Chung Sentenced To Probation

Johnny Chung, a fund-raiser who made nearly $30,000 in illegal contributions to Democratic causes, was sentenced Monday to 5 years probation by a federal judge.

Chung was also ordered to do 3,000 hours of community service during the 5-year period and to report to his probation officer every 180 days.

Chung pleaded with U.S. District Judge Manuel Real for a "second chance to be a good citizen."

A government prosecutor supported leniency for Chung, who has been cooperating with the government as part of his plea agreement. He admitted in March that he made an illegal $20,000 contribution to the 1996 Clinton-Gore re-election campaign.

Chung, a Taiwanese-born U.S. citizen, said he used "straw donors" to funnel the money and then reimburse them.

Real, who had previously postponed the sentencing after receiving a letter from the Democratic National Committee, again expressed his surprise at the committee's claim that it was victimized by Chung.

Real said that if the officials who wrote to him "didn't know what was going on, they are the dumbest politicians I've ever seen."

Chung had also pleaded guilty to charges involving an $8,000 donation to the campaign of Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., tax evasion and fraudulently obtaining a $157,500 loan for his Artesia, Calif., home.

Chung could have faced 37 years in prison and $1.45 million in fines.

Real delayed sentencing last month after reading an unsolicited letter from the DNC about Chung's improper contributions to the organization. The letter appeared in a presentencing probation report to the judge.

Chung's lawyer and the judge agreed that the DNC letter portrayed the committee as a victim. The lawyer called it an attempt to portray his client negatively for sentencing and asserted that the DNC had aggressively solicited Chung.

The judge decided to look at grand jury transcripts before sentencing Chung.

The Los Angeles Times reported at the time that the letter claimed Chung deceived the Democrats about the questionable donations. It was also critical of Chung's role as a witness in the federal government's investigation.

The letter reportedly flatly denied the organization knew any contributions were improper and instead insisted Chung took advantage of the DNC and caused its officials to file false campaign finance records.

Chung donated nearly $400,000 to Democratic candidates and causes between 1994 and 1996. The money was returned after questions arose about its legality.

In recent years Chung was a frequent visitor to the White House, once escorting Chinese businessmen who wanted to watch President Clinton deliver a radio address.

He has said that in 1995 he was solicted for money by a White House staffer and delivered a $50,000 check to first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's office.

Written by Linda Deutsch
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