PHOENIX (AP) — Prosecutors are seeking a one-year prison sentence for a former Fiesta Bowl chief executive who admitted to participating in an illegal campaign contribution scheme, saying the longtime bowl leader should be granted some leniency for cooperating with authorities but should ultimately serve time behind bars because he abused his position of power.
John Junker is set to be sentenced March 13 for his involvement in a scheme in which bowl employees made illegal campaign contributions to politicians and were reimbursed by the bowl. The bowl, a nonprofit, was barred from making such contributions. Bowl employees were reimbursed at least $46,000 for campaign contributions.
His guilty plea two years ago to a federal conspiracy charge carries a punishment of up to five years in prison. Prosecutors, who made their sentencing recommendation Friday to U.S. District Judge David Campbell, said Junker's attorney is expected to seek probation.
Prosecutors said they were satisfied with Junker's cooperation and believe that the former bowl leader answered their questions truthfully and appeared remorseful.
Still, they said Junker, who was fired from the bowl in March 2011, should face prison time because he solicited his employees to commit crimes.
Four bowl employees were convicted of a state misdemeanor of making a prohibited campaign contribution, and the bowl's former chief operating officer pleaded guilty to a federal felony conspiracy charge. All five were sentenced to probation.
"Junker's serious abuse of his pre-eminent place within the Fiesta Bowl put his employees in the untenable position of either committing criminal offenses or displeasing their boss and perhaps risking their jobs," prosecutor Frank Galati said in the court filing.
They say Junker also undermined the electoral process by seeking to increase the bowl's influence with politicians who had been given the illegal contributions. "Such conduct feeds public cynicism and the growing perception that the political process belongs to the rich and powerful at the expense of the average citizen," Galati wrote.
A call left midday Tuesday to Junker's attorney, Stephen Dichter, wasn't immediately returned.
In a court filing in May, Dichter said the leader of the scheme was a lobbyist, not Junker, and that the bowl CEO wasn't deeply involved in the day-to-day operation of the scheme.
He said Junker's involvement included making political contributions himself that were reimbursed and failing to stop the scheme.
In his plea agreement, Junker said he knew it was illegal to use other people's names to mask political contributions and that the bowl couldn't legally reimburse the contributions.