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Ex-Governor Symington Free on Bail

March 26, 1998

PHOENIX (AP) _ Even as former Gov. Fife Symington praised a ruling allowing him to remain free while pursuing a reversal on his bank fraud convictions, federal investigators were looking into jury-tampering allegations involving the panel that convicted him.

Federal authorities subpoenaed Symington’s defense team and five of Symington’s colleagues for fingerprints, The Arizona Republic reported today.

The alleged jury-tampering attempt surfaced while jurors were deliberating in August following Symington’s trial, the newspaper reported. He was convicted of seven charges, though one conviction later was thrown out.

But before jurors had reached a decision, two of them and Symington’s secretary received calls from a gruff-voiced man who allegedly tried to influence the outcome with threats and bribes.

Symington’s secretary, Carol Henderson, traced the call and police found it was made from a phone booth at a convience store. Police took a videotape of the store’s interior and dusted the telephone for fingerprints, the Republic said.

Jay Heiler, Symington’s former chief of staff and among those whose prints were subpoenaed, said he was told by the FBI: ``You’re not a suspect. This is an elimination process.″

Heiler, a former assistant U.S. attorney and assistant Arizona attorney general, said the prints were needed to eliminate people from a list of individuals who had access to jurors’ phone numbers.

Symington was jubilant after Wednesday’s ruling that saved him from beginning his 2 1/2-year prison term for months and possibly years.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled unanimously that Symington’s appeal raises a ``substantial question″ and is ``fairly debatable.″ It said he can remain free on bail while he appeals, though any bail has not yet been set.

``I believe it’s the first major step toward a complete reversal,″ Symington said.

Symington, 52, was found guilty of defrauding lenders during his previous career as a real estate developer. He resigned as governor following his conviction in September.

Symington’s jury had to start over after seven days when juror Mary Jane Cotey was dismissed after other jurors complained she was unable to concentrate on the case and refused to discuss her opinions. An alternate was added and deliberations began anew.

Cotey said later she would have voted to acquit and said fellow jurors forced her off the panel because they wanted to convict Symington.

That removal is expected to be the cornerstone of Symington’s appeals.

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