Former Rep. Richard A. Tonry (D-La.), who resigned from Congress last week amid allegations of election fraud, was indicted yesterday on charges of accepting illegal contributions and offering to trade federal jobs for campaign funds.
The indictment, returned by a federal grand jury in New Orleans, charged Tonry, 41, with 10 counts of receiving illegal political contributions totaling more than $54,000, promising jobs and government benefits to three individuals who gave him money, and conspiring to obstruct justice by furnishing false information to a grand jury investigating the case.
Also indicted was John W. Mumphrey, one of Tonry's law partners. He was charged with conspiracy, obstruction of justice and lying to a grand jury in connection with the investigation.
Tonry was a freshman, elected last November and serving from Jan. 4 until his resignation May 4. He resigned only hours before a special, three-member House panel had been expected to recommend that his seat be declared vacant because of voting fraud allegations in Tonry's primary election race.
Congressional experts said Tonry's resignation was the first time a House member gave up his seat because of a disputed primary contest.
At issue was the Oct. 2, 1976, Democratic primary election in Louisiana's First District, which Tonry won by 184 votes. Since the district is heavily Democratic, victory in the primary was tantamount to winning the seat in the November national elections.
The primary results touched off a snowballing round of accusations, court suits and investigations about whether Tonry's opponent, James Moreau, was cheated of the victory. Twenty-two poll workers since have pleaded guilty to vote fraud charges stemming from the case.
When he resigned, Tonry vowed to run again and win. In a letter to House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill (D-Mass.), Tonry said: "Keep my seat warm and tell my colleagues not to forget me."
However, he also said at the time that the cost of fighting the court suits stemming from the primary had put him $200,000 in debt. Sources who know Tonry said yesterday he is so strapped financially that he is considered acting as his own lawyer in defending himself against the federal criminal charges.
Tonry also had charged that the U.S. attorney in New Orleans, Gerald Gallinghouse, had shown political bias in directing the federal investigation into the primary. Last week, however, Attorney General Griffin B. Bell publicly commended Gallinghouse and the FBI for "the fine work they have done on this investigation."
The indictment charges that Tonry accepted a total of $54,500 from five individuals, each of whom could legally contribute only $1,000 to his campaign. It also alleges that he promised to obtain jobs and government benefits for three individuals who jointly gave him $24,000.
Following the primary, the indictment alleges, Tonry and Mumphrey tried to obstruct the resulting federal probe through a cover-up scheme that included inducing witnesses to give false testimony to the grand jury. Mumphrey was charged with lying to the grand jury about his and Tonry's roles in the alleged illegal campaign practices.
The maximum penalties for Tonry for conviction on all counts in the indictment total 18 years in jail and $247,000 in fines.