Don Siegelman is no longer a defendant in a criminal case. In a dramatic turn of events Tuesday, a federal judge dismissed a key charge against the ex-governor. That forced prosecutors to drop the Medicaid fraud charges against Siegelman and his former top aide Paul Hamrick.
U.S. District Judge U.W. Clemon ruled there was insufficient evidence to support the conspiracy. The charges were dismissed with prejudice, preventing the government from bringing them again.
Afterward Siegelman said, "The people of Alabama can see that what we've said all along was correct - that this indictment was baseless and false." Asked if the dismissal would prompt him to run for governor again in 2006, Siegelman said he wanted to spend time with family before making any decisions.
Siegelman and Hamrick were accused of conspiring with a supporter, Tuscaloosa physician Phillip Bobo, to rig a bid on a lucrative Medicaid contract.
Bobo will be tried separately. His attorney, Bill Clark, said Tuesday's ruling will help their case because the judge ruled there was no conspiracy.
Before jury selection began Monday, Clemon held a hearing and ordered prosecutors give him a preview of their evidence on the conspiracy charge. The judge, who also threw out a theft charge against Siegelman and Hamrick last month, repeatedly criticized the evidence.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Matt Hart said he thought investigators had done a good job of building a case. He declined to answer any questions.
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