Judge Throws Out Indictment Against Sen. Dave Durenberger
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) _ A federal judge today dismissed a criminal indictment charging Sen. Dave Durenberger with falsifying his expense accounts.
U.S. District Judge Warren Urbom ruled federal prosecutors improperly used congressional records to build their case against the Minnesota Republican, who was accused of billing taxpayers for stays at a condominium he owned.
The judge dismissed the indictment without prejudice, leaving prosecutors free to seek another indictment. Two of Durenberger’s former associates were also indicted in the case and the charges against them stand.
″I consider it a pretty big victory,″ said Rick Evans, Durenberger’s chief of staff. For Durenberger to be indicted again, another grand jury would have to be impaneled, he said.
A phone message seeking comment from prosecutors at the U.S. Justice Department was not immediately returned.
Durenberger, first elected to the Senate in 1978, announced earlier this year that he would not run for re-election next year. He was in Washington today and could not be reached immediately for comment.
Prosecutors had submitted to a grand jury pages from the report of the Senate Select Committee on Ethics and the report of a special counsel on a Senate resolution pertaining to Durenberger’s conduct.
The judge said the indictment against Durenberger cannot stand because the government’s use of the reports was unconstitutional.
A federal grand jury indicted Durenberger and two former associates on April 2 after the Justice Department completed an investigation of charges that led to Durenberger’s denouncement by the Senate in July 1990 for unethical conduct.
Durenberger was charged with hiding his ownership in the condominium to collect $3,825 in reimbursement from the Senate for staying there during five months in 1987. He faced two felony charges, each of which carries a maximum five-year prison sentence and $250,000 fine.
Durenberger had been the ninth sitting U.S senator to be charged with a crime.
Michael Mahoney, Durenberger’s former personal attorney, and the senator’s former adviser, Paul Overgaard, each face four charges, including perjury and conspiracy, in connection with their roles in the affair. Mahoney and Overgaard, if convicted, each face a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
Durenberger, Mahoney and Overgaard say the condominium belonged to Independent Service Co., which Overgaard owns. Durenberger contends that even if he owned the condominium, the payments were legal under Senate rules at the time. All three pleaded innocent.
Trial for the three was scheduled to begin Jan. 10.