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Former Arizona Governor Sentenced


In September, 1997, Republican Governor J. Fife Symington, III, was convicted in federal court of seven counts of fraud related to fabrications and misrepresentations he made on financial statements in securing loans. Following his conviction, he resigned as Governor.

On February 2, 1998, Symington was sentenced by Federal Judge Roger G. Strand to 30 months in federal prison, five years probation and a $60,000 fine. He must also repay millions of dollars to investors.

Symington "choked up" as he read a prepared statement to the judge begging for mercy, said courtroom observers. After the hearing, a large crowd booed and heckled Symington as he postured defiant in front of microphones on the courthouse steps.

This was not the predominantly white ruling class crowd who once cheered him at a $500-a-plate dinner as he promised to turn Arizona's prisons into a "hellhole."

One woman threw a handful of dirt on the former Governor. He was forced to retreat from the microphones. It was too early -- or too late -- for redemption.

He must serve 85% of his sentence because of a federal law similar to one he adopted and forced down the throats of Arizona prisoners, along with chain gangs, in order to obtain his 1994 re-election.

The irony, of course, said Tucson attorney Michael Piccarreta, former president of the Arizona Bar Association in an ABC News interview, is that Symington has been an avid proponent of harsh sentencing and even harsher treatment of prisoners. Now that he faces being on the receiving end of such practices, his perspective may change, Piccarreta said.

There is, however, a different "class" of incarceration available to the few rich and powerful who end up behind bars. And Symington requested that he be allowed to serve his sentence at what some have called the "cush" Nellis Air Force Base minimum security federal prison near Las Vegas. He remains free on appeal bond.

Although it is ironic, and somewhat gratifying, to see Symington sentenced to prison, it's a shame that he wasn't convicted on state charges and sentenced to the "hellhole" he promised Arizona voters he would--and did--create.

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