Former Political Bigwig|Convicted of Bribery

     (CN) – A federal jury convicted a former president pro tem of the Oklahoma Senate of taking bribes to influence legislation.
     Michael Morgan, 57, of Stillwater, was convicted in Oklahoma City Federal Court of one count of bribery. Jurors deadlocked or acquitted him of 61 other counts, 33 of them felonies, Oklahoma newspapers reported.
     U.S. Attorney Sanford C. Coats said in a statement: “The sale of political influence by an elected official is simply not acceptable. … I hope the jury’s verdict shows a lawyer-legislator that they cannot hide behind the cloak of legal fees when accepting illegal payments.”
     Morgan was acquitted on counts of conspiracy and mail fraud, while jurors were unable to reach a unanimous verdict on one count of extortion and additional counts of mail fraud. Federal prosecutors will determine by next week whether to retry him on those counts.
     Prosecutors say Morgan, an attorney, accepted 12 bribes of $1,000 each, disguised as legal fees from Silver Oak Senior Living Center, an assisted-living center operator, in exchange for favorable treatment in the Legislature.
     “Evidence showed that Silver Oak had been at odds with the Oklahoma Department of Health, which was attempting to impose regulations on assisted-living facilities,” prosecutors said in the statement. “In exchange for the bribe payments, evidence showed that Morgan authored Senate Bill 738, which became law at the end of the 2007 session and helped Silver Oak by lifting some of its regulatory burdens.”
     Charges against co-defendant-lobbyist William Andrew Skeith, 53, of Edmond, Okla., were dismissed.
     Oklahoma City attorney N. Martin Stringer, 71, was acquitted of all 29 counts he faced.
     Morgan faces up to 10 years in federal prison and $250,000 in fines. His sentencing has yet to be scheduled. His attorney, David Ogle, told Oklahoma newspapers that he will appeal.

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