Hamilton County commissioner arrested in Tennessee Waltz case - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Hamilton County commissioner arrested in Tennessee Waltz case

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) - Hamilton County Commissioner William Cotton was charged with bribery in the FBI's Tennessee Waltz government corruption investigation Thursday and surrendered to agents at his home.

"He has been arrested on a federal complaint that charges him with violations of the Hobbs Act that has been used throughout the Tennessee Waltz Investigation," said FBI resident special agent Tim Burke. "It is related to that investigation."

Cotton, a Democrat, couldn't be reached for comment because he was in custody. Federal officials said that an initial hearing was set for the afternoon and they weren't certain who would be the attorney representing Cotton.

The federal case involves a bogus computer company set up to seek legislative favors in return for payoffs. The investigation has led to bribery and conspiracy charges against five current or former state lawmakers, two individuals accused of being bag men for the officials and a Shelby County commissioner.

Burke said the Tennessee Waltz is "still an ongoing investigation even though the undercover aspect has concluded." He said the FBI and federal prosecutors were "still pursuing any and all public officials who accepted bribe payments from the undercover agents."

Three people have pleaded guilty, including former state Rep. Chris Newton.

Cotton was arrested at his Alton Park residence after leaving Thursday's commission meeting complaining about flu-like symptoms. A caravan of unmarked patrol cars followed the District 4 commissioner home and he was arrested.

An agent's affidavit filed Thursday says he gave an envelope containing $3,500 to lobbyist Charles Love of Chattanooga when they met for lunch at a Chattanooga restaurant on Jan. 20. The agent said he saw Cotton accept $1,750 that Love, who has since pleaded guilty in the case, took from the envelope.

The affidavit says Cotton later telephoned Love and told the undercover agent, who was posing as an executive of the phony company, "I appreciate your help. You have a friend for life, doc."

The affidavit shows that five days later Love and Cotton had a telephone conversation about Cotton setting up meetings with other county officials to advance the business of the bogus company, E-Cycle and Cotton said: "You go ahead and tell your boys to get ready to bring their package in here. I hope it is bigger than the first one."

The affidavit shows the undercover agent gave Love $6,000 to give Cotton on Feb. 21 and Cotton received $3,000.

The agent said Cotton told him after getting the $3,000: "I want to thank you very much for everything you have done. I'm looking forward to working with you and getting your proposal through as soon as I get it. We can move on from there."

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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