Legislators React to Wilson's Indictment

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COLUMBIA- Former Missouri Gov. Roger Wilson pleaded guilty Thursday to a federal charge related to an illegal political donation made after he left office.

Those who worked with Wilson during his time in Missouri politics say they were surprised by this indictment. 

Representative Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, says he doesn't think these criminal charges should change people's opinions of Wilson. "This changes my opinion of his character not one single bit.  He's a wonderful public servant, this is a tragedy. I'm very sorry for Roger and for his family," said Kelly.

Wilson mentored Democratic Representative Stephen Webber during the early time of his legislative career. Webber says legislators can learn a lot from Wilson's indictment. "I think it's a good reminder for those of us still in public service that we always have to be vigilant.  He had a reputation for the last 40 years as being one of the most ethical people in politics and you know, he had a slip up," said Webber. 

The plea came the same day federal prosecutors announced an indictment against Wilson and St. Louis lawyer Edward Griesedieck III. The indictment says Griesedieck had his law firm donate $5,000 to the Missouri Democratic Party and hid the cost in legal bills submitted to Missouri Employers Mutual in 2009, when Wilson was chief executive.

Wilson admitted in his plea that he knew about the illegal contribution when he approved payment. Sentencing is scheduled for July 9, and he was freed on his own recognizance.

Wilson was lieutenant governor in 2000 and served as governor for three months after Governor Mel Carnahan died in a plane crash.

After two MEM employees were indicted last year, state auditor Tom Schweich began an audit into the Columbia based insurance company.  The state created Missouri Employers Mutual  with public funds in 1993 to provide workers' compensation coverage to small businesses. The governor still appoints some of the MEM board members, but state legislators are currently deciding if this company should be public or private. 

Schweich's audit revealed lavish spending and large campaign contributions.  These contributions landed Wilson in trouble with the law.