Trial begins for Dixon in Memphis

The federal bribery trial of former state Sen. Roscoe Dixon begins Tuesday, and his attorney says he's optimistic about the outcome despite the charge against his client.

"It's going to be tough," Coleman W. Garrett said by phone from his Memphis office on Monday. "But you just tell yourself you're going to prevail."

Dixon was arrested along with four sitting lawmakers a year ago in the Tennessee Waltz sting, which focused on an FBI front company, called E-Cycle Management, that supposedly wanted to buy and resell used government computers.

Dixon, who represented Memphis in the Legislature for 22 years before he resigned in 2005, is the first lawmaker indicted in the case to go to trial. He is charged with accepting $9,500 in bribes as part of the public corruption case.

At least two state senators and a member of the governor's cabinet have received subpoenas to testify at Dixon's trial.

Dixon was at the Capitol with a woman serving the legal summonses as last Wednesday's session began, according to Senate sergeants at arms.

Lt. Gov. John Wilder, D-Mason, and Sen. Jeff Miller, R-Cleveland, both told The Associated Press they received subpoenas.

Miller has been investigated but not charged in the public corruption case. He has acknowledged accepting $1,000 from a lobbyist who pleaded guilty as part of the undercover probe but has said the money was a campaign contribution.

On Friday, a day before the General Assembly adjourned for the year, state Finance Commissioner Dave Goetz told WSMV-TV that he too had been subpoenaed. He declined to comment about the case, and Wilder and Miller said they don't know why they were subpoenaed.

Garrett said the media unnecessarily made a big deal of Dixon's appearance at the Capitol.

"Apparently the media thought it was a major development of some sort," he said. "When you go to trial, you subpoena witnesses."

Garrett didn't provide names, but he said five people were subpoenaed.

Prosecutors say undercover agents acting as E-Cycle representatives bribed lawmakers and local government officials while pretending to set up business in Tennessee.

Two of the indicted lawmakers, Ward Crutchfield of Chattanooga and Kathryn Bowers of Memphis, are in the Senate and have pleaded not guilty.

Defendant John Ford resigned from the Senate after his arrest and has pleaded not guilty.

Chris Newton, a Republican from East Tennessee, pleaded guilty and resigned from the state House. He is now in prison serving a one-year sentence.

Two Shelby County officials have pleaded not guilty, and a Hamilton County commissioner was found guilty in the case and sentenced to three years in prison.

Two "bag men" who have pleaded guilty to passing along bribes await sentencing.

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