State Rep. Arredondo pleads not guilty

Posted: Updated:
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX -- State Representative Ben Arredondo pled not guilty to bribery, fraud and attempted extortion charges at his arraignment in federal court on Wednesday.

Arrendondo, a Democrat who served 16 years on the Tempe City Council, remained silent as Judge Lawrence Anderson explained the charges against him. He declined to comment to reporters outside of court.

His attorney Lee Stein said he is innocent and accused the federal government of targeting Arredondo to justify an expensive sting operation.

"What we have here is the government took three years and spent thousands and thousands of tax payer dollars to essentially create a crime," Stein said. "So what did they end up with? They ended up with a few tables for a charity, I mean, is that a crime? Some baseball tickets? Come on."

Federal prosecutors accuse Arredondo of accepting $6,000 worth of tickets to sporting events and charitable functions in exchange for helping to facilitate a real estate deal when he was a Councilman.

The real estate company that approached him was actually comprised of undercover FBI agents.

Prosecutors allege Arredondo helped facilitate meetings between the fictitious real estate firm and city leaders, and that he divulged inside information about how to secure city owned land.

Stein says Arredondo did nothing wrong.

"Ben Arrendondo is not for sale, he was not for sale, he's not on the gravy train, he is a dedicated public servant," Stein said.

At Monday's arraignment Judge Anderson denied a motion by prosecutors to seal all documents in the case.

"I'm not going to seal documents that do not concern confidential materials," he said.

It is unknown whether the Justice Department is investigating others in relation to charges against Arredondo.

The judge asked Arredondo to surrender his passport, but said he was "clearly not a threat to the community," and could remain out of custody.

A trial date was set for July 3.