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Court decision seen as good sign for ex-Ala. gov

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Attorneys for former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman and ex-HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy said Wednesday they see a positive sign in the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to hear the appeal of former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling.

Like Skilling, some of the charges against Siegelman and Scrushy involved charges that make it a crime to deprive the public of "the intangible right to honest services."

Critics have complained that the 28-word "honest services" law is vague and sometimes used by prosecutors when they are unable to prove another crime was committed.

Siegelman attorney Sam Heldman said the Supreme Court's decision to hear three different cases involving "honest services" charges is a sign that the law is "broad and confusing."

"It shows that some members of the court are concerned prosecutors are overreaching in this whole area of the law," Heldman said.

U.S. Justice Department spokeswoman Laura Sweeney declined to comment.

Siegelman and Scrushy are waiting to hear if the U.S. Supreme Court will review appeals of their convictions in a government corruption case. They were convicted of bribery, "honest services" mail fraud and other charges in 2006. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this year threw out two charges against Siegelman, but rejected most of his appeal and denied Scrushy's.

The two have also asked U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller in Montgomery to grant them a new trial, citing misconduct by prosecutors, inappropriate communications between jurors and other issues.

Siegelman was accused of appointing Scrushy to an influential hospital regulatory board in exchange for Scrushy arranging $500,000 in contributions to Siegelman's campaign for a statewide lottery. The appeals to the Supreme Court focus heavily on whether prosecutors proved that Siegelman and Scrushy had a "quid pro quo" agreement where they would each receive something of value.

Scrushy attorney Art Leach said it's possible the high court could consolidate the Siegelman and Scrushy cases with Skilling and others if the justices want to take a broad look at the "honest services" law.

Siegelman was sentenced to more than seven years in federal prison and is currently free on an appeal bond. Scrushy is serving an almost seven-year sentence at the federal penitentiary in Beaumont, Texas.