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Former Agriculture Secretary Espy Indicted

White House declines to comment on former Cabinet member's legal troubles

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Aug. 27) -- Former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy has been indicted by a federal grand jury on 39 counts of illegally accepting gifts and favors while a member of the Clinton cabinet, and trying to cover up those activities.

A grand jury in Washington has charged Espy with accepting gifts, trips and favors worth more than $35,000 from major businesses working with the Agriculture Department while he headed the agency in 1993 and 1994. He was also charged with lying to prosecutors and instructing an Agriculture Department employee to tamper with a document sought by investigators.

smaltz

Independent Counsel Donald Smaltz, who led the investigation into Espy's conduct, said at a press conference this afternoon, "The indictment charged Espy with violation of a variety of criminal statues including violation of his duty to provide honest services to the American public, by taking over $35,000 in things of value for the benefit of himself, his girlfriend or his family from persons, firms and entities having business before the United States Department of Agriculture."

The rise and fall of Mike Espy

A former congressman from Mississippi, Espy was President Bill Clinton's first agriculture secretary. He resigned from the post in December 1994, three months after the start of the independent counsel's probe.

espy clinton

While a cabinet member, investigators believe that Espy accepted gifts of airfare, luggage, sports tickets and cash gratuities that benefitted himself, his family members or his former girlfriend, Patricia Dempsey.

The sources of most of the gifts were the Arkansas-based chicken-processing giant Tyson Foods and Sun Diamond Growers of California, a cooperative that produces raisins, prunes and other dried fruits. Both companies have also been targets of Smaltz's investigation.

So far, Espy has denied all charges of wrongdoing. If convicted on all counts he faces a maximum term of more than 100 years in prison. Espy is expected to be arraigned in federal court in Washington, D.C., sometime in the next 10 days.

The Clinton Administration had no comment on Espy's indictment, saying only it is a "judicial process." Smaltz declined to comment when asked if the White House has been cooperative in the probe.

Smaltz's $9.2 million investigation

Smaltz was appointed in 1994 to investigate whether Espy broke the law by accepting tickets to a Dallas Cowboys playoff game and $1,009 in airfare for himself and Dempsey from a lobbyist for Tyson Foods Inc.

Critics of Smaltz have charged that his probe has produced few results despite having dragged on nearly three years. But Smaltz insisted that he would continue as long as necessary. "How much longer? Until we can complete our inv