Former Arizona Gov. Evan Mecham's court acquittal Thursday means the welcome mat is again out for him at Brigham Young University, and residents of his Utah hometown, Altamont, Duchesne County, contemplated cheers in the street as they heard the news.
BYU spokesman Paul Richards said Wednesday night that Mecham is now welcome to speak at the university. The College Republicans had previously been kept from inviting him to speak on campus because of the BYU ethics policy."The thing we got hung up on was that if somebody is currently involved in criminal litigation we don't have them speak on campus. Once that's cleared away then there is no barrier," Richards said.
Mecham and his brother, Willard, were acquitted by a jury of charges they concealed a $350,000 campaign loan. Evan Mecham was cleared of six counts and Willard of three counts of perjury, willful concealment and filing false documents.
The impeached Arizona governor was earlier convicted by the Arizona Senate for obstructing justice and misusing state money.
Brad Hainsworth, faculty adviser for the College Republicans, said the group will be contacting Mecham and will be glad to have him speak to the group at the nearest convenient date. If his schedule allows, Mecham could be at BYU this summer.
In Altamont, the town where Mecham grew up, residents said they were elated at the news. Townspeople said they never doubted his innocence.
"People are saying we ought to have a big `hurrah,' `hurrah' tonight," said Bernice Atwood while at Stevenson's Grocery Thursday night. She knew the Mecham family as Evan was growing up.
"When he came to graduation (ast month) he told the students `You should live the way you have been taught.' We are sure that he has been doing what he had been taught," Atwood said.
Most of the Altamont residents had been worried what might happen to Mecham if he had been found guilty. However, she believed most of the charges had been exaggerated by opponents and the media.
"It was a serious charge, but we have had a lot of faith in him. We are elated," she said.
Stevenson's Grocery proprietor LaRue Stevenson said that Mecham's victory was bittersweet.
"I am personally glad he won. I knew he wasn't guilty. I feel that none of us thought he was guilty," Stevenson said. "It is a sad thing. It has really hurt him."