Legal Newsline

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Ten who had to face the press

By John O'Brien | Jul 30, 2010

Eliot Spitzer, New York's former attorney general and governor, knows something about making headlines -- for good and bad reasons. This fall, Spitzer will be co-hosting a roundtable television show for CNN. Legal Newsline takes a look at 10 other state attorneys general who made the wrong kind of headlines, like Spitzer did when his participation in a prostitution ring was revealed.

Dan Morales was Texas' attorney general from 1991-1999, overseeing the State's tobacco litigation that resulted in a $17 billion settlement. However, he pleaded guilty in 2003 to filing a false tax return, admitting he did not report $420,000 in campaign contributions converted for personal use. He also pleaded guilty to mail fraud in a scheme involving attorneys fees from the tobacco settlement. He was sentenced to four year in prison and three years supervised release.

A special investigator determined former New Jersey Attorney General Zulima Farber violated the state's code of ethics in 2006 when she had state police drive her to Fairview, where her boyfriend had been pulled over. The tickets he received were withdrawn and his car, unregistered, was not impounded. Farber resigned a few months later.

The Ohio Republican Party called for state Attorney General Marc Dann's resignation in 2008, and he complied. Dann had admitted to having an affair with a subordinate. Also, a report had been released that indicated that under Dann's leadership the attorney general's office had an atmosphere that encouraged unprofessional behavior. Ohio Democrats kicked him out of their party, too. Another report said Dann had at least two dozen acts of misusing campaign and office money.

In 2007, Kansas Attorney General Paul Morrison resigned after allegations that he had an extramarital affair with a former employee in a district attorney's office. That woman also alleged Morrison sexualy harassed her and tried to use her to gain sensitive information about Johnson County DA Phill Kline, whom Morrison defeated in the election the year before.

Sarah Palin made Talis Colberg Alaska's attorney general in 2006, but he resigned less than three years later. Colberg and lawmakers were investigating whether Palin and several top aides pressured Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan to fire Trooper Mike Wooten, who was engaged in a bitter divorce and child custody dispute with Palin's sister. Colberg drew criticism when he sued to quash the subpoenas of seven state workers.

New Hampshire Attorney General Peter Heed resigned in 2004 after allegations of inappropriate conduct with a woman on the dance floor at a conference. The woman with whom he was dancing did not initiate the complaint. A police report said Heed touched the woman's hips but did nothing criminal. Heed is now the Cheshire County Attorney

Former Pennsylvania Attorney General Ernie Preate served 14 months in prison, beginning in 1995, after pleading guilty to mail fraud. He had been accused of misusing campaign funds in his 1989 campaign for attorney general. This article chronicles how his time in a federal prison in Minnesota changed his view of the criminal justice system.

Jack P.F. Gremillion, on the right next to entertainer Jimmy Durante, spent 16 years as Louisiana's attorney general but couldn't avoid trouble. In 1971, he was acquitted on charges of mail fraud, conspiracy and fraud stemming from the sale of securities, but was later convicted on perjury charges in a related case. He spent 15 months in jail.

Peg Lautenschlager became Wisconsin's first female attorney general when she was elected in 2002 but lost her party's primary in 2006. Undoubtedly, her 2004 guilty plea to drunk driving did not help her at the polls. Her state-owned vehicle was found in a ditch, and her preliminary breathalizer test showed a blood alcohol level of 0.12.

Mike Hatch left the Minnesota Attorney General's Office for a failed run at governor, but his successor, Lori Swanson, gave him a spot on her staff. That was short-lived, though, as Hatch left in 2007. Swanson was opposing a push to unionize the assistant attorneys general in her office, and some blamed Hatch for fueling a dispute between Swanson and pro-union staffers. Many staffers had quit when Swanson took over.

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