The long-awaited start of ousted Gov. Evan Mecham's fraud and perjury trial began without fanfare and minus the presence of the former chief executive - forced from office six weeks ago by a Senate court of impeachment.
The trial on alleged campaign finance improprieties opened Thursday with jury selection in a courtroom packed with 100 prospective jurors."I'll attend when I should be there," said Mecham, reached by telephone at his suburban Phoenix home shortly after the start of jury selection, which is expected to take 10 days.
Asked whether he planned to be in court beyond the days he will testify, Mecham replied, "There's been no decision made on that yet."
The 64-year-old conservative Republican declined comment on the outcome of the trial and whether a plea bargain was in the works with the state attorney general's office.
The atmosphere at the trial's opening day was subdued. There were virtually no spectators, and the prospective panel paid little attention to the horde of reporters milling outside the courtroom.
Prospective jurors were asked to complete a hefty 32-page document containing 99 questions about their business and personal life, political affiliation, Mecham's impeachment and the aborted gubernatorial recall election.
Mecham and his brother, Willard, are charged with violating state financial disclosure laws by allegedly concealing a $350,000 campaign loan from Tempe, Ariz., developer and attorney Barry Wolfson.
The former governor, an Arizona delegate to the Republican National Convention, faces more than 20 years in prison if convicted of all six felony counts of fraud, perjury and filing false documents. His brother is accused of three similar counts.