PHOENIX, FEB. 6 -- Seven lawmakers and seven others targeted in a police sting have been indicted on bribery and other charges, making Arizona the third state in recent months with a legislative corruption scandal.
A grand jury Tuesday charged that the elected officials accepted tens of thousands of dollars in cash from a flamboyant figure who said he was trying to get the votes needed to legalize casino gambling in Arizona.
Property and bank accounts of 18 individuals were confiscated in a civil racketeering lawsuit filed late Tuesday evening.
The 18 included state Sen. Alan Stephens (D) and the seven lawmakers. Stephens was not indicted, and sources said they knew of no plans to charge him criminally.
Four of the lawmakers were stripped of leadership posts or committee chairmanships today by House Speaker Jane Hull (R).
The sting by Phoenix police resembles FBI efforts that resulted in the arrests of legislators in South Carolina and California. In South Carolina, 13 people, including 11 lawmakers, were indicted in a vote-selling scheme. Seven have pleaded guilty and one was convicted; other cases are pending. In California, two former state senators were convicted last year of corruption charges.
Top lawmakers in Texas and New York also are under indictment. New York Assembly Speaker Mel Miller (D) pleaded not guilty to federal mail fraud and other charges stemming from an alleged real estate scam. Texas House Speaker Gib Lewis (D) faces two misdemeanor ethics charges accusing him of soliciting a $5,000 gift from a law firm and not reporting it.
In Arizona, the seven lawmakers and the seven others, including political activists and lobbyists, were charged with conspiring to bribe public officials, launder money and file false campaign statements.
"We all have our prices," the indictment quotes Senate Majority Whip Carolyn Walker (D) as saying as she allegedly accepted $5,000 from a man who called himself J. Anthony Vincent but whose real name is Joseph C. Stedino.
Stedino, who was not further identified, wore flashy clothes and looked like a movie version of a mobster, according to those who met him. He talked about the fear of wiretaps and once stripped in front of a lobbyist to show he was not concealing a microphone, the indictment says.
He also handed out cash, according to the indictment, including $55,000 to House Judiciary Chairman Don Kenney (R), who allegedly stuffed it in a gym bag.
The Arizona Civil Liberties Union today called for an investigation of what it said were possible violations of the lawmakers' civil rights in the 13-month investigation.