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Repentant Waltz Defendant Bowers Tries to 'Stand Tall' in Guilty Plea

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Former state Senator Kathryn Bowers, who at times had seemed vulnerable during the two-odd years of her indictment for bribery and extortion in the FBI's Tennessee Waltz sting, was composed and articulate Monday morning as she changed her plea from not guilty to guilty in federal court.

Consistent with the judicial formula for such pleas, Bowers accepted "responsibility" for Count 6 of a six-count indictment, admitting having received $11,500 from undercover agents to do legislative favors for the fictitious computer firm E-Cycle.

After Judge Daniel Breen read the government’s chronology of payments accepted by Bowers from March 2004 to January 2005, he asked Bowers if the account was accurate. "Basically," she responded firmly. Breen thereupon entered her plea of guilty (counts 1-5 were dismissed) and, on assistant U.S. Attorney Tim DiScenza's recommendation, released Bowers on her own recognizance. Sentencing will be on October 24th.

During an extended interchange with reporters outside the federal building, Bowers enunciated another plea – that citizens not be deterred from voting by disillusionment with the political process as a result of the Tennessee Waltz sting and other evidence of corruption among elected officials.

Asked if her change of plea had been prompted by the government's unbroken string of successful prosecutions of Tennessee Waltz defendants – the latest coming with a guilty plea from state Senator Ward Crutchfield of Chattanooga on Thursday – Bowers said no, she had just consulted her conscience and decided to atone for her wrongdoing. She said she thought the sting had resulted in an increased awareness among legislators and potential legislators of their responsibilities and limitations under the law.

On her way out of the federal building toward her rendezvous with the media on Front St., Bowers had complained about pain in her right foot. "It’s the shoe," she said, pointing to a pair of new taupe-colored open-weave high-heeled shoes. She had dropped something on her foot on the 4th of July, "and it still hurts," she said, but she was determined to "wear something cute" on this day of accountability.

"I’m only 4 feet 10," she said, smiling, "and when you’re that short, you’ve got to do something to help you stand tall."

Maybe she did. Maybe she didn't. But in the judgment of several reporters after her plea change and press conference, Bowers had managed a pretty good try, all in all, at doing just that.

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