Friday, March 23, 2007

Charges Against Hurtgen Dismissed

A federal judge has dismissed fraud and extortion charges against former Tommy Thompson aide Nick Hurtgen, ruling prosecutors did not present any evidence he knew about an alleged kickback scheme in an Illinois hospital project.

Prosecutors had charged Hurtgen with three counts of mail fraud, three courts of wire fraud and one court of extortion. They alleged he was involved in a scheme with Stuart Levine, who was a member of the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board, which has to sign off on any hospital project in that state can be built. They alleged Hurtgen told hospital authorities which construction firm to select if they wanted approval for a project.

But U.S. District Court Judge John Grady wrote in his decision that Hurtgen would have had to know that Levine was expecting a kickback from the construction firm to prove the mail and wire fraud charges. He wrote prosecutors had not provided evidence of that.

He also wrote there was nothing in the indictment to suggest Hurtgen knew Levine favored the construction company for anything other than the quality of its work.

"Certainly knowledge is an essential element of extortion; there is no such thing as accidental or negligent extortion," Grady wrote in his explanation for dismissing the extortion charge.

Hurtgen attorney Steve Hurley did not return calls from WisPolitics. Randall Samborn, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Chicago, said, "We are reviewing the opinion and will consider our options, including an appeal to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals."

See the ruling:
http://www.wispolitics.com/1006/070321HurtgenDismiss.pdf

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