When the defense rests shortly on the second article of impeachment against Gov. Evan Mecham, his lawyers plan to ask the Arizona Senate to put the proceedings on hold until after his criminal trial on perjury and fraud charges that could bring more than 20 years in prison.
Mecham, 63, was on the stand Monday as his impeachment trial entered its fifth week, testifying on the second of the three articles that an $80,000 loan from his so-called protocol fund to his car dealership constituted a misuse of public funds.Mecham echoed earlier defense witnesess's testimony that he believed the loan was "perfectly legitimate" but "political stupidity."
Defense attorney Jerris Leonard planned to call one or two more witnesses Tuesday and has said he will then ask the trial be continued before the senators begin dealing with the final article of impeachment that Mecham hid a $350,000 campaign loan.
Lawyer Robert L'Ecuyer, a former political consultant testifying for the defense, said Tuesday the money in the protocol fund was private money. L'Ecuyer said the officers of the fund had no intention of giving the money raised at Mecham's inaugural ball to the state when control of the fund was transferred to the governor.
L'Ecuyer also said he believed an agreement on how the money would be spent could not be enforced.
The defense wants the impeachment trial continued until after the criminal trial on perjury and fraud charges scheduled to begin April 21, saying the debate and evidence could hurt Mecham's chances of getting a fair trial in criminal court. They want the final article dismissed outright or action on it postponed.
The prosecution has opposed any continuance on grounds there already has been considerable publicity about the issue, and no more damage would be done by bringing it up during the impeachment trial.