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The Supreme Court declined Monday to review the federal bribery conviction of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, who is now free but could be sent back to prison by the same judge who first sentenced him five years ago.
Defense lawyers wanted to argue that campaign donations cannot be bribes unless there is a clear agreement between a politician and a donor, and that evidence during a 2006 trial showed no such pact between Siegelman and Richard Scrushy, the former chief executive of HealthSouth Corp. who also was convicted.
Ruling without comment, the justices turned away appeals from Siegelman and Scushy, however.
"My heart is broken. Not for me, but for my family and friends who have stood by me during this struggle," Siegelman said in a statement.
A lawyer for Siegelman said the case now goes back to a federal court in Montgomery, Ala., where U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller has ordered a new sentencing hearing for Siegelman. The attorney, Sam Heldman of Washington, declined comment on what length of sentence the defense might request.
"We're very disappointed by the court's decision not to hear the case," said Heldman.
A lawyer for Scrushy did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Fuller has yet to set a date for Siegelman's resentencing. The judge previously shaved a year off of Scrushy's term.
Indicted in 2005 and tried the next year, Siegelman was convicted of selling a seat on a hospital regulatory board to Scrushy in exchange for $500,000 in donations to Siegelman's 1999 campaign to legalize a state lottery, which failed. The Democrat served as governor from 1999 to 2003.
Originally sentenced by Fuller to more than seven years in prison, Siegelman was freed on bond after serving nine months while appealing the conviction. Former Vice President Al Gore recently allowed his name to be used in a quest to raise money for Siegelman's appeal to the Supreme Court.
Scrushy has served most of his sentence of nearly seven years, and federal prison records show he is now in the custody of a halfway house in Texas. He is set to complete his sentence on July 25.
In his statement, Siegelman said law professors and current and former attorneys general from both political parties backed his appeal.
"I pray that something positive will come of this in our future," he said.