Next trial set for Tennessee Waltz defendant

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - A trial date has been set for a former state senator charged with extortion and bribery in connection with the Tennessee Waltz public corruption case.

U.S. District Judge Jon McCalla set an April 17 trial date for former state Sen. Roscoe Dixon, who made a brief appearance in court Thursday.

"I'm ready to go, and it looks like we can proceed on that schedule," McCalla said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim DiScenza told McCalla that prosecutors will have all discovery materials, including videotapes and transcripts, to Dixon's lawyers by March 30. DiScenza said he expects the trial to last two or three weeks.

Dixon and his attorney, William L. Johnson, declined to comment.

Dixon, who left the Senate in 2005 to take a job as a top aide to Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton, is charged with taking payoffs to advance legislation favorable to a phony computer recycling company run by undercover FBI agents. He resigned from the county job after being indicted in May.

Five current or former state lawmakers charged with taking bribes from FBI agents posing as businessmen seeking legislative favors. Two county officials, in Memphis and Chattanooga, and two "bag men" also were charged in the sting operation.

Former state Rep. Chris Newton, a Cleveland Republican who admitted taking a $1,500 bribe, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year in prison. Hamilton County Commissioner William Cotton was the first defendant to go to trial and was found guilty on some charges in February.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)