Businessman, Siegelman Co-Defendant, DOJ Victim Richard Scrushy To Provide Litigation Lessons For Whistleblowers In DC July 29
Richard Scrushy, the founder and former CEO of the multi-billion-dollar HealthSouth, Inc. and co-defendant in one of the most widely condemned federal prosecutions in recent U.S. history, will share his hard-won insights July 29 on Capitol Hill and at the National Press Club.
Scrushy, still an entrepreneur and now also an author and motivational speaker, speaks at 4 p.m. on the opening day of the annual Whistle Blowers Summit to advise others on coping with the legal hardships that many whistleblowers must endure. At 6:30 p.m., he talks to the National Press Club’s McClendon Group at an informal dinner open to the press and public.
Along with advice, Scrushy provides his take on the long prison terms he and former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman have endured on corruption charges stemming from 1999 actions despite gross courtroom irregularities and unprecedented nationwide protests by legal experts. Siegelman is scheduled for release in mid-2017.
Scrushy was convicted solely for what he describes as a $250,000 HealthSouth donation much like that of several other big Alabama companies. It was to defray the costs of a failed 1998 referendum to increase state funding for K-12 schools with state lottery proceeds. He says prosecutors won their case by exaggerating the donation’s size, source, destination, and purpose – and pressuring their star witness Nick Bailey into a false testimony motivated by the serious charges Bailey faced in another case.
Scrushy received a 78-month term from federal trial judge Mark Fuller, who has since become so scandal-ridden that he resigns his lifetime post Aug. 1 after a wife-beating arrest last year. Our project has covered the judge (shown in a file photo) in depth for years, as in our column last month: Wife-Beating Siegelman Judge Resigns, Ends Horrid Career With Civic Lesson.
Many whistleblowers and other critics have documented irregularities of the federal Siegelman-Scrushy prosecution.
In 2008, CBS “60 Minutes” presented Republican lawyer Dana Jill Simpson, shown at left. She said Scrushy, a Republican, was a fall guy targeted in a political plot to end the career of Siegelman, Alabama’s state’s most popular Democrat.
In an unprecedented filing to the U.S. Supreme Court, 113 former state attorneys general — former chief law enforcers of more than 40 states — protested the legal basis of the prosecution. Conservative syndicated columnist George Will is among those who wrote that there was no basis for Scrushy’s imprisonment, and Fox News host Neal Cavuto is among those who have hosted the defendant following his release in highly sympathetic interviews.
Yet courts have consistently rejected the defendants’ major appeals while dismissing some of the charges and slightly reducing the original sentences.
Among many rejected appeals was Scrushy’s argument that the trial judge Fuller should have recused himself instead of hiding secret ownership of up to 44 percent of Doss Aviation, Inc.
Unknown to defendants, Doss received $300 million in no-bid federal contracts for such purposes as training U.S. and Saudi Air Force pilots, and refueling Air Force planes, including the presidential Air Force One.
Underscoring bizarre military undercurrents of the prosecution, an Air Force Reserves colonel served as one of the top prosecutors. At great expense, a special joint federal-state task force was created also at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery for the purpose of investigating Siegelman.
The secret procedures continue. Siegelman and Scrushy have been denied materials supposed to be delivered to defendants before their trials under Supreme Court rules. CBS showed, for example, that authorities coached and threatened their witness Bailey up to 70 times without required pre-trial disclosure to defendants. Post-trial investigation by defendants indicated that authorities threatened the witness with up to ten years in prison for his separate offenses and warned that he would likely be raped during such a long sentence.