Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Rostenkowski Declares: No Plea Bargain

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Rostenkowski Declares: No Plea Bargain

Article excerpt

Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, defiantly rejected any deals with federal prosecutors Monday and declared that he would fight any corruption indictment.

Prosecutors had set a deadline of today for Rostenkowski to accept a plea bargain or face indictment on corruption charges. The indictment could be handed down today by a federal grand jury.

In his first public statement on the potential criminal charges, Rostenkowski, a Democrat from Illinois, said he would temporarily step aside as chairman of the tax-writing committee if indicted but continue as an active member of Congress. In rejecting the deal, Rostenkowski, an 18-term member of Congress, gambled that he could win in court and regain his influential committee post.

"Federal prosecutors threaten to indict me if I fail to plead guilty to a series of crimes I did not commit. I will not make any deals with them," Rostenkowski said in a statement.

Rostenkowski, one of the most powerful members of Congress and a key ally of President Bill Clinton on health care, has been under investigation for two years by federal prosecutors.

A spokesman for federal prosecutors in the case was not immediately available to comment on Rostenkowski's decision. But the U.S. attorney's office had offered Rostenkowski a chance to plead guilty to a felony and serve less than a year in prison, while resigning from Congress, legal sources have said.

Rostenkowski vowed to continue serving in Congress and to run for a 19th term in November.

"I am confident that I will be vindicated and I look forward to the return of the gavel," Rostenkowski said.

In a message for prosecutors as well as the public, Rostenkowski, 66, said: "I will not make any deals with them. I did not commit any crimes. My conscience is clear and my 42-year record as an elected official is one I am proud to once again run on. …

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