PROVO Prosecutors amended a charge against a former Eagle Mountain city councilwoman but say the level of culpability is still the same.
Linn Strouse, 60, was originally charged with a second-degree felony of accepting a gift when prohibited. That charge was amended Wednesday to a second-degree felony of use of office for personal benefit.
"(This) is the more appropriate charge that applies to Linn Strouse as a council member," said deputy Utah County Attorney Chad Grunander.
The change of charges came because late Tuesday night Utah County prosecutors realized the statute Strouse had originally been charged under did not apply to city council members. In fact, it didn't include any officials in a city or town but was geared more toward legislators.
Prosecutors say Strouse, who previously served as interim mayor and a city councilwoman in Eagle Mountain, accepted $10,000 from Eagle Mountain developer John Walden in July 2005 for renovations on her basement.
She was remodeling to allow family members a place to live while they helped her care for her husband, who had cancer.
The first charge focused on the fact that Strouse should have reported the financial gift within 10 days but didn't.
The amended charge now focuses on the financial persuasion issue, due to her political position.
Prosecutors contend that Strouse knew the money would improperly influence her decisions as a politician or that she took it as a reward for political action. They don't have to prove that she was actually bribed, only that she could have been.
So, rather than proceed with a preliminary hearing Wednesday in 4th District Court, both sides agreed to a continuance, based on the amended charge, which still relies on the same facts.
Had it not been changed, defense attorney Ron Yengich said he would have brought up several concerns.
"If the judge accepted our argument, he would have had to not bind the case over," he said after the hearing, "because it was not a crime under the statute."
No charges have ever been considered for Walden, who did nothing wrong by giving the gift, Grunander said.
Discussions continue, and Grunander said he was hopeful there could be a resolution soon.
"We're hopeful to resolve the case short of trial, if we're confident (about) the level of accountability she would have," Grunander said.
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