Anderson supporters push for leniency

LETTERS: Colleagues and friends say ex-representative deserves a break.

October 12, 2007 

With his sentencing on bribery and other charges just days away, former state Rep. Tom Anderson wants the judge to consider that people who know him well don't see him as a corrupt politician.

So far, his lawyer has filed 22 letters of support in court, from former legislative aides, friends, and colleagues from his days on the Anchorage School Board and in the Legislature.

Prosecutors are seeking a maximum sentence of more than eight years.

Anderson was the first of four indicted former legislators to go to trial, and on Monday will become the first to be sentenced. He was convicted in July of seven felonies, including bribery, extortion, conspiracy and money laundering.

His young son's godmother wrote what a good father Anderson is to the boy, whose name was deleted in the letters as filed.

Anderson's first in line to feed the child, he uses quick trips to the grocery store or the gas station as a chance to tell stories, and he's even happy to get up in the middle of the night when the toddler awakens, godmother Joanne Lytle wrote.

Glenn Clary, a pastor at Anchorage Baptist Temple, wrote that Tom is anguished over humiliating his parents and wife and feels like he damaged the integrity of the Legislature as an institution.

House Speaker John Harris said Anderson's eager-to-please personality may have gotten him into trouble, but he was a good legislator and did more than anyone else to modernize the State Crime Lab.

"No one would deny he has a good heart, and means well. I definitely feel he has been thrown into a pool of 'bigger fish' and hope you will equate his mindset and actions in contrast to other indicted individuals respectively," Harris wrote.

SEEKING 33-MONTH MAXIMUM SENTENCE

Anderson, who contended in his trial that he had been set up by the government, now is admitting that he did wrong and is asking for mercy. His lawyer, Paul Stockler, is asking for a sentence of no more than two years, nine months.

Prosecutors are seeking the maximum, or eight years and one month, which is even more time than recommended by the federal probation office in its pre-sentencing report. They say the judge shouldn't give him credit for accepting responsibility at this point.

"We submit that, in evaluating Anderson's eve-of-sentencing claims of contrition, the Court should consider the fact that Anderson elected to go to trial and have the charges decided by a jury of his peers," prosecutors Nicholas Marsh and Joe Bottini say in their sentencing memorandum.

Anderson seems to recognize that he'll end up in federal prison. Just this week, he paid his ex-wife $9,250 in child support for their two sons, both now teenagers living in Texas, according to the ex, Janet Alexander.

In all, he has four sons. His oldest, from an earlier relationship, lives in South Carolina and visits in the summer. The 17-year-old attended the last day of his father's trial. He's upset by what's happening, his mother, Stephanie Webb, said in an e-mail.

On Thursday, Anderson was taking care of essentials: eye exam, dentist, a checkup for his young son Grayson, he wrote in an e-mail Wednesday night.

ELECTED OFFICIALS ARE THE TROPHY

Around the country, defendants in public corruption cases are being hit with hefty sentences, said Peter Henning, a law professor at Wayne State University in Michigan who blogs on white collar crime.

"At one point a sentence over five years would have been almost unheard of in a public corruption case. Now you are seeing it with some regularity," Henning said in a telephone interview.

In ongoing cases, prosecutors may seek more prison time for the first defendants to go down, he said.

"In part they will seek a substantial sentence to send a message to other potential defendants, to try to get their cooperation. There is such a benefit to cooperating," he said. Some who cooperate don't even get prison time, he said.

Big corruption cases are like a spider web, he said. The government works them from the outside in, trying to get the individuals with private interests who paid the bribes to cooperate and reel in elected officials. "They are the trophy," Henning said.

Bottini, one of the prosecutors in the Anderson case, said they aren't trying to make an example out of him.

But there are several reasons why prosecutors are seeking eight-plus years, as laid out in their sentencing memo.

For one, Anderson was convicted of three money-laundering counts. Jurors found that Anderson participated in a scheme in which a phony Web site was used to funnel payments to him that he thought came from a private prison company. In reality, the money came from the FBI, through a Cornell Cos. consultant working undercover. The company didn't know about the scheme.

The probation office concluded it was "sophisticated laundering" involving a shell company, which means more prison time. The defense disputes that. The Web site for political news started out as a real idea but just never materialized, Stockler noted.

Prosecutors also want Anderson to serve more time because they contend he took multiple bribes, though he was convicted of one bribery count. That's because he sought additional money from the consultant, former state Corrections Commissioner Frank Prewitt, working undercover for the FBI. Prewitt testified that he paid Anderson an extra $2,000 in a side deal.

In all, Anderson received nearly $26,000 in bribe payments, according to evidence in the trial. Prosecutors say that his sentence should include "a fine of $26,000, totaling the amount of the corrupt payments."

Anderson plans to speak at his sentencing hearing, his lawyer said. His supporters will mainly be represented through the letters. Among the others who wrote in:

• Joshua Fink, who is director of the state Office of Public Advocacy. Anderson asked him to send a letter, and he did so as a private individual. They were roommates years ago as legislative aides in Juneau. He described Anderson as loyal, a loving family man, a legislator who fought for vulnerable Alaskans.

• Jim Patton, a friend who says there was an attitude of entitlement among legislators that Anderson witnessed during the years he served as a legislative aide. "Tom was more a product of his predecessors, and his ill-equipped gullibility meter, than of corruption."

• John Floyd, who served with Anderson on the Anchorage School Board and the Big Brothers Big Sisters board of directors. As a legislator, Anderson dealt with community concerns, including vandalism at Susitna Elementary, obtrusive snow mounds and funding for a traffic calming study on Muldoon Road, Floyd wrote.

Stockler said Anderson has done lots of soul searching in the last few months.

"I don't think it's ever too late to admit you made a mistake," he said.


Find Lisa Demer online at adn.com/contact/ldemer or call 257-4390.

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