August 4, 2012

AP Story on ex-Ala. Gov Siegelman’s Return to Prison Almost Completely Avoids Naming His Party

The Associated Press carried two stories on Friday about the attempt by and ultimate failure of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman to avoid going back to prison.

In the first, ahead of that day’s hearing, AP reporter Bob Johnson failed to mention Siegelman’s Democratic Party affiliation.
In the second, Johnson managed to get Democratic Party references designed to raise what appear to be partisan questions about whether Siegelman really deserved his fate into his 29th and 34th of 35 paragraphs. Excerpts follow (AP is using all uppercase in its national site headlines now; bolds are mine):

Aug 3, 4:32 AM EDT

EX-ALA GOVERNOR FACES NEW BRIBERY SENTENCING

Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman is headed back to federal court for a new sentencing hearing for his conviction on bribery and other charges.

Federal Judge Mark Fuller will decide Siegelman’s new sentence in Montgomery on Friday and could order him to immediately return to federal prison after more than four years of freedom.

Siegelman and former HealthSouth chief Richard Scrushy were convicted in 2006. Prosecutors say they arranged $500,000 in contributions to Siegelman’s campaign for a lottery in exchange for the governor appointing Scrushy to a hospital regulatory board.

The 66-year-old former governor was originally sentenced to more than seven years in prison.

Obviously, Johnson had plenty of chances to tag Siegelman, and didn’t.

Now to the post-sentencing story:

Aug 3, 6:55 PM EDT

EX-ALA. GOV. GOING BACK TO PRISON FOR BRIBERY

Following years of appeals and a vocal campaign by supporters, ex-Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman is heading back to prison after being sentenced Friday to more than six years for bribery and other convictions.

Siegelman and former HealthSouth chief Richard Scrushy were convicted in 2006. They arranged $500,000 in contributions to Siegelman’s campaign for a state lottery to fund education programs in exchange for the governor appointing Scrushy to an important hospital regulatory board.

Before his sentencing that his lawyer called “cruel and unusual,” the 66-year-old Siegelman told a judge that he “deeply regrets” the things he has done.

… His sentence is about equal to that of Scrushy’s. He recently finished his nearly five-year prison sentence.

… Siegelman served as Alabama’s attorney general before he was governor, and 90 or so of his former colleagues had filed court briefs urging that he not be sent back to jail. They did so because they know and like their former colleague and many questioned whether campaign contributions constitute bribes.

(Paragraph 29)

Over the years, supporters have blasted Siegelman’s prosecution, claiming it was driven by partisan politics. Backers have waged an aggressive Internet campaign to get Siegelman’s conviction overturned, with some suggesting President Barack Obama, a fellow Democrat, should pardon him.

(Paragraphs 34 and 35)

Alabama Democratic Party chairman Mark Kennedy, a former Alabama Supreme Court justice, called the sentencing “a sad day” for Siegelman, his family and the state.

“Attorneys General and political officials around the country have raised serious questions about the few remaining charges – questions which remain unanswered after this sentencing.”

Since Alabama is a deep-red state and has been for some time, by avoiding mentioning Siegelman’s party affiliation in his early story and burying until paragraphs hardly anyone will read in his second, Johnson will leave an impression with many, especially readers outside the South, that this may really be a story about Republican corruption.

Based on an AP story from July 2008 (“Rove Defies House Panel’s Demands, Skips Hearing”), there are a number higher-up and fever-swamp Democrats (but I repeat myself) who believed, and still do, that Siegelman’s prosecution was a Rovian conspiracy. Zheesh.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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