E-mail Allegations, Holiday Card May Put Phipps In More Hot Water
Posted December 19, 2003 6:20 a.m. EST
RALEIGH, N.C. — Members of Meg Scott Phipps' family accuse federal prosecutors of forcing her to admit to crimes she did not commit. Phipps has yet to be sentenced for those charges, and some believe the comments could mean trouble.
Just more than a month ago, former state Agriculture Commissioner Meg Scott Phipps stood in court to apologize for her campaign finance scandal.
"I just want to say that I'm truly sorry that I have brought this grief to my family," Phipps said during the earlier court appearance.
However, e-mails and a holiday card show a much different sentiment from Phipps and her family. In e-mails to friends, Phipps' sisters claimed investigators and prosecutors used intimidation tactics to win the case.
"Attorneys threatened to indict my father and her husband, plus take the family farm if she didn't plea," said one e-mail.
Indictments and court testimony implicated both Gov. Bob Scott and Robert Phipps, but neither has been charged.
"I marvel that the U.S. Attorney will allow people to perjure themselves to prove their case," said another e-mail.
In a holiday card, Phipps herself wrote: "There is so much I want to say, but I'm not allowed. Someday, my side will be told."
Former federal prosecutor Kieran Shanahan said now that Phipps has been convicted in state court and pleaded guilty to federal charges, the published opinions could be disastrous for her case.
"I think it exponentially complicates her situation, especially her sentencing," he said.
Shanahan said, at best, Phipps will have to explain the comments to a judge.
"A federal judge may look at this and say: 'Well, either you're not remorseful for what you've done or maybe your guilty plea wasn't voluntary,'" he said. "They set the guilty plea aside. They put 12 jurors in the box, and we have a trial without any deal."
The U.S. Attorney's Office and Meg Scott Phipps' lawyers did not want to comment on the case.
Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby told WRAL that "I have not threatened anyone.
"Ms. Phipps had every opportunity to testify in a highly publicized trial," Willoughby said. "She chose not to do so."
Phipps was offered a chance to respond to WRAL about the latest allegations and e-mail. So far, she has declined.
Phipps' sentencing is scheduled for March. She is guilty of public corruption charges on both the state and federal level. While in court in November, Wake County Judge Don Stephens said her sentences will run at the same time.
Related Stories About Meg Scott Phipps & Ag Department Scandal