Skip to comments.Newton admits taking 'Waltz' bribes
Posted on 08/30/2005 10:40:52 AM PDT by SmithL
MEMPHIS State Rep. Chris Newton pleaded guilty Tuesday to federal charges of taking bribes to sponsor legislation favoring what turned out to be a fake company created by the FBI.
Newton, an East Tennessee Republican, is one of five current or former state lawmakers arrested in May on bribery and extortion charges in a government sting called Tennessee Waltz.
He is the first lawmaker to admit guilt in the corruption investigation begun more than two years ago, though two defendants who were not legislators pleaded guilty earlier this month.
After his plea, Newton said that he became "caught up in business as usual in Nashville."
"It is time for us to acknowledge candidly that the legislative process has become saturated with money and special interests," Newton said reading from a prepared statement.
In the courtroom assistant U.S. Attorney Tim DiScenza told U.S. District Judge Jon McCalla that Newton was cooperative in talking with federal investigators about the charges against him.
Outside the courtroom DiScenza refused to say if Newton was cooperating with investigations involving others.
Newton, 34, also declined comment on whether he is helping with the ongoing investigation.
"I am here to take responsibility for what I have done and to do what is right for the citizens of our state," Newton said. "We need to begin the process of rebuilding public trust in our institutions of government, especially the Tennessee General Assembly. This process begins with me today."
Newton, a six-term legislator, was indicted along with Charles Love, a Chattanooga lobbyist, who pleaded guilty Aug. 16 to extortion and bribery. Love admitted passing along payoffs to Newton and Sen. Ward Crutchfield, D-Chattanooga.
Newton and Love were charged with taking $4,500 in bribes. In exchange, Newton was to sponsor legislation designed to favor E-Cycle.
The charges against Newton carry a maximum punishment of 25 years in prison plus fines of $500,000, though federal guidelines would call for a much lighter sentence. A sentencing hearing was expected to be set later.
Barry Myers, a political operative from Memphis, pleaded guilty Aug. 1 to handling payoffs for Sen. Kathryn Bowers, D-Memphis, and former senator Roscoe Dixon, also a Memphis Democrat.
Former senator John Ford is charged, too, with extortion and bribery in the corruption investigation. And Ford, a Memphis Democrat, is accused as well with threatening a federal witness.
Ford, Crutchfield and Bowers have vowed to fight the charges, while a defense lawyer said in court last week that Dixon is undecided if he will insist on going to trial.
Trials are expected to begin in November, with Myers and Love scheduled for sentencing in February, long after they might be called as government witnesses.
Newton has said he will resign from the Legislature by Nov. 1. Crutchfield and Bowers say they have no intention of resigning.
Ford resigned from the Senate after his arrest in May, and Dixon resigned in January to take another government job, as a top aide to the Shelby County mayor. Dixon was fired from that job after his indictment.
Tennessee Waltz focused on a company called E-Cycle Management that was supposedly setting up business to buy and resell used government computers.
FBI agents posing as E-Cycle representatives wined and dined lawmakers in Nashville and Memphis and met with numerous local officials in Shelby and Hamilton counties.
When the government has the power to lavish benefits on one business and crush another through a stroke of the pen, it's only natural that money and special interests will move in, seeking benefits for themselves and the crushing of their competitors.
A weak, limited government as envisioned by the founders would not have this problem.
If the dems who are vowing to fight this are proved guilty I hope they throw the book at them for costing the taxpayers extra to run the trial. That being said,both the 1 republican and 3 democrats should all pay for their crimes.
Hmmmm....playing the old "guilty card" is he(?)
"After his plea, Newton said that he became "caught up in business as usual in Nashville."
"It is time for us to acknowledge candidly that the legislative process has become saturated with money and special interests," Newton said reading from a prepared statement. "
No. It's time to root out the corrupt individuals who rationalize that the crimes they commit are business as usual.
Throw this crook in jail for a very long time.
If corruption is common there, throw lots of politicians in jail for a very long time.
Throw those bribing the politicians in jail as well.
There's noting wrong with people or groups who believe strongly about an issue making it clear to politicians that the issue is important to them.
However, when people go to the point of bribing a politician and the politician accepts the bribe, they are committing a crime. It's an extremely subversive crime that damages our society and must be punished harshly.
In Ohio we have term limits. Instead of crooks remaining in the same office they take bribes in the form of political appointments after their terms end, or bribes of jobs in the private sector after their term ends.
Term limits don't really solve the problem. Catching the crooks and throwing them in jail for long periods of time has a much better effect.
I agree. But with term limits at least it takes a while for the new person to get his web in place and as they construct that web they are much more likely to get caught.
To be honest, the real reason I want term limits boils down to one person: Ted Kennedy. Boston has suffered enough. I know they deserve it and they keep electing him, but come on, enough is enough.
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