Wednesday, October 26, 2005

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Former Gov. Donald Siegelman was charged yesterday in a “widespread racketeering conspiracy” that includes accusations he took a bribe from former hospital executive Richard Scrushy for a key state appointment.

Also indicted on federal charges were two members of Mr. Siegelman’s administration and Mr. Scrushy, the former head of the HealthSouth medical-services company.

Mr. Scrushy was acquitted earlier this year in a massive accounting-fraud case.

Mr. Siegelman, a Democrat who was governor from 1999 to 2003, was charged with racketeering, fraud, bribery, extortion and obstruction of justice.

He called the long-running grand-jury probe a political witch hunt by Republican prosecutors trying to derail his campaign for a second term next year.

“I never put a dime in my pocket that didn’t belong there,” he said yesterday. He said the charges were made by “obsessed government officials who spent millions in tax dollars in a pathetic attempt to control the election for governor.”

The former governor was expected to surrender to authorities later this week.

In all, Mr. Siegelman is accused of soliciting more than $1 million for himself, his 1998 campaign for governor or his unsuccessful bid in 1999 to get Alabama voters to approve a state lottery. Prosecutors say he made official state decisions in return for the money.

Mr. Siegelman said he has no intentions of dropping out of the governor’s race next year.

The indictment says that Mr. Scrushy made disguised payments totaling $500,000 to Mr. Siegelman to get an appointment to a key hospital regulatory board.

Mr. Siegelman’s former chief of staff, Paul Hamrick, was charged with racketeering for taking bribes from a former lobbyist to steer state contracts to the lobbyist’s business interests.

Former state Transportation Director Gary Mack Roberts was charged with fraud for his purported role in influencing the agency on Mr. Siegelman’s behalf.

Mr. Scrushy was charged with bribery and fraud in an indictment filed May 17 but kept under seal, prosecutors said.

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