In June 2007, after sentencing Alabama’s former Governor Don Siegelman to more than seven years behind bars, U.S. District Court Judge Mark E. Fuller ordered the popular Democrat shackled and immediately shuffled off to a federal prison. The appeals process hadn’t even begun, much less ended. Siegelman received no personal enrichment for his supposed “crime,” which 113 bipartisan former state attorneys general say had never been illegal until Siegelman was convicted of it.
The charges were related to bribery—of a sort—after a businessman gave money to a Siegelman-supported campaign to create a lottery to fund education in Alabama. In exchange, prosecutors claimed, the governor appointed the donor to a nonpaying seat on a state hospital board. But the man didn’t even want it. He’d already spent years on the board under previous governors, Republican and Democratic alike.
Nonetheless, Fuller—a George W. Bush appointee— showed no mercy. Why should he? He had been a political rival of Siegelman dating back to when Fuller headed the Alabama GOP as a client of notorious Bush operative Karl Rove. Rather than recuse himself from the Siegelman case, Fuller saw no problem with his grudges against the man whose fate he held in his hands.
Shortly before Christmas 2014, Siegelman was again shackled after being treated to a ridiculously circuitous ten-day journey from a correctional institution in Louisiana to a federal courtroom in Montgomery, Alabama, just 450 miles away. Siegelman was finally able to argue for a new trial, but only be cause all of Fuller’s ongoing cases were reassigned following his wife’s accusations that he’d assaulted her at a hotel in Atlanta last August.