Arizona legislator Ben Arredondo pleads not guilty to US charges

PHOENIX - An Arizona legislator pleaded not guilty Wednesday to bribery and other charges in an indictment that said he assured undercover FBI agents posing as business representatives that they only had to ask to have their needs fulfilled.

State Rep. Ben Arredondo, D-Tempe, was arraigned in federal court on five felony counts stemming from an FBI investigation conducted in 2009 and 2010 while and after he served on the Tempe City Council.

The court hearing included wrangling over a procedural matter in which prosecutors earlier disclosed that Arredondo's case is somehow related to other, undisclosed investigations.

The charges accuse Arredondo of soliciting and accepting about $6,000 worth of tickets to charity events and sports games from FBI agents and of disclosing confidential city information to the agents in 2009 and 2010.

"You guys will ask, you guys will have," the indictment quoted Arredondo as telling agents posing as representatives of a business trying to acquire city-owned property.

Defense attorney Lee Stein declined after the arraignment to discuss specifics of the charges against Arredondo, but the lawyer told reporters that Arredondo was "a dedicated public servant" wrongly targeted by the federal government.

"What we have here is the government took three years and spent thousands of dollars of taxpayer money to essentially create a crime. What did they end up with? They ended up with a few tables for a charity. Is that a crime? Some baseball tickets, come on," Stein said. "There's a lot that's not in this indictment and that's all going to come out in court."

Arredondo, Stein added, "is not for sale. He was not for sale. He's not on the gravy train."

When asked what he thought about Arredondo stepping down Stein said "No, and frankly the people who have suggested that he step down should be ashamed of themselves, this is America just because someone makes an allegation doesn't mean you need to resign."

Last year, Arredondo was named in a Fiesta Bowl report that said the operation provided Arredondo with tickets to NFL games at his request while a City Council member.

He and numerous other current or former legislators identified in the Fiesta Bowl report as accepting game tickets or trips to football games were not prosecuted.

Magistrate Lawrence O. Anderson scheduled a July 3 trial for Arredondo before U.S. District Judge Frederick Martone, but Anderson also threw a kink into attorney's plans to prepare for the trial.

Andersondenied prosecutors' request for a blanket order barring disclosure to the public of information that the government plans to provide Arredondo's defense team so they can prepare for the trial.

The motion filed last week said the large amount of material included information on other investigations and that public disclosure would impede those that are still ongoing and step on privacy rights of people "whose conduct is or was at one time under investigation."

Andersonsaid a blanket order barring disclosure of so-called "discovery" material would sweep in non-confidential information and that he didn't find legal grounds to go that far.

Because of the bulk of material involved, it would be easier for lawyers on both sides "to just treat everything a certain way," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Frederick Battista.

Andersonsaid prosecutors could file a new motion if they can provide legal justification for their request, and he said defense attorneys could submit papers under seal if they have information to support the request.

Defense attorney Jean-Jacques Cabou told Anderson that Arredondo's lawyers supported the prosecutors' motion "so long as we are granted access to the material at the earliest possible moment."

The indictment charges Arredondo with bribery, mail fraud, extortion and false statements.

Arredondo was elected to the Legislature in November 2010, taking office in January 2011, after 16 years on the Tempe City Council. A retired teacher, he previously served on a school board and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.

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