Gov. Evan Mecham arrived at the Capitol Monday to hear closing arguments in the Senate impeachment trial that could end his stormy political career, perhaps in a matter of hours.
The first-term Republican was cheered by a group of well-wishers as he walked into the Senate building behind bodyguards. He said nothing but smiled and flashed a thumbs-up signal at the crowd.Attorneys were to give closing arguments on two impeachment articles as the trial opened its sixth week. A vote could come late Monday or Tuesday, lawmakers said.
Mecham, 63, who took office in January 1987, has maintained he is not guilty of wrongdoing. He is accused of misusing $80,000 from the governor's protocol fund by loaning it to his auto dealership and trying to thwart an investigation of an alleged death threat by a state official.
Last week the Senate dismissed a third charge that Mecham concealed a $350,000 campaign loan, the subject of the governor's April 21 criminal trial. Some senators said hearing testimony on that allegation could have prejudiced his criminal trial.
However, Democrats acknowledged that the real reason they favored dismissing the charge was to ensure a Senate trial verdict well before the scheduled May 17 gubernatorial recall election.
A two-thirds vote of the 30-member Senate is required for conviction. Lawmakers also could bar Mecham from holding any future public office. If convicted, Mecham would become the seventh U.S. governor removed from office by impeachment.
The prosecution contends the governor's protocol fund created with inaugural ball proceeds was a public fund and that Mecham Pontiac needed the $80,000 loan to meet its July 1987 payroll.
The allegation regarding the death threat has boiled down to Mecham's word against that of Department of Public Safety Director Ralph Milstead. He testified that Mecham ordered him not to cooperate with the attorney general's investigation of the alleged threat by state official Lee Watkins against former top Mecham aide Donna Carlson.