Bribery trial involving Johnson Utilities, Corporation Commission in jurors’ hands

By Ryan Randazzo | Arizona Republic

Jurors will now decide whether $31,500 paid to a former utility regulator’s wife and a failed $350,000 real-estate deal constitute federal crimes of bribery and conspiracy that could send four people to prison.

Lawyers made closing arguments Thursday and Friday in a federal courtroom in Phoenix in the case involving a former Arizona Corporation Commissioner that has damaged the credibility of the commission, often called the fourth branch of Arizona government.

The government is charging former Commissioner Gary Pierce, his wife, Sherry; lobbyist Jim Norton; and water company owner George Johnson with a bribery scheme from 2011 to 2013.

The government asserts that Pierce helped pass a rate increase and a beneficial tax policy for Johnson Utilities in exchange for cash paid to his wife and an attempt to have Johnson fund the land deal.

The approximately 30,000 Johnson Utilities customers in Florence, Queen Creek and the San Tan Valley area today are paying about $10 a month more on their utility bills because of the Corporation Commission votes in 2011 and 2013.



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