Rep. Pat Swindall (R-Ga.) was indicted Monday on charges that he lied under oath 10 times to a federal grand jury investigating his connections with a scheme to launder drug money.
Swindall, 37, pleaded not guilty and demanded to go on trial next Monday in hopes of establishing his innocence in the three weeks before voters decide Nov. 8 on his bid for a third term in the House. Federal prosecutors said that they would not object to the unusual request.
In Atlanta, U.S. Atty. Robert L. Barr Jr. said that there were no political considerations in the decision to bring perjury charges against Swindall based on his grand jury testimony last Feb. 2 in a case involving a federal “sting” operation.
Democratic Party analysts in Washington, however, said that the mid-October announcement of the indictment reinforced their belief that Swindall is the “most vulnerable” Republican member of the House seeking reelection this year.
An Atlanta political writer, Bill Shipp, predicted Swindall’s defeat, saying: “I don’t believe the people of the 4th District (of Georgia) will reelect a congressman under indictment.”
Swindall, who said that he would act as his own lawyer during the coming trial, asked Oct. 3 to be indicted immediately so the allegations against him could be resolved before next month’s balloting.
He was accused of giving false testimony to mislead the grand jury and to conceal his knowledge of an illegal plan proposed by two associates to launder drug money through an Atlanta business that would provide Swindall with $850,000 in cash as a loan for construction of a mansion on Stone Mountain near Atlanta.
As the congressman tells it, however, he made a mistake in judgment by discussing the loan but did nothing illegal because he backed out when he became convinced that it involved shady dealings. But the indictment against him charges that he committed perjury rather than offenses relating to money-laundering.
Returns Check Uncashed
Swindall also denied that a $150,000 check he received from Charles LeChasney, an Atlanta businessman, was related to the money-laundering scheme. After first endorsing the check and turning it over to his contractor, Swindall later returned it to LeChasney, uncashed.
The Atlanta Journal said Monday that LeChasney, who has been indicted on money-laundering charges, has appeared recently before the grand jury and is expected to be a witness against Swindall.
Disclosures about Swindall’s conduct have tarnished his reputation as a staunch conservative, with strong ties to evangelical Christians, who often expounded “traditional family values.”
Swindall is being challenged by Ben Jones, 47, a former actor, in what is regarded as one of the dirtiest congressional election campaigns in the nation.
Rocked by newspaper reports of his taped discussions with an undercover Internal Revenue Service agent concerning the $850,000 loan, Swindall went on the attack against his opponent, demanding that he release his arrest and medical records.
Jones acknowledged that he had a serious drinking problem before 1977 that ruined three previous marriages and also admitted that he had smoked marijuana several times in the 1960s and 1970s.
Staff writer David Treadwell in Atlanta contributed to this story.