Proclaiming himself eager for trial, former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy pleaded not guilty Wednesday to criminal charges of accepting $35,000 in sports tickets, travel and lodging from companies regulated by the Agriculture Department.
"Through this trial, the public will now hear my side of the story," Espy told reporters after entering his plea before U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina. "Although some have called it a witch hunt, I have faith. I know I will prevail in this latest challenge to my life."
Urbina did not set a trial date but did issue a schedule for motions and status hearings through Dec. 15, meaning the case likely won't go to trial until next year.
Espy, who resigned from President Clinton's Cabinet in 1994 and now practices law in Jackson, Miss., was released on his own recognizance.