Prosecutors explain weakness in Fiesta Bowl cases

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 20, 2014 at 4:48 pm •  Published: March 20, 2014
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PHOENIX (AP) — The sentencing of the former Fiesta Bowl chief executive marks the end of criminal cases arising from a scandal that led to guilty pleas by six bowl employees but only one prison sentence.

Former bowl leader John Junker was sentenced Thursday in state court in Phoenix to probation for his acknowledged role in an illegal campaign contribution scheme. A week ago, he was sentenced in federal court to eight months in prison on a conviction arising from the scandal in which bowl employees made illegal contributions to politicians and were reimbursed at least $46,000 for the donations.

The scandal exposed the lavish spending and perks that the Fiesta Bowl heaped on lawmakers and employees, but the investigation ended without any criminal charges being filed over those perks. And a former lobbyist who was implicated in the campaign finance case by Junker wasn't charged with any crimes related to his work for the bowl. The lobbyist pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge in a similar campaign finance reimbursement scheme that involved his own business.

Nearly 30 lawmakers received free football or other tickets, and some got all-expense-paid trips from the bowl, but prosecutors declined to bring any charges against them. County Attorney Bill Montgomery has said the law covering legislator freebies was so vaguely written that he had no case. He recommended that the Legislature rewrite the law, but nothing was ever done on the matter.

Junker's spending came under scrutiny during the scandal. He received cars, four high-end country club memberships, a $33,000 birthday party in Pebble Beach, Calif., and a $1,200 for a trip to a strip club, among other benefits from the Fiesta Bowl.

Matthew Conti, who prosecuted Junker in state court, said prosecutors concluded that there wasn't enough evidence to convict Junker of criminal wrongdoing in his spending at the bowl. Conti said Junker had broad spending discretion and that the bowl's board would likely have approved any of his expenditure requests — as excessive as they might have been.