Jury finds Anderson guilty

Judge sets sentencing for Oct. 2 Former lawmaker 'devastated,' plans to appeal

Posted: Tuesday, July 10, 2007

ANCHORAGE - A former Alaska lawmaker accused of getting thousands of dollars out of a corrections-company consultant in exchange for his help in the Legislature was convicted of bribery Monday.

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"I'm devastated," former state Rep. Tom Anderson said after the federal jury announced its verdict.

He said he planned to appeal.

Anderson, 39, was accused of conspiring to take money he thought was coming from a private prison firm, Cornell Industries, Inc.

The money was supplied by the FBI through an informant working for Cornell who secretly recorded his conversations with Anderson and a co-conspirator, former municipal lobbyist Bill Bobrick.

Anderson was one of four current or former Alaska state lawmakers facing federal bribery indictments. The other three face trial this fall for charges related to the Anchorage-based oil field services company VECO Corp.

"I think the prosecution has criminalized being a legislator over the last year," Anderson said. "I think I fell victim to that." Anderson's family, including his wife, state Sen. Lesil McGuire, were not present for the verdict.

Anderson said they couldn't get to the downtown Anchorage courthouse in time after it was announced the jury had reached a verdict.

Judge John Sedwick ordered Anderson to surrender his passport and scheduled sentencing for Oct. 2.

Anderson was arrested Dec. 7 and charged with seven felonies, including conspiracy, bribery, money laundering and interfering with commerce, a charge connected to a demand for payments. He faces a maximum penalty of 115 years in prison and a $1.75 million fine.

Department of Justice officials in Washington, D.C., said Anderson was held accountable for his crimes.

Anderson "corrupted his elected office when he took official actions in exchange for bribery payments," said Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher. "His illegal conduct impaired the integrity of the oath he took to represent citizens of the state of Alaska."

Bobrick in May pleaded guilty to bribing Anderson. He agreed to testify against Anderson in exchange for a "downward sentencing motion" from prosecutors, he said.

Bobrick said two FBI agents called him in September and said they wanted to play some tapes for him. They were standing on his front porch when they called.

The agents played tapes secretly recorded in 2004 by Frank Prewitt, a former corrections department commissioner who was a $150,000-per-year consultant for Cornell and an FBI informant.

The company is based in Houston, Texas, and operated halfway houses in Alaska. Cornell also hoped to build a private prison and a juvenile psychiatric treatment center in Alaska.

Anderson was accused of accepting nearly $26,000 he thought was coming from Cornell but really was provided through Prewitt by the FBI.

The defense argued that Anderson was a Cornell supporter and backed its positions without being on the take and that Prewitt wore a wire to bag a legislator and deflect investigators away from his legal problems.

Prosecutors contend Bobrick and Anderson trolled for cash in conversations with Prewitt, using a phony Web-based newsletter as a front for Cornell to funnel payments to Anderson.

Anderson, finishing his first term as a Republican legislator from east Anchorage, was strapped for cash, prosecutors said, as he romanced McGuire, who was then a state representative.

He owed child support payments and was looking for a payoff of about $3,000 per month when the Alaska Legislature was not in session.

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