an obstruction of justice enhancement for each, and special upward departures for pervasive government corruption. Importantly, the argument in favor of the higher sentences is based in part on the judge including conduct for which the defendants were acquitted at trial, a position that has become quite controversial since the Supreme Court's decisions in Blakely and Booker on the Sixth Amendment's role in factual determinations. A copy of the governments sentencing memorandum for each defendant is below.
According to a story on NBC13.com (here), Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller rejected the government's argument that the Guidelines calculation include the imputed benefits to HealthSouth from the bribe, which likely will lead to a less-severe sentence. That said, if Judge Fuller follows the recommendation in the PSR, each defendant will be spending significant time in jail, probably similar to the sentences received in recent corruption cases involving Jack Abramoff (six years) and Randy "Duke" Cunningham (eight+ years). The sentencing hearing is likely to last three or four days, which is longer than many trials. Once the court renders the sentence, then the case will move to the Eleventh Circuit, where Scrushy and Siegelman will pursue a variety of arguments to have their convictions overturned in an already contentious and convoluted case. (ph)