Walker Found Guilty of Conspiracy in AzScam
PHOENIX (AP) _ A former state senator was convicted of conspiracy Thursday for taking $25,000 from an undercover agent during the ″AzScam″ investigation of statehouse corruption.
Carolyn Walker also was found guilty of making a false campaign contribution statement. But she was acquitted of six other charges, including bribery, money laundering and other campaign violations.
The centerpiece of the prosecution was hours of videotapes of legislators taking payoffs from undercover agent Joseph Stedino, who posed as J. Anthony Vincent, a crooked lobbyist pushing legalized gambling and other issues. Prosecutors have been criticized since for depending on the erratic Stedino.
In all, 21 people were indicted in AzScam; 12 people, including six lawmakers, have accepted plea bargains. Walker is the only lawmaker to go to trial.
″I made a mistake in judgment and my family has paid for it and I have paid for it,″ Walker said. She said she was happy the jury found her innocent on several counts, adding, ″I’m just glad that it’s all over.″
She could be sentenced to a maximum of seven years.
Convicted with Walker was Ronald Tapp, a bail bondsman and lobbyist hired for $1,000 a week to approach legislators on behalf of the informant. Tapp was found guilty of seven counts of bribery and one count each of conspiracy, money laundering, attempted bribery, offering to exert improper influence and leading organized crime.
The jury deadlocked on one count each of money laundering and bribery against Walker, and on four counts of bribery and one count each of attempted bribery and solicitation to commit bribery against Tapp. Judge Michael Ryan declared a mistrial on those counts.
Prosecutor Jim Keppel rejected a suggestion that the jury’s decision to reject several charges against Walker indicated problems with the way the investigation was handled.
″It was up to the judge to determine if there were any flaws in the investigation and we didn’t have any evidence suppressed,″ Keppel said.
Defense attorneys during the six-month trial repeatedly questioned Stedino’s motives, saying he used the investigation for his own monetary gain and perjured himself many times.
Murray Miller, Walker’s attorney, argued that Walker couldn’t be bribed to support legalized gambling because she had a long history of support for gambling. He portrayed the money as a gift.
Deputy County Attorney William Culbertson called Walker a greedy politician who was committed to Stedino and his money, not legalized gambling.
He said Walker also agreed to support privatization of prisons, a topic she had opposed in the Legislature. Walker’s attorney said she agreed to the issue only because Stedino told her labor unions supported his plan.
Culbertson described Tapp as the mastermind behind many of Stedino’s plans.
Tapp’s lawyers said he was entrapped by Stedino and had no inclination toward crime beforehand.