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Ex-legislator Anderson sentenced to 5 years in prison

Lisa Demer

A federal judge on Monday said that former state Rep. Tom Anderson “sold the public trust” and sentenced him to five years in prison for seven felonies involving corruption in office.

The two-hour sentencing hearing came with a surprise: Anderson’s two former defense lawyers testified that he worked undercover nearly full-time for the FBI in the summer of 2005 in the hope of leniency.

Ultimately, the deal fell apart. Prosecutors asked for a long sentence.

In a courtroom crowded with Anderson’s friends and family on one side and FBI agents and prosecutors on the other, U.S. District Judge John Sedwick said the former lawmaker didn’t have much respect for the position once he got into office, regarding it as something that paid poorly and demanded much time.

A federal jury convicted Anderson on July 9 of three counts of money laundering, two counts of extortion and a count each of bribery and conspiracy.

“He took the money because he wanted the money,” Sedwick said.

The judge said he doesn’t think Anderson, 40, will get in trouble again. “But I have a very considerable concern for sending a message to the community that we really can’t tolerate the kind of behavior in which he engaged,” the judge said.

Sedwick said he knew the case was heartbreaking for Anderson’s large crowd of supporters. Most defendants who come before him have no one, the judge said.

Among those who showed up for Anderson: his wife, state Sen. Lesil McGuire, and his father, also Tom Anderson, former director of Alaska State Troopers.

“I have no idea how Mr. Anderson’s apple fell so far from the tree, but it did,” Sedwick said.

Anderson, a Republican, represented East Anchorage for two terms in the Legislature. He didn’t run in 2006. He’s only the second Alaska legislator to be convicted of bribery, after the late Sen. George Hohman in 1981.

Before Anderson’s hearing, the defense had asked for mercy and a sentence of less than three years. Prosecutors had sought the maximum they thought he could get under advisory sentencing guidelines, or more than eight years.

Sedwick found that some areas underscored by prosecutors to support a longer sentence didn’t apply.

A longer sentence for Anderson won’t deter others, Paul Stockler, Anderson’s defense attorney, told the judge. But it matters to Anderson’s ability to restart his life. If he got three years, he’d be able to take his and McGuire’s young son to the first day of kindergarten, Stockler said.

As it is, Anderson’s career as a legislator is finished, Stockler said.

Anderson knows now that he’s brought shame “to the entire state of Alaska and the Legislature,” Stockler said.

Prosecutor Joe Bottini told Sedwick he thought Anderson’s late show of remorse was a facade.

“What’s resulted from this conviction and the overall investigation as a whole is that the public’s faith in the integrity of our legislative system is eroded seriously,” Bottini said. “... People are looking at this going “Are they all dirty?’”

Anderson was the first Alaska legislator convicted in the ongoing political corruption investigation that burst into view last year with the FBI raids of lawmakers’ offices. Another, former Rep. Pete Kott, was convicted last month and two others are awaiting trial.

Anderson told Sedwick he was sorry for what he did, apologizing to the judge, his family and the state of Alaska. He spoke in a quiet voice that didn’t waiver.

“I’ve let her down,” he said about McGuire, “and I’ve let my family down.”

Evidence in the trial showed that he participated in a scheme to push the interests of a private prison company in exchange for what turned out to be nearly $26,000 in payments. A consultant for Cornell Cos. was working undercover for the FBI, and the company wasn’t involved in the scheme, the U.S. Justice Department has said.

Anderson said he didn’t get the full impact of the evidence until he saw undercover videos at his trial of him scheming with a Cornell lobbyist and consultant.

“I was embarrassed,” Anderson said. The conspiracy involved a sham company that was supposed to operate a Web site on which Cornell would place advertisements.

When he took money from the consultant knowing that Cornell didn’t need or want the ads, “I don’t know how much more wrong that could have been,” Anderson told the judge.

As Sedwick made it clear that Anderson would go to prison, his wife, mother and others cried in the courtroom. Sedwick allowed him to remain out of custody as details of his confinement are worked out. The judge said he’ll recommend that Anderson serve his time in Sheridan, Ore., as Anderson requested, though there’s no guarantee he’ll get that. It’s a medium security prison with a prison camp next door. (picture of Sheridan prison)

Besides five years in prison, Sedwick also ordered two years of supervised release. He didn’t order a fine.

When the hearing ended, Anderson slowly walked over to his family and friends. He and McGuire embraced.

Lingering outside the courtroom with supporters, Anderson thanked everyone. Friends assured McGuire they would be OK. “Will we?” McGuire wondered.

Later, as Anderson and McGuire got into a waiting vehicle, his face crumbled with the strain of the day.

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

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By LISA DEMER
ldemer@adn.com