Former Gov. Evan Mecham long has acknowledged he didn't itemize a $350,000 campaign loan on his financial statements, but it will be up to a jury to decide this week if that failure was a criminal act.
Closing arguments are scheduled Tuesday after seven days of testimony in the trial of the impeached Mecham and his brother, Willard, on charges of concealing the loan.The prosecution's case is based on "smoke and mirrors," Mecham told reporters after the defense rested its case Friday without testimony from either defendant.
"I'm confident that the state has not proven its case," the former governor said, although he stopped short of predicting he will be acquitted.
"We are confident that the jury will return a just verdict," prosecutor Barnett Lotstein said Friday.
Mecham, a Republican, was removed from office April 4 by impeachment conviction on two unrelated charges. The state Senate decided not to consider a charge on the loan for fear of prejudicing the criminal trial.
He also was the subject of a recall movement, but an election was canceled after his impeachment conviction.
Mecham, 64, first received national attention in January 1987 for his decision to cancel a Martin Luther King holiday for state executive branch workers on grounds it was illegally created by his predecessor, Democrat Bruce Babbitt, without legislative authorization.
Mecham also drew criticism for defending an author's use of the word "pickaninny" in a book in reference to black children, and he made a variety of statements that offended women, Jews, homosexuals and Japanese-Americans.
In the criminal case, he faces up to 22 years in prison if convicted on all six felony counts of perjury, willful concealment and filing false documents.
Willard Mecham, who was treasurer for his younger brother's 1986 campaign, faces up to 91/2 years in prison if convicted of three similar counts.
The prosecution contended that Mecham's campaign badly needed the $350,000 loan from developer Barry Wolfson, but that Mecham wanted to conceal its source because it would contradict his campaign theme of being "beholden to no one."
None of Mecham's personal or campaign financial reports lists a $350,000 loan from Wolfson. Instead, one campaign report includes a $465,000 lump sum identified as a contribution from Mecham himself. The $450,000 also included a $100,000 loan to Mecham from a financial institution and a $15,000 contribution by Mecham.
The Mechams put up two defenses: that the loan was properly listed as part of the $465,000 lump sum, and that the failure to itemize the loan was an innocent mistake by Willard Mecham.
Also, former top Mecham aide Edith Richardson testified for the defense that the loan was "common knowledge" among Mecham's inner circle.
The prosecution said it was immaterial whether Mecham's closest aides knew about the Wolfson loan.
"This is the document where the public gets its information, isn't that true?" prosecutor Michael Cudahy asked one witness, referring to Mecham's contribution and expenditure report. "I'm not talking about insiders in the campaign, finance chairmen, close confidantes of Evan Mecham."
Mecham long has acknowledged that the Wolfson loan appeared nowhere on his financial statements outside of the $465,000 lump sum, until he filed an amended form in November 1987.
He also insisted last fall that the loan was made to the campaign, not to him personally.
But Wolfson testified that he considered the loan a personal one, not to the campaign.
A former Mecham campaign finance committee member, Vern Gasser, testified that he couldn't recall the meaning of notes he took during a committee meeting in fall 1986. The notes said "show Evan borrowed money" and "don't show borrowed money."
Mecham refused to say Friday why he did not testify. His attorney, Michael Scott, said he wanted to avoid having his client "brutalized" on cross-examination.