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Letter Describes Torricelli Donor as 'Credible'

Politics: Court filing had found 'corroborating evidence' in gifts case.

September 27, 2002|From Times Wire Services

NEWARK, N.J. — Federal prosecutors described allegations made by businessman David Chang against Sen. Robert Torricelli as "credible in most material respects," even though the New Jersey Democrat wasn't charged, according to a letter unsealed Thursday.

The prosecutors filed the letter under court seal before Chang was sentenced May 23 to 18 months in prison for funneling $53,700 illegally to Torricelli, who is in a dead heat with Republican candidate Douglas Forrester in his bid for reelection. Torricelli has called Chang a liar whose statements can't be trusted.

Torricelli has admitted that on three occasions he accepted gifts from Chang that he did not report under Senate rules, including a television set and two pairs of earrings. He has denied receiving any other gifts.

Chang provided accurate information that led to the conviction of Kenneth Quinones, a U.S. State Department employee, for exchanging influence for cash and gifts, according to the letter. Prosecutors requested leniency for Chang. The details Chang provided about Torricelli soliciting cash and gifts led them to uncover "substantial corroborating evidence," the prosecutors said.

"Although the government did not ultimately bring a prosecution against the public official, the government also found Chang's statements concerning the conduct of the public official to be credible in most material respects," prosecutors wrote to U.S. District Judge Alfred Wolin.

Torricelli tried unsuccessfully to block release of the letter. A U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Thursday against the senator.

Torricelli said he fought to keep the sentencing memo private in part because he believes he has been unfairly treated by the media and he feared statements from it would be taken out of context.

Prosecutors declined in January to charge Torricelli and referred the case to the Senate ethics committee, which "severely admonished" him on July 30.

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