Former Rep. Pat Swindall, who rode into Congress five years ago on the Reagan Revolution themes of God and patriotism, Monday was sentenced to a year in prison and fined $30,000 for lying to a federal grand jury about his knowledge of a scheme to launder drug money.
Swindall was convicted on June 20 of nine counts of perjury. On Monday, he again proclaimed his innocence. He will remain free while pursuing appeals.
Seemed a Rising Star
As a dynamic young conservative who thumped hard on anti-abortion and anti-communist themes, Swindall seemed a rising star in the GOP when he wrested the suburban Atlanta congressional seat away from liberal Democrat Elliott H. Levitas in a 1984 upset.
After being reelected in 1986, Swindall was soon beset by money troubles, and, by election time last year, his career was crumbling after a federal indictment for perjury.
Swindall had been seeking to borrow $850,000 to complete work on his home. Secretly taped conversations showed Swindall negotiating the loan with an Internal Revenue Service undercover agent and a political supporter, and the tape disclosed that Swindall was told that the loan money probably would be raised through illegal drug sales.
Backed Out of Deal
Swindall accepted and endorsed a $150,000 check, a first installment, then backed out of the deal and returned the check. He was convicted of lying to the grand jury about the dealings. During his trial, Swindall contended that he was tired and his memory faulty during his grand jury testimony.
Before his sentencing, Swindall, 38, tried for about a half hour to persuade U.S. District Judge Richard C. Freeman to be lenient. "I stand before you in all humility," he said.
"You don't know the meaning of humility, Mr. Swindall," the judge interrupted. "I thought you were beginning to learn it, but I'm afraid you're not."
Nevertheless, Freeman sentenced Swindall to a prison term only slightly longer than the 10 months mandated by federal guidelines. Freeman recommended that Swindall serve his sentence at a minimum-security facility here.
Swindall later told reporters that he would continue to fight the conviction and declared: "This is just halftime; I don't think I will ever go to prison if justice is done."
U.S. Atty. Robert L. Barr Jr. acknowledged that the legal process could be a long one. "Unfortunately, we have not seen the last of Mr. Swindall's arguments," he said in an interview. "As far as I can tell, he has not changed one iota. He's still very combative, very argumentative."
Rep. Ben Jones, the Democrat who defeated Swindall last year, called the sentence reasonable. "This has laid a lick on him. Given the fact that he has three small children and another one on the way, society is best served having him serve his sentence then get out to work and help those kids," Jones said.
Former associates said they felt disillusioned by Swindall's downfall.
Former Aide Comments
"Knowing him and the way he pushed God and country and apple pie and the Republican Party, if a Democrat had done this, he (Swindall) would have pushed for the maximum sentence," said Frank J. Beltran, an undergraduate classmate and a judicial adviser to Swindall during his first term.
"It's kind of like the prosecutor said, this guy had all the potential in the world to lead us the right way, and he let us down--Republicans and Democrats alike."