Monday, October 15, 2007

Former Alaska State Representative Tom Anderson Sentenced To Five Years In Prison For Conspiracy And Bribery

Tom Anderson (pictured at left), the first of four former Alaska state lawmakers indicted was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge John Sedwick today (October 15th, 2007) to five years in prison stemming from his July 9th conviction on seven counts of conspiracy and bribery. This sentence fell within the pre-sentencing report guidelines of 51 to 63 months. Full stories from the Anchorage Daily News and KTUU Channel 2 (with video). Supplemental coverage provided by KTVA Channel 11 and KIMO Channel 13.

Prosecutors sought a sentence of more than eight years. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Bottini said the evidence showed Anderson did more than succumb to temptation to take money. Anderson solicited the bribe, betrayed his public trust and actively took part in concealing the money, according to Bottini. Another factor which may have influenced the prosecution to seek a longer sentence was the fact that while Anderson maintained his innocence during the trial, he publicly confessed his guilt after the trial was long over with (although he never took the stand and perjured himself).

Anderson's lawyer, Paul Stockler, asked for a sentence of no more than three years, which he said was "more than enough time." The difference between five and three years would have no affect as a deterrent, according to Stockler. But it would make a significant difference in Anderson's ability to support his three children from previous relationships and in the life of his young son.

One surprise did emerge during the two-hour sentencing hearing, though. It turns out that Anderson actually helped the FBI investigate a half dozen other cases of suspected public corruption in Alaska in 2005, even wearing a wire. He would have continued assisting them with secret recordings during the 2006 legislative session. In exchange for this cooperation, he would have only been expected to plead guilty to just one felony count. However, that stopped after Anderson told his future wife, State Senator Lesil McGuire (R-Anchorage), that he was cooperating with investigators. It is not known whether McGuire pressured him into stopping his cooperation, although she's not been linked to any scandal so far. Anderson also didn't like the implications of recording his fellow lawmakers without their knowledge during the actual legislative session. Anderson subsequently fired his attorney and stopped wearing a wire.

Anderson, 40, a two-term Republican from Anchorage who chose not to run for re-election in 2006, was convicted of taking nearly $24,000 he thought was coming from a private prison firm, Cornell Industries, Inc., in exchange for his assistance on legislation. The money was supplied by the FBI through an informant under contract to Cornell, Frank Prewitt, a former Alaska Department of Corrections commissioner. Prewitt secretly recorded his conversations with Anderson and a co-conspirator, lobbyist Bill Bobrick, between July 2004 and March 2005. Cornell was not aware of the investigation.

Anderson's case is not linked to the separate VECO scandal which engulfed Pete Kott, Vic Kohring, and Bruce Weyhrauch, and which may yet ensnare Ben Stevens and current State Senator John Cowdery.

Anderson did not immediately comment after the sentence was announced. He remains free and afterward hugged friends and family members - many in tears - who lined the gallery.

Commentary: Justice was served. The revelation of Anderson's previous cooperation with the FBI indicates that he clearly understood that he broke the law. Yet by pretending to be innocent, and subjecting the state to the cost of a full-blown jury trial, he showed contempt for the people and the process. And then he added insult to injury by owning up to his guilt after the trial. If he knew he was guilty, he should have made his best deal and saved the state the cost of a jury trial.

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