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Florence jury finds ex-DA Pilati guilty

By Staff
Melissa Cason
Franklin County Times
FLORENCE – After deliberating for nearly four hours spread over Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning, a Florence jury found former Franklin County District Attorney John Pilati guilty on five counts of deprivation of civil rights while he was in office.
"I walked out of the courthouse very disappointed today," Pilati said via telephone Thursday evening. "I respect the fact that 12 people that didn't want to be there came, saw and served. It doesn't always go in your favor."
The jury's decision was announced after about two hours of deliberation yesterday morning. The jury failed to reach a verdict in two hours of deliberation Wednesday.
Although Pilati faced only five charges, the jury heard testimony from six victims.
The victims told the court how Pilati strip-searched and fondled them while administering drug tests at locations including the Franklin County Courthouse, the county jail and Pilati's Russellville home.
Pilati showed no emotion as the guilty verdict was read on each count. Defense attorney Bruce Gardner had the jury polled as part of the proceedings.
The Justice Department's lead prosecutor, Christine Dunn, told U.S. Magistrate John Ott that Pilati was a threat to the community because of the sexual nature of the crimes.
"Because the crimes are sexual in nature, we do consider him a danger to the community," Dunn told the court.
However, Ott allowed Pilati to remain free on the same bond posted at his arraignment last spring but barred Pilati from having any contact with the victims.
"Please understand that I do not tolerate any violation, whatsoever," Ott told Pilati.
Sentencing is tentatively scheduled for January 16, 2008 in the Florence Courthouse at 3 p.m.
Pilati could receive one year in prison and up to a $100,000 fine for each of the five counts.
Pilati's convictions are on misdemeanor charges and Pilati's defense attorney Bruce Gardner noted after the trial yesterday there was a possibility that they would appeal post-sentencing.
Pilati was Franklin County's district attorney from 1998 until his resignation in 2004.
Pilati resigned as district attorney after pleading guilty to lying to federal agents.
In that case, he was accused of giving false information to an FBI agent while the agency was investigating possible public corruption in Franklin County.
He was sentenced to six months in federal prison and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine.
Following his release from prison, Pilati served as a reporter at the Franklin County Times from May 2005 to February 2006
He is currently the station manager of Russellville radio stations WGOL AM-920 and WKAX AM-1500.
Pilati also serves as general manager of the Franklin Free Press, an independent newspaper based in Russellville.
A message left with Gardner seeking further comment was not returned.

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