Federal judge approves request for case dismissal

MUSKOGEE, Okla. (AP) - A federal judge today dismissed the criminal case against a McAlester businessman who died before he could be formally sentenced.

U.S. District Judge Ronald A. White granted a request by attorneys to throw out the indictment and $500,000 fine against Francis Stipe, who died July 14th.

U.S. Attorney Sheldon Sperling said a U.S. Supreme Court ruling supports arguments presented by Stipe's attorney, Warren Gotcher. The nation's high court in 1971 ordered a judge to drop the prosecution of a man who died pending an appeal.

The 78-year-old Stipe pleaded guilty during his federal trial in April to charges of political corruption and witness tampering. He agreed to spend three years on probation and pay a fine.

The case involved thousands of dollars in taxpayer money that went to a McAlester dog food plant co-owned by Stipe's brother, former state Senator Gene Stipe.

Gene Stipe also has been indicted, but his case has been suspended while he undergoes mental competency testing at the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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