Federal Investigators Probing Alleged Attorney General Computer Purge
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Computer files were purged before state Attorney General William Webster left office this week, the new attorney general said Thursday. Webster, who’s embroiled in an unrelated scandal over a state workers’ compensation fund, dismissed the claims as ″ludicrous and offensive.″
Officials with Attorney General Jay Nixon, a Democrat who took over Monday from the Republican Webster, said they weren’t sure which files were affected.
Nixon said in a statement that efforts to retrieve the lost documents were unsuccessful. He said federal officials were investigating.
David C. Jones, acting U.S. attorney, was out of his office and unavailable for comment Thursday.
Webster said only personal information - birthday and Christmas card lists, congratulatory notes and personal letters - were wiped from computer terminals.
″To my knowledge, no official documents have been removed from the system or destroyed without a hard-copy backup,″ Webster said in a letter to Nixon.
Webster’s letter was dated Wednesday, and was sent by fax to news organizations on Thursday.
The letter was Webster’s first public comment since he lost the governor’s race 10 weeks ago. He has declined all interview requests.
Nixon’s spokeswoman, Mary Still, said Webster’s letter would be forwarded to federal authorities. She had no other comment.
An indictment against a former Webster aide alleges that Webster told him to use a workers’ compensation fund to reward campaign contributors by giving them bigger settlements and to give noncontributors a ″hard time.″
Webster, 39, hasn’t been indicted.
Federal agents recently seized $106,203 in leftover funds from Webster’s campaign committee.
Webster lost a campaign for governor Nov. 3 to then-Lt. Gov. Mel Carnahan, a Democrat, amid allegations of wrongdoing. He served two terms as attorney general.
The indictment alleges Webster promised his aide additional state business and influence in picking judges if he was elected governor.
The aide, William E. Roussin, a former fund-raiser and a special assistant attorney general from 1985 until March 1992, pleaded guilty Dec. 10 to mail fraud and obstruction of justice. He said Webster participated in illegal acts.
Roussin, who has agreed to help prosecutors, is awaiting sentencing. He could receive up to 15 years in prison without parole and $750,000 in fines.
The fund, called the Second Injury Fund, is financed by a surcharge on the premiums businesses pay for workers’ compensation. It is a state program to compensate workers for on-the-job injuries aggravated by pre-existing conditions.
Webster gained national attention when he successfully defended Missouri’s anti-abortion law in the 1989 U.S. Supreme Court case Webster vs. Reproductive Health Services.