MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Don Siegleman's daughter has inherited his ability to move an audience.
She testified on his behalf Friday when the former Alabama governor was resentenced for bribery and other crimes. Her emotional presentation had many people in the courtroom wiping their eyes.
Even her dad.
Dana Siegelman, 27, was born after her father began his long political career as secretary of state, attorney general, lieutenant governor and governor.
"It's really hard being a politician's kid because you have to share your dad with everyone," she said.
She admitted she got jealous sometimes about how much time her father spent helping other people. But then she would meet some of the people and feel bad about being jealous.
"The moments I was with him I cherished," she said.
She said her 66-year-old father changed after being convicted in 2006 and going to prison for nine months before getting out on appeal.
"It was like a completely different person had emerged. He took care in everything."
That included spending more time with his family.
"It's like I finally got my dad back," she said.
Siegelman's daughter said she was in college in California when her father first came under federal investigation. She said he tried to shield her and her younger brother, Joseph, from what was happening and repeatedly expressed confidence that he would be cleared. She said they never expected him to be convicted of taking $500,000 in bribes from former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy.
"Because of that, I believe he was devastated he let us down," she said.
She was in graduate school in Israel by the time he was sentenced in 2007 to serve more than seven years in prison. Siegelman got out on appeal after nine months, but it created turmoil for his daughter.
She said she dropped out of graduate school because of "the shock, despair and confusion" about her father being in prison.
"I could not go back to graduate school until I did everything to understand and help," she said.
She said her brother is now in law school at the University of Alabama, but it's not because he wants to be a lawyer like his father. It's because he's scared by what happened to his father and wants to make sure the same thing never happens to him.
Her brother, who sat on the first row of the courtroom with former first lady Lori Siegelman, wept as he listened to his sister.
She said their father's case has scarred them both for life.
"We are both social people and we would hide from our friends," she said.
Now attending graduate school in Egypt, she said she has a hard time going out in public when she is at home in Birmingham. "I just want to crawl in a hole," she said.
She urged the judge to be lenient on her father, possibly sentencing him to community service.
"I can't imagine my dad going back to prison," she said before stepping down from the witness stand.
Siegelman ignored courtroom protocol, got up from his seat and held his daughter in a long hug.
The composure she showed on the stand vanished, and she cried.
U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller said the case had been hard on everyone on the courtroom, but the person who solicited a bribe shouldn't get less time in prison than the person who paid the bribe. Scrushy recently got out of prison after about five years.
Then the judge gave Siegelman six and one-half years.
Dana Siegelman covered her eyes with her hands and wept.
Her father was visibly moved.
"The hardest thing for me personally is knowing I have let my family down. I have no greater wish than to have my children be proud of me," he said.