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Ex-Sen. Hill Gets 46-Month Prison Term for Corruption : Ethics: He still proclaims innocence in FBI sting that led to conviction of 14, including five state legislators. Co-defendant receives 21 months.

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Still proclaiming his innocence, former state Sen. Frank Hill (R-Whittier) on Monday was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison for taking an illegal $2,500 payment from an undercover FBI agent participating in a Capitol sting operation.

U.S. District Judge Edward J. Garcia ordered Hill, who resigned his Senate seat in July after his conviction on public corruption charges, to report to federal prison authorities by Oct. 12.

The sentencing of Hill and a co-defendant at the federal courthouse a few blocks from the Capitol is expected to be one of the final public acts in a wide-ranging probe of corruption in state government that led to the conviction of 14 people, including five legislators.

Before sentencing, Hill made an emotional appeal, saying, “I want you to know, Judge Garcia, that I never, ever would trade my vote for any official action for $2,500 or any other amount.”

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In the hushed courtroom filled with relatives, friends and current and former lawmakers, the 40-year-old Hill told the veteran jurist that the greatest honor of his life was to be elected to the Assembly and later the Senate, but that “the greatest shame of my life” was having to resign.

However, Garcia said the ex-lawmaker lied during the trial and issued his own stern warning to the once-rising Republican star. “A crime such as this is tantamount to anarchy because of the trust that we voters put in our elected officials,” Garcia maintained.

“I have no doubts that you are guilty, Mr. Hill, based on sitting through three weeks of trial,” Garcia said.

Garcia, who received dozens of letters on Hill’s behalf, including some from lawmakers and lobbyists with whom the judge was acquainted, could have meted out a sentence of up to 57 months.

Instead, he settled on the 46 months recommended by federal probation officials and ordered Hill to pay $2,650 in fines and to serve three years probation once released. Hill requested that he be sent to the federal prison camp at Lompoc.

Hill’s co-defendant, former Democratic Senate aide Terry E. Frost, was sentenced to 21 months behind bars, three years probation and fines totaling $2,050. Frost, convicted on one count of conspiracy, requested that he be sent to the prison camp at Boron.

Assistant U.S. Atty. John Vincent, who prosecuted the case, voiced satisfaction with the sentences, even though they were at the low end of federal sentencing guidelines.

The investigation began almost nine years ago. In addition to Hill, others convicted included former Democratic state Sens. Alan Robbins of Van Nuys, Paul Carpenter of Cypress and Joseph Montoya of Whittier, and former Assemblyman Pat Nolan (R-Glendale). All were tried before federal juries except Nolan, who pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of racketeering and received a 33-month sentence.

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The heart of the case against Hill was a secretly videotaped 1988 meeting at the Hyatt Hotel across from the Capitol at which the former lawmaker took a $2,500 honorarium check from an FBI agent posing as a businessman.

Upon receiving the check, Hill told the phony businessman, “We’ll do everything we can” to win passage for a special interest bill. As part of the FBI sting, the legislation was intended to help a shrimp processing plant locate near Sacramento.

Based on that incident, a federal jury in June found Hill guilty of extortion, conspiracy and money laundering. The same jurors found Frost guilty of conspiracy for steering an undercover agent and an informant to those who could help win passage of the bogus special-interest bill. Both men plan to appeal.

In seeking to throw out his client’s conviction, Hill’s lawyer, Stephen Miller, argued that there was no evidence on the tape to show that Hill discussed receiving money in exchange for his help on the legislation.

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