Is Don Siegelman in prison because he's a criminal or because he belonged to the wrong political party in Alabama? Siegelman is the former governor of Alabama, and he was the most successful Democrat in that Republican state. But while he was governor, the U.S. Justice Department launched multiple investigations that went on year after year until, finally, a jury convicted Siegelman of bribery.
Now, many Democrats and Republicans have become suspicious of the Justice Department's motivations. As correspondent Scott Pelley reports, 52 former state attorneys-general have asked Congress to investigate whether the prosecution of Siegelman was pursued not because of a crime but because of politics.
Ten years ago life was good for Don Siegelman. After he became governor, many believed he was headed to a career in national politics. In 1999, Siegelman's pet project was raising money to improve education, so he started a campaign to ask voters to approve a state lottery. He challenged Republicans to come up with a better idea.
"You tell us how you're going to pay for college scholarships. You tell us how you're going to put state of the art computers inside every school in this state," he said.
But now the applause has long faded. Today, Siegelman is at a federal prison camp in Louisiana. He's doing seven years. The main charge against him was that he took a bribe, giving a position on a state board to businessman Richard Scrushy, who had made a big donation to that lottery campaign. There was a star witness, Nick Bailey, a Siegelman aide who had a vivid story to tell.
"Mr. Bailey had indicated that there had been a meeting with Governor Siegelman and Mr. Scrushy, a private meeting in the Governor's office, just the two of them," says Doug Jones, who was one of Siegelman's lawyers. "And then, as soon as Mr. Scrushy left, the governor walked out with a $250,000 check that he said Scrushy have given him for the lottery foundation."
"Had the check in his hand right then and there? " Pelley asks.
"Had the check in his hand right then," Jones says.
"That Scrushy had just handed to him, according to Bailey's testimony?" Pelley asks.
"That's right, showed it to Mr. Bailey. And Nick asked him, 'Well, what does he want for it?' And Governor Siegelman allegedly said, 'A seat on the CON Board.' Nick asked him, 'Can we do that?' And he said, 'I think so,'" Jones says.
The CON board regulates hospital construction, and Scrushy ran a healthcare company. Both Siegelman and Scrushy were convicted in federal court.
But, as 60 Minutes found out, the imprisonment of Don Siegelman is not nearly as simple as that.
"I haven't seen a case with this many red flags on it that pointed towards a real injustice being done," says Grant Woods, the former Republican attorney general of Arizona.
Woods is one of the 52 former state attorneys-general, of both parties, who've asked Congress to investigate the Siegelman case.
"I personally believe that what happened here is that they targeted Don Siegelman because they could not beat him fair and square. This was a Republican state and he was the one Democrat they could never get rid of," Woods says.