Gene Stipe Stays Out Of Prison For Now

Thursday, June 28th 2007, 7:35 am
By: News On 6

MUSKOGEE, Okla. (AP) -- A federal judge took no action Thursday on a request by prosecutors that former state Sen. Gene Stipe be sent to prison for allegedly violating his probation. Stipe, whose 53-year career in the Oklahoma Legislature ended in political scandal, was allowed to remain free pending another hearing. No date was immediately set for this second hearing.

Stipe, 80, and in frail health, used a walker and was assisted by his attorney as he made his way into the courthouse. He is accused of arranging illegal campaign contributions while on house arrest for the same offense.

Stipe has two years remaining on a five-year sentence of probation for federal election law violations. Federal prosecutors want to revoke his probation and send him to prison.

The brief hearing was in the same courthouse where a former longtime business partner, Steven Phipps, pleaded guilty a day earlier to a mail fraud charge and admitted paying kickbacks to three state legislators. Phipps, 52, is cooperating with federal authorities.

Former Rep. Mike Mass pleaded guilty to a similar charge in April and also is cooperating with federal authorities. U.S. Attorney Sheldon Sperling said Mass is believed to have gotten $250,000 in kickbacks.

Stipe has been implicated in the same federal investigation.

Stipe's federal case was delayed several times due to recurring health issues.

Stipe, who resigned from the state Senate in 2003, pleaded guilty in 2004 to two conspiracy counts and a perjury count for funneling $245,000 into the failed 1998 congressional campaign of protege Walt Roberts.

A federal judge in Washington sentenced Stipe to house arrest, probation and fined him $735,567. Conditions of Stipe's probation required him to not commit any federal, state or local crimes and that he be truthful with his probation officer.

But records describing evidence presented to a federal grand jury indicate Stipe and Phipps provided $34,600 to straw donors to contribute to the campaign of U.S. Rep. Dan Boren, D-Okla., around March 2004 -- two months after Stipe was sentenced in the earlier election law case.

Straw donors are people who give to a political campaign with another person's money to bypass contribution limits, which was $2,300 per election in congressional races and $5,000 for state races. Both are violations of elections laws, as is knowingly receiving money contributed by a straw donor.

In court papers filed in March, the FBI said there was no evidence Boren was aware of the illegal contributions. Boren subsequently gave $35,600 to a veterans charity. The total included $1,000 that Stipe gave his 2004 campaign.

Stipe also was admonished by his probation officer in October 2005 for associating with Steven Covington, who was convicted in 2002 for his involvement in an odometer rollback scheme. But Stipe is pictured in six photographs with Covington on several occasions in 2006 and 2007, records show.

Covington, the son of a former McAlester mayor, was on probation at the time. His probation ended last year.

In April, jurisdiction of Stipe's federal probation was transferred from Washington to Muskogee, clearing the way for federal officials in Muskogee to seek revocation of Stipe's probation.

Watch the video: Stipe Allowed To Remain Free

WEB EXTRA: Extended Interview With Clark Brewster, Stipe's Attorney

WEB EXTRA: Extended Interview With U.S. Attorney Sheldon Sperling

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