Former Missouri Gov. Roger Wilson has been sentenced to two years of probation for misusing money to make political donations.
Wilson, a 63-year-old Democrat, pleaded guilty in April to one count of misdemeanor campaign finance fraud. He admitted he improperly steered $8,000 to the state Democratic Party in 2009 while serving as CEO of Missouri Employers Mutual Insurance Co., a state-created workers’ compensation firm.
Wilson’s associate, St. Louis attorney Edward Griesedieck III, also received two years of probation. Both men were fined $5,000 and must pay $5,000 in restitution. Griesedieck also agreed to surrender his law license for 18 months.
Wilson could have faced up to six months in prison under federal sentencing guidelines. But last month, his attorney, Robert Haar, filed a sentencing memo urging probation for the misdemeanor conviction.
In a letter to the court, Haar wrote that Wilson “was recognized across party lines as one of the truly good guys in Missouri government: someone who believed in public service and took great satisfaction in being able to affect people’s lives in positive ways.”
The letter said it is painful to Wilson to “recognize his legacy has been tarnished by the uncharacteristically poor judgment” in committing the crime.
Wilson was a state senator for 14 years and then served two terms as lieutenant governor alongside Gov. Mel Carnahan. Wilson became governor for three months after Carnahan died in a plane crash in October 2000 while running for U.S. Senate.
After leaving politics, he chaired the Missouri Tourism Commission and the Missouri Rural Economic Development Council before taking over at Missouri Employers Mutual.
The St. Louis law firm Herzog Crebs donated $5,000 to the Missouri Democratic Party in August 2009 but hid the cost in legal bills submitted to Missouri Employers Mutual. Wilson used his own money to hide an additional $3,000 donation from the law firm. The donations were made while Wilson was the insurance firm’s interim chief executive officer. He was named to the full-time position in January 2010, but removed by the board without explanation in June 2011, one month after being placed on administrative leave.
Wilson pleaded guilty on April 12, the same day he was indicted. St. Louis attorney Edward Griesedieck III, a former Herzog Crebs partner, was indicted and pleaded guilty to the same misdemeanor charge.
According to Wilson’s federal indictment, Missouri Employers Mutual board chairman Douglas Morgan asked Griesedieck to make the Democratic Party donation without the knowledge of other board members. Morgan also sought a second contribution for $3,000, which was questioned by the insurance firm’s general counsel.
“Although there was nothing that prohibited MEM (Missouri Employers Mutual) from making such contributions, there was concern that it would inevitably invite solicitations from politicians throughout the state for similar contributions,” Haar wrote on Wilson’s behalf. “That resulted in the board member’s proposal that any contribution be made through the law firm. Roger did not say ‘no.’ He did not pick a fight. He will spend the rest of his life regretting it.”
Morgan faced a separate federal fraud indictment in an unrelated case when he died in 2011.
Wilson apologized for his wrongdoing the day he pleaded guilty. He has paid a $2,000 fine to the Missouri Ethics Commission.