Tuesday, May 1, 2018

GOING TO TRIAL: Corporation Commission Corruption Case Set For Trial This Month, Judge Denies Most Of Defendants' Pre-Trial Motions and Says Lobbyist's Ex-Wife-Turned-Informant Can Testify

The federal bribery trial for the former Chairman of the Arizona Corporation Commission, his wife, a prominent lobbyist and a utility owner remains set for trial later this month, and the Judge yesterday denied nine of the Defendants' pre-trial motions to dismiss the case or to limit the evidence that the government can use. In so doing, he found that the lobbyist's ex-wife-turned-informant can testify.

(photos compiled by azfamily.com)
The trial of former Chair Gary Pierce, his wife Sherry, lobbyist Jim Norton and utility owner George Johnson will begin on May 30. Yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge John Tuchi accepted arguments from attorneys for both sides for 1 1/2 hours, and asked for further argument on whether former Corporation Commission Utilities Chief Thomas Broderick should be permitted to testify against the defendants.

Broderick abruptly quit as Director of Utilities in August 2016, after only one year on the job. The indictment was handed up in May of the following year.

The Court also partly granted a defense motion to dismiss or break up Count Two of the indictment - which alleged that Sherry Pierce was paid for a "job" in which she had no tasks to perform and that a proposed real estate transaction was set up to benefit the Pierces.

Judge Tuchi denied Norton's motion to exclude any information provided to the FBI by his former wife. He had attempted to invoke the marital privilege; however, the privilege does not apply if both spouses are involved in criminal activity. Kelly Norton reportedly told the FBI details about the proposed real estate transaction and the payments to Ms. Pierce. (Ms. Pierce was working for Rep. Andy Biggs when the indictment was announced; he eventually let her go.)

During the pre-trial phase, there were indications that the FBI is still investigating other possible crimes that could be jeopardized by revealing details of the investigation. Those questions have not yet been answered.

The Court also denied motions to dismiss the case - or parts of the case - based on 1st Amendment grounds, alleging improper grand jury proceedings, and violating the statute of limitations.

The corruption case alleges that the Pierces received benefits from Johnson Utilities - through George Johnson and Jim Norton - in return for ensuring that the Corporation Commission allowed small utility owners such as Johnson to charge their customers for the owners' personal income taxes.

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