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Swindall Convicted of Lying in Probe of Money Laundering

June 20, 1989|From Times Wire Services

ATLANTA — Former Rep. Pat Swindall was convicted today of nine counts of perjury for lying to a federal grand jury about a money-laundering scheme.

The 38-year-old conservative Republican, who served two terms in Congress from Atlanta's suburbs before being defeated in November, could receive up to five years in prison plus fines of $250,000 on each count at sentencing Aug. 25.

Swindall left the courtroom saying he was "numb, disappointed, but not terribly surprised," as his wife, Kim, stood behind him, wearing a lilac maternity dress and clutching his hand.

'Have Been Forgiven'

"I had said months before that I had gotten into something," Swindall said, referring to a tearful apology he issued after the case became public last year. "I confessed publicly and openly, and for that I feel I have been forgiven by God and my constituents.

"I'm prepared to do whatever I have to do. If I have to go to prison, I'll go to prison and I'll have a good attitude about it."

The jury deliberated 17 hours over four days after nearly four weeks of testimony. Swindall was indicted in October on 10 counts of perjury. U.S. District Judge Richard C. Freeman dismissed one count during the trial.

The former congressman was accused of lying to a grand jury in 1988 about his 1987 negotiations with an IRS agent posing as a drug-money launderer and with Swindall associate Charles LeChasney, later convicted of money laundering.

Among other things, Swindall was found guilty of perjury for denying that he had been told that the $850,000 he was seeking from the agent to finish building his luxurious home contained proceeds from drug trafficking.

Appeal Planned

Swindall's chief attorney, Richard Hendrix, said he will appeal.

Swindall, a lanky, boyish lawyer, went to Congress in 1984 from the city's affluent eastern suburbs as a conservative, fundamentalist Christian. Under the cloud of the perjury indictment, he lost to Democrat Ben Jones, who appeared in "The Dukes of Hazzard" television series.

The jury heard secretly taped conversations with the undercover agent, Mike Mullaney, in which Swindall was told that the $850,000 "certainly" included drug money and that he would be part of an operation to "wash" cash. Swindall proposed that a mortgage company be set up by LeChasney as a "buffer" to allow him to "borrow" the agent's money.

In their last conversation after Swindall had received a $150,000 advance, he told Mullaney, "If Charles wants to launder y'all's money, fine. But I can't do that. . . . I can borrow the money from Charles."

Swindall was a largely unknown lawyer and furniture store owner when he was elected in an upset in 1984, toppling veteran Democrat Elliott Levitas.

'Biblical Score Card'

Swindall, a Presbyterian, took his campaign to evangelical churches, distributing a "Biblical score card" in his race against Levitas, who is Jewish.

In his two terms, Swindall staunchly voted with the Reagan right and acquired a reputation as somewhat of a gadfly, voting against such popular programs as school lunch funding and aid to African famine victims. He filed a brief with the Supreme Court advocating the teaching of "creationism" in schools.

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