ANCHORAGE - Former state Rep. Tom Anderson helped the FBI investigate a half dozen other cases of suspected public corruption in Alaska.
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That got him no consideration from federal prosecutors after he abruptly stopped cooperating.
Anderson, convicted July 9 of seven counts of conspiracy and bribery, was sentenced Monday to five years in prison, a term prosecutors considered too short.
Anderson's sentencing hearing took two hours as witnesses described how the former lawmaker, after being confronted with evidence in his own corruption case, agreed to help investigators by recording conversations with a half dozen or so others under investigation.
According to witnesses Monday, that stopped after Anderson told his future wife, state Sen. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, that he was cooperating with investigators. She learned he would be expected to plead guilty to one felony count, and that investigators expected him to continue assisting them with secret recordings in the 2006 legislative session.
Shortly after that meeting, Anderson fired his attorney and stopped wearing a wire.
Anderson, 40, a two-term Republican from Anchorage who chose not to run for re-election in 2006, was convicted of taking nearly $24,000 he thought was coming from a private prison firm, Cornell Industries Inc., in exchange for his assistance on legislation.
The money was supplied by the FBI through an informant under contract to Cornell, Frank Prewitt, a former Alaska Department of Corrections commissioner. Prewitt secretly recorded his conversations with Anderson and a co-conspirator, lobbyist Bill Bobrick, between July 2004 and March 2005. Cornell Industries was not aware of the investigation.
Anderson did not immediately comment after the sentence was announced. He remains free and afterward hugged friends and family members - many in tears - who lined the gallery.
Prosecutors sought a sentence of more than eight years. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Bottini said the evidence showed Anderson did more than succumb to temptation to take money. Anderson solicited the bribe, betrayed his public trust and actively took part in concealing the money, Bottini said.
"The public's faith in the integrity of our legislative system is eroded," Bottini said.
He urged U.S. District Court Judge John Sedwick to restore the public's faith.
"They have to know it was serious, and when they're caught they're going to be punished, and they're going to be punished to the extent they deserve," Bottini said.
Anderson's lawyer, Paul Stockler, asked for a sentence of no more than three years, which he said was "more than enough time."
The difference between five and three years would have no affect as a deterrent, Stockler said. But it would make a significant difference in Anderson's ability to support his three children from previous relationships and in the life of his young son - the difference between taking him to his first day of kindergarten or the first day of second grade, Stockler said.
Sedwick's decision for a 60-month sentence fell within the pre-sentencing report guidelines of 51 to 63 months. The judge noted the volume of support letters that had poured in for Anderson and said the matter likely was heartbreaking for Anderson's family. Anderson is the son of a former director of the Alaska State Troopers.
"I have no idea how Mr. Anderson's apple fell so far from the tree, but it did," Sedwick said.
The judge said he took into account Anderson's long record of community and legislative service and his eagerness to help constituents, but ultimately, Anderson did not take a bribe to help someone else.
"He took the money because he wanted the money," Sedwick said.
Anderson's former attorneys testified about his cooperation with investigators.
Craig Howard, a 22-year public defender now in private practice, said he was called from his son's Little League game in summer 2005 to Anderson's legislative office as the FBI was about to serve a search warrant. Anderson had been confronted by investigators that afternoon.
The government made it clear from the outset, Howard said, that Anderson would have to plead guilty to one felony charge even as he cooperated. There was an understanding he might be able to say which charge, Howard said, but the arrangement called for nothing less than a felony.
"From day one, no way was it going to be a misdemeanor in this case," Howard said.
Anderson cooperated with investigators throughout the summer. Anderson's father had been informed of the investigation, Howard said.
After learning that McGuire was pregnant, Howard said, Anderson insisted that she be told of his situation. Prosecutors gave their consent and Anderson's cooperation with the government, as well as his connection to Howard, ended.
"I was dismissed," Howard said.
Howard's replacement, Jeffrey Feldman, testified that without a written agreement between Anderson and prosecutors, he negotiated for a "pass" for his client, such as a misdemeanor plea, in exchange for Anderson's cooperation. He tried to pin prosecutors down as to the exact considerations Anderson would receive for his cooperation.
"That became the goal," Feldman said. "It wasn't the goal initially."
By September 2005, the investigation was Anderson's "job," consuming all of his time, Feldman said.
"It was the only thing he was doing. It was really stressful," he said.
Anderson had misgivings about extending his cooperation to the legislative session in Juneau.
"The people in his district had not elected him to be an undercover agent," Feldman said.
Anderson's willingness to save himself bumped up against what he felt was duplicitous to his legislative colleagues, he said, and Anderson stopped cooperating.
Anderson knew the consequences of ending his cooperation, Feldman said, and it happened.
"There was no ambiguity about what would unfold," Feldman said.