Last Of 5 Lawmakers Charged In Probe To Plead

Monday, July 16th 2007, 8:29 am
By: News On 6

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) _ The last of five lawmakers indicted in an undercover public corruption probe dubbed the ``Tennessee Waltz'' was expected to plead guilty Monday to federal bribery charges, her defense attorney said.

Former state Sen. Kathryn Bowers, 64, a Memphis Democrat, was to plead to a bribery charge accusing her of splitting $11,500 with an accomplice who served as a go-between with FBI agents posing as dishonest businessmen. She had insisted for two years that she was innocent.

``She came to accept that what she did was wrong,'' defense lawyer William Massey said. ``She stood very firmly, for a very long time, in her belief that she was not guilty.''

In exchange for her plea, prosecutors were expected to drop five more serious charges of extortion, each carrying a maximum of 20 years in prison.

The bribery charge carries a maximum 10-year prison term and a fine of $250,000, though federal guidelines would call for a much lighter sentence for a first-time offender.

Massey said Bowers' plea agreement did not include a sentencing recommendation but she hoped to persuade U.S. District Judge Jon McCalla to go easy on her.

``She made a mistake. She did. She's admitting that, but she's done a lot of good things and she's been a good person,'' Massey said.

The Tennessee Waltz investigation began in 2004 and was built around E-Cycle Management, a fake company set up by the FBI supposedly to buy and resell used government computers. The company offered bribes to local officials for government contracts.

Five state lawmakers were indicted in May 2005, setting off a scandal that led to changes in state ethics laws.

Prosecutors said Bowers was one of the first lawmakers to fall for the FBI sting and helped undercover agents posing as E-Cycle representatives make contact with other legislators. She resigned from the Senate last year, citing poor health.

In all, the Tennessee Waltz investigation has led to indictments against 11 defendants, including several local officials in Memphis and Chattanooga. If Bowers' plea goes forward, 10 of those charged would be convicted, with a former member of the Memphis school board awaiting trial. The investigation is still under way.