BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) _ Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman returned to his home late Friday, nine months to the day after he was shackled and taken off to federal prison on corruption charges.
Looking thin, pale and tired, the 62-year-old Siegelman met with reporters briefly in a parking lot near his home and gave a short statement. He did not take questions.
"It's been a long nine months since I was handcuffed and shackled and placed in the back of a Chevy sedan and taken to the federal penitentiary in Atlanta. I lost my freedom, but I never lost my faith," Siegelman said.
Siegelman was released from a federal prison in Oakdale, La., on an appeal bond at about noon and arrived in Birmingham at about 10 p.m. He was wearing the same tattered shirt he had on when he left the prison in Louisiana.
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday ordered Siegelman released while his conviction is being appealed.
"When I heard the news the 11th Circuit had granted my motion, I thanked God once more," the former Democratic governor said.
Siegelman was sentenced to more than seven years on his conviction in a corruption case. The order to release him came on the same day the House Judiciary Committee announced plans for Siegelman to testify before Congress in a probe of possible political meddling in federal prosecutions.
Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy were convicted in June 2006. Federal prosecutors accused Siegelman of appointing Scrushy to a hospital regulatory board in exchange for Scrushy arranging $500,000 in contributions to Siegelman's campaign for a statewide lottery. The defense has argued there was no personal gain or quid-pro-quo in the deal.
In its ruling, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the former governor had raised "substantial questions of fact and law" in challenging his conviction.
Siegelman attorney David McDonald said the former governor called him two or three times in the first couple of hours after his release.
"For nine months it has felt like a part of us were in the prison with him," McDonald said. "To have him be able to call whenever he wants, we have been like a couple of school girls on the phone."
The House Judiciary Committee has said it wants Siegelman to testify when it probes claims of selective prosecution by the Justice Department.
Siegelman has maintained that certain Republicans targeted him after he was elected governor in 1998. The House committee has begun reviewing his case as part of a broader investigation into allegations of political influence in the work of U.S. attorneys.
The committee hopes to hear from Siegelman in May. Committee Chairman John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat, believes Siegelman "would have a lot to add to the committee's investigation into selective prosecution," committee spokeswoman Melanie Roussell said.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.