RENO (AP) — Federal prosecutors have opted not to pursue a fourth felony against an ex-Nevada developer and lobbyist convicted of three charges related to making illegal campaign contributions to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Harvey Whittemore originally was charged with a fourth count of lying to the FBI about the illegal fundraising, but the jury deadlocked on that count during his federal trial last month in Reno.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Myhre requested in a motion filed Monday that the fourth charge be dropped. But he said the government reserves the right to file a superseding indictment against Whittemore on the lying charge if a federal appeals court overturns Whittemore’s conviction on three other counts.
Whittemore’s lawyer, Vincent Savarese, earlier filed a motion for a rehearing of the case and has promised an appeal to the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. If the conviction stands, Whittemore faces up to 15 years in prison and $750,000 in fines. Sentencing is set for Sept. 23.
Myhre said the decision to drop the fourth charge was an effort “to conserve the time and resources that would be expended in a second jury trial on a single count.”
Savarese said the defense opposes the government’s motion because of the caveat that prosecutors might change their mind. He said Whittemore deserves a retrial on all the charges if he so chooses.
“The mistrial was not an acquittal. But we don’t think they should be able to reinstate the charge at their discretion,” he told the Reno Gazette-Journal.
Whittemore was found guilty on May 29 on three felony counts: making excessive contributions; making contributions in the name of another and causing Reid to file a false report with the Federal Elections Commission.
U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks declared a mistrial on the fourth charge after jurors said they had deadlocked without reaching a unanimous decision.
During his three-week trial, Whittemore’s family and former employees testified that he asked them to make a contribution to Reid’s re-election campaign in 2007 and then gave them funds that covered the donation. It is illegal to use another person to skirt federal campaign contribution limits.