Another Alaska politician sentenced in federal bribery probe

Anchorage Daily NewsMarch 10, 2009 

ANCHORAGE — Former state Sen. John Cowdery was ordered Tuesday to serve six months in home confinement and fined $25,000 for conspiring to bribe another senator into supporting the oil-industry position on petroleum production taxes in 2006.

U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline said Cowdery, 79, could leave home for medical visits or to attend church. The judge reprimanded Cowdery for violating the public's trust. When asked if he had anything to say, Cowdery said no. "My attorney covered everything I was going to cover," he said.

The judge sentenced Cowdery to three years' probation.

"Mr. Cowdery, it will be a miracle if you survive the period of probation," the judge said, based on what he had read in the pre-sentence reports. Cowdery arrived at court this morning in a wheelchair, pushed by his grandson.

Cowdery was still in office last July when the Justice Department charged him in a two-count indictment with conspiring with Veco Corp. chief executive Bill Allen to get as much as $25,000 in illegal campaign contributions to "State Senator A."

Federal prosecutors said the deal was never consummated. Sen. Donny Olson, D-Nome, has said he was State Senator A and that he cooperated with the FBI.

Cowdery says he is in poor health and argued he should get no more than six months of home confinement. Prosecutors agreed that prison wasn't appropriate for him but said his sentence should be a year.

The two sides also disagreed about the size of the fine, with the defense suggesting it should be $7,500 or less and the government asking for $25,000 -- the amount of the alleged bribe.

Cowdery is the 10th person convicted in the wide-ranging FBI corruption investigation in Alaska, begun in secret in 2004. Five of the convicted are lawmakers, including former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens. A sixth is awaiting trial.

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