Richard Scrushy once sat down to talk with 60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace about allegations that Scrushy started a huge fraud while CEO of rehabilitation giant HealthSouth Corp. Now, Scrushy wants Wallace to do the talking.
Set to go on trial this week on a 58-count indictment, Scrushy has subpoenaed Wallace and a CBS producer to discuss their 60 Minutes segment about the HealthSouth debacle, according to court documents filed Monday.
Wallace and producer Robert Anderson have asked U.S. District Judge Karon Bowdre to throw out the subpoena, citing their First Amendment rights and claiming they have nothing to add to the case.
Bowdre did not immediately rule. Jury selection begins Wednesday, the day the defense wants Wallace and Anderson in Birmingham.
Accused of heading a group of executives who overstated HealthSouth earnings by more than $2.6-billion, Scrushy has pleaded not guilty to charges including fraud, conspiracy, money laundering, obstruction of justice, perjury and violating a new corporate reporting law. Fifteen former HealthSouth executives have pleaded guilty, and Scrushy blames them for the scheme.
Wallace interviewed Scrushy about the fraud case for a 60 Minutes segment that aired in October 2003, a few months after the scandal broke and sent HealthSouth share prices plummeting. In the interview, rebroadcast in August, Scrushy told Wallace he didn't have anything to do with overstating earnings.
"I certainly didn't commit the fraud. The people know me. They know I wouldn't instruct somebody to do that," Scrushy said.
According to documents filed on behalf of Wallace and the producer, prosecutors plan to show the tape or parts of it to jurors. If that happens, the defense wants to question the journalists.
But lawyers for Wallace and Anderson argued that the First Amendment protects journalists from having to testify when their only role in a case was to interview someone who was involved.
"The privilege stems from the recognition that the routine compulsion of journalists' testimony would in effect force journalists to become participants in the matters they report about and do serious harm to the journalists independence necessary to maintain the free "flow of information to the press and public,' " they said in court papers.
Neither prosecutors nor Scrushy's lawyers filed an immediate response. Scrushy's trial is expected to last 10 to 12 weeks. If convicted on all charges, Scrushy could be fined more than $30-million, sentenced to 450 years in prison and ordered to hand over about $278-million in assets.