Thursday, June 05, 2008

Defense attorney: Lupton part of probe into Doyle fundraising

The lawyer for a real estate agent charged with soliciting a kickback in the sale of a state office building says he believes his client was used as a pawn in an investigation into the fundraising practices of Gov. Jim Doyle's re-election campaign. But the prosecutor in the case called those allegations "flat, baseless assertions" and challenged the defense attorney to provide evidence to back up his claims.

During a status hearing in federal court in Milwaukee Wednesday, attorney Joseph Owens said he will argue during trial that former Equis Corp. contractor Larry Lupton was targeted by federal investigators as they tried to probe ties between Equis, state government officials and contributions to Doyle's 2006 campaign.

Lupton said he intends to call AG J.B. Van Hollen and former DOA Secretary Marc Marotta as witnesses during the trial, which was tentatively set for Sept. 22.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Haanstad said he would challenge that effort.

"It's not clear that they would have any relevant testimony to offer," Haanstad said.

After the hearing, Owens told a WisPolitics reporter that he believed investigators targeted Lupton as part of a larger probe into Doyle campaign fundraising practices.

Owens said he believes the government was attempting to use Lupton "as a pawn" in order to get to high-level officials, but admitted he had no hard evidence to prove this is what the government was after.

Haanstad declined to comment on whether he's discussed any potential deal with Owens, but dismissed the notion that the prosecution was politically motivated.

"All Mr. Owens has done is make flat, baseless assertions about this prosecution being politically motivated," Haanstad said. "His comments in court today are consistent with earlier baseless extra-judicial statements that he's made."

"If Mr. Owens wants to put something on the record by filing a motion along those lines, in which he can actually identify evidence that supports such a claim, then I'll respond to that in writing, and on the record," Haanstad said.

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