Tennessee lawmaker pleads guilty to bribery | VailDaily.com
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Tennessee lawmaker pleads guilty to bribery

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – A state lawmaker pleaded guilty to taking bribes in exchange for legislative favors, saying he got snagged “by business as usual” at the Capitol.State Rep. Chris Newton told a federal judge he sought and accepted bribes from undercover FBI agents, becoming the first lawmaker charged in the continuing federal investigation to admit guilt. Two men described as bag men for lawmakers have pleaded guilty.Newton and four current or former state senators were charged in May with taking payoffs to help a company called E-Cycle Management get favorable legislation passed in the General Assembly. The lawmakers all had pleaded innocent.After his plea, the Republican lawmaker said he “became caught up in business as usual in Nashville.””It is time for us to acknowledge candidly that the legislative process has become saturated with money and special interests,” Newton said, reading from a statement.In Nashville, Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, declined to comment on Newton’s statements.Some lawmakers, though, took issue with Newton’s description of the Capitol. “I don’t think it was anything like business as usual because it was not business as usual,” said Democratic House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh.Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim DiScenza told Judge Jon McCalla that Newton cooperated with authorities investigating the charges against him.DiScenza refused to say outside the courtroom if Newton was cooperating with investigations involving others.Newton was charged with taking bribes in exchange for sponsoring legislation designed to favor E-Cycle, which supposedly wanted to buy and resell used government computers. The bill made it all the way to the House floor, but Newton withdrew it just before he and the others were arrested in the closing days of the legislative session.On Tuesday, a county official in Memphis was indicted in the expanding corruption investigation.Shelby County Commission Chairman Michael Hooks Sr., nephew of former NAACP head Benjamin Hooks, was charged with taking $24,200 in bribes in exchange for aiding E-Cycle.Hooks made an initial appearance in court Tuesday and was released without bond. As he left the courthouse, he refused to comment.The crimes Newton admitted committing carry a maximum punishment of 25 years in prison plus fines of $500,000, though federal guidelines will call for a much lighter sentence. He is scheduled for sentencing in February.The others indicted were state Sens. Ward Crutchfield and Kathryn Bowers, and former senators John Ford and Roscoe Dixon.Ford, who resigned from the Senate after his indictment, also is charged with threatening a federal witness.Vail – Colorado


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