Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Monday, March 09, 2009

Siegelman: Governor's Bribery Convictions Affirmed

In U.S. v. Siegelman, No. 07-13163 (March 6, 2009), in a lengthy opinion, the Court reversed two bribery-related convictions of the former Governor of Alabama, but otherwise affirmed other convictions.
The Court rejected Siegelman’s argument that a jury instruction on bribery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 666(a)(1)(B), should instruct that the quid pro quo agreement must be express. The Court noted that the caselaw merely requires an "explicit" agreement, which can be achieved through winks and nods, if not through express words. Furthermore, an agreement can be implied from words and actions.
The Court also rejected Siegelman’s argument that there was insufficient evidence to support the bribery convictions, finding that the jury could have concluded that a quid pro quo existed to put Richard Scrushy on the Board of a Health Review Board in exchange for his money contribution to one of the Governor’s foundations.
The Court agreed with Siegelman’s argument that he should not have been convicted of honest services mail fraud based on Scrushy’s self-dealing once Scrushy became a Board member. The Court noted Siegelman’s lack of involvement in Scrushy’s self-dealing, or any agreement between the two on this point.
Citing U.S. v. Ramirez, 324 F.3d 1225 (11th Cir. 2003), the Court rejected Siegelman’s statute of limitations challenge, noting that he failed to raise until a motion for judgment of acquittal under Fed. R. Crim. P. 29(c), post-verdict. If a defendant fails to raise the statute of limitations defense at trial, the defense is waived.
The Court rejected the argument that a statement of a co-conspirator bragging about the successful result of the bribery could be admitted under Fed. R. Evid. 801(d)(2)(E). Bragging informs co-conspirators that "their plan had worked."
The Court rejected new trial arguments based on juror misconduct in having looked at news articles and materials on the internet. The trial court conducted a hearing on this matter and determined that the extrinsic materials related only to the process of deliberation, not the substantive issues in the trial. There was no reasonable possibility of prejudice. The Court reached a similar conclusion regarding jury exposure to an unredacted second superseding indictment. The Court rejected other challenges to improper premature communications among the jury during deliberations, noting that Fed. R. Evid. 606(b) shields jurors from such post-trial inquiries.
Finally, the court; affirmed an upward sentencing departure based on the fact that the Governor's conduct had seriously undermined public confidence in the executive Branch of Alabama government.