MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Former Gov. Don Siegelman pleaded not guilty Thursday in a political corruption case, saying he will be “proven totally innocent” and won’t halt his campaign for a second term.

A federal grand jury indicted Siegelman and two former Cabinet members Wednesday, along with former HealthSouth Chairman Richard Scrushy, in what prosecutors described as “a widespread racketeering conspiracy.”

Siegelman and his former chief of staff, Paul Hamrick, are charged with trading political favors for money, and Siegelman is accused of soliciting more than $1 million from people doing business with the state. Former state Transportation Director Mack Roberts is accused of using mail fraud to help Siegelman.

Hamrick and Roberts also pleaded not guilty Thursday. Scrushy is due in court Friday.

A different federal grand jury in north Alabama indicted Siegelman and Hamrick in May 2004 on charges of conspiring to rig bids on state Medicaid contracts during Siegelman’s term as governor from 1999 to 2003.

Last October, a federal judge in Tuscaloosa ruled there was insufficient evidence to support a conspiracy charge, and prosecutors decided not to pursue a charge of health-care fraud.

With that case ended, Siegelman began building his re-election campaign for 2006. Meanwhile, a separate federal grand jury in Montgomery was investigating his administration, and it produced the new indictment Wednesday.

Siegelman, a Democrat, blames both cases on Republican U.S. attorneys who he claims are trying to scuttle his political career.

“I’m not going to quit fighting so that Alabama will have a choice for governor in 2006,” Siegelman said after his arraignment.

Noel Hillman, director of the Justice Department’s public integrity section, said the indictment was “part of a national crackdown on state and local corruption” and had nothing to do with party labels.

Siegelman faces Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley in the Democratic primary in June. Gov. Bob Riley and former Chief Justice Roy Moore are seeking the Republican nomination.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.