Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Bailey Pleads Not Guilty to 2 Federal Charges Ex-State Treasurer Denies Campaign Abuses

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Bailey Pleads Not Guilty to 2 Federal Charges Ex-State Treasurer Denies Campaign Abuses

Article excerpt

Former state Treasurer Wendell Bailey pleaded not guilty Thursday to federal charges that he illegally used state employees and equipment in his unsuccessful 1992 campaign for governor and that he converted leftover campaign money to his personal use.

Bailey rejected a plea bargain offered by U.S. Attorney Stephen L. Hill Jr.

"He is sticking by his guns," said Bailey's lawyer, Bill Wendt.

At a press conference, Hill contended that Bailey had "misused his office," and said more charges might follow.

Hill denied accusations from some Bailey allies that Bailey was targeted because he was a Republican. Hill, a Democrat who took office a few months ago, said his actions were in line with his pledge to restore public confidence in government.

Bailey entered his plea early Thursday before U.S. Magistrate James England, who unsealed a two-count indictment issued Wednesday by a federal grand jury in Springfield. The indictment charges Bailey with one count of money laundering and one count of public corruption. The money laundering charge is the more serious of the two, with a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine. The public-corruption charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years and a $250,000 fine.

The money laundering charge alleges that Bailey took an unspecified amount of campaign money in October 1992, two months after he lost in the August primary, for his personal use. The public-corruption charge alleges that Bailey, from 1988 to 1992, used state equipment for his campaign and instructed state employees to do campaign work on state time.

In negotiations Thursday overheard by reporters, Hill and Assistant U.S. Attorney David C. Jones offered to drop the money laundering charge if Bailey would plead guilty to the public-corruption charge.

The talks took place in a snack room and in the hallway, while Bailey was being booked and processed for release after his court appearance. Negotiations ended when Bailey left Jones and his own attorneys in the hall and walked out of the courthouse.

Fighting back tears, Bailey told reporters: "You heard the plea. I pled not guilty. And I'm not going to make any statement."

Wendt, who appeared to favor some sort of settlement, suggested later to reporters that federal prosecutors may be agreeable to a deal if Bailey changes his plea by today. Wendt complimented Hill as having been fair.

In Jefferson City, Gov. Mel Carnahan said he presumed no guilt on Bailey's part but called it "a sorry day to see such an indictment. It creates at least an appearance of impropriety and an impression of lack of confidence in public officials."

Carnahan advised politicians to "keep your campaign activities in separate offices."

Barring a change in Bailey's plea, his next scheduled court appearance is on June 13.

Bailey, 53, has been a prominent political figure for decades - with a trademark country twang, a flair for comedy and occasional encounters with controversy. …

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