A judge on Friday rejected a defense request for a mistrial on grounds that a prosecution witness' testimony was unfair in former Gov. Evan Mecham's trial on charges he concealed a $350,000 campaign loan.
Judge Michael Ryan of Maricopa County Superior Court rejected a claim by lawyer Thomas Crowe that the prosecution tried to prejudice the jury by presenting testimony that Crowe said implied wrongdoing in how the Mecham campaign's checkbook was handled.Mecham and his brother, Willard, are charged with concealing the loan by Tempe developer Barry Wolfson. Willard Mecham was his brother's 1986 campaign treasurer.
Also on Friday, former U.S. Rep. Sam Steiger was placed on probation for four years, fined $5,480, and ordered to perform 700 hours of community service work for pressuring a parole board member over an administrative matter while working as an aide to Evan Mecham while Mecham was governor.
Steiger, 59, was convicted April 7 of theft by extortion in threatening Board of Pardons and Paroles member Ron Johnson over a personnel vote.
In Mecham's trial Thursday, state handwriting expert William Flynn testified there had been a number of "white-outs, erasures and alterations" in the campaign checkbook. He did not speculate on the reasons for the changes.
Crowe contended the revisions were innocent corrections, but the prosecution implied "there was something wrong, something criminal, something improper" about them.
"The effect (n the jury) was devastating," Crowe said.
During the afternoon session, jurors were read portions of Willard Mecham's January testimony to the state grand jury, in which he denied wrongdoing when he lumped the $350,000 loan into a $465,000 total listed on financial reports as a contribution from Evan Mecham.
The transcript also showed Willard Mecham said he did not know about a letter, in which his brother promised Wolfson the loan would "remain confidential," until after the loan's existence was publicly disclosed by the