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Ex-Mo. Gov. Wilson seeks probation for donations

COLUMBIA (AP) — Former Missouri Gov. Roger Wilson plans to ask for probation when he is sentenced today in federal court for misusing money involved in illegal political donations.

Wilson’s attorney filed a sentencing memo this week in the U.S. District Court’s Eastern District of Missouri noting his client’s “24 years of public service untouched by any hint of impropriety.” The filing also blamed the misconduct in part on a board member at Missouri Employers Mutual Insurance Co. who “smothered Roger with demands and his personal agenda.”

Wilson, a Democrat, pleaded guilty in April to one count of misdemeanor campaign finance fraud for improperly steering $8,000 to the state Democratic Party in 2009, while he was president of the Columbia-based insurer, a state-created workers’ compensation firm. Wilson had served two terms as lieutenant governor when he became governor for three months after the death of Democratic Gov. Mel Carnahan in a late 2000 plane crash. Wilson had previously spent nearly 14 years in the state Senate.

The St. Louis law firm Herzog Crebs donated $5,000 to the Missouri Democratic Party in August 2009, but it hid the cost in legal bills submitted to the insurance company when Wilson was in charge. Wilson used his own money to hide an additional $3,000 donation from the law firm. The donations were made while Wilson was the insurance firm’s interim CEO. He was named to the full-time position in January 2010, but removed by the board without explanation in June 2011, one month after being placed on administrative leave.

According to Wilson’s federal indictment — which was issued the same day he pleaded guilty — board chairman Douglas Morgan asked St. Louis attorney Edward Griesedieck III, a former Herzog Crebs partner, to make the Democratic Party donation without the knowledge of other board members. Morgan also sought a second contribution for $3,000, which was questioned by the insurance firm’s general counsel.

“Although there was nothing that prohibited MEM (Missouri Employers Mutual) from making such contributions, there was concern that it would inevitably invite solicitations from politicians throughout the state for similar contributions,” attorney Robert Haar wrote on behalf of Wilson. “That resulted in the board member’s proposal that any contribution be made through the law firm. Roger did not say ‘no.’ He did not pick a fight. He will spend the rest of his life regretting it.”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch first reported on Wilson’s sentencing request Wednesday.

Griesedieck, whose law license was suspended by the state Supreme Court this week pending the outcome of the criminal case, is also scheduled to be sentenced Monday in St. Louis. He filed his own sentencing memo with the court, but it too is under seal. His attorney, Matthew Schelp, told the Post-Dispatch that Griesedieck is also seeking probation.

Morgan, who was under his own federal fraud indictment in an unrelated case, died in 2011.

Both Wilson and Griesedieck face up to six months in prison under federal sentencing guidelines.

The federal court docket shows several unidentified people submitted letters in support of a lighter sentence for Wilson, but the letters were deemed confidential and filed under seal.

“It is impossible to overstate the anguish and public embarrassment this matter has caused Roger,” his attorney wrote. “”For those who do not know Roger, this conviction has eclipsed more than two decades of public service. As for those who do know him, there is nothing more painful ... than the thought he has disappointed people who believed in him.”

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