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NewsChannel 5 Investigates: Friends in High Places

Prosecutors May Link Sundquist to Friends' Contracts

(Story created: 7/9/05)

Prosecutors may now have evidence linking former Gov. Don Sundquist to the criminal investigation of state contracts.

That's according to a federal judge's memo that was just made public.

It all stems from our Friends in High Places investigation of millions of dollars in state contracts that went to Sundquist's friends.

This memo follows an intense, behind-the-scenes legal battle over what would be allowed in the upcoming trial of one of those friends of the governor, Al Ganier.

From the beginning, Sundquist has evaded the central question: how did two of his closest friends land $200 million in state contracts.

But even through the federal trial that resulted in the conviction of Sundquist appointee Joanna Ediger for rigging one of those contracts -- and the guilty plea of his close friend John Stamps -- there has never been any testimony directly implicating the former governor.

Now, with Ganier about to go on trial for obstruction of justice, Sundquist's name has been dropped for the first time -- apparently linking him to Ganier's Education Networks of America and its massive state contracts.

"There is, in fact, some evidence that Sundquist interceded in some way on behalf of ENA with respect to at least one contract," wrote U.S. District Judge Karl Forester, citing prosecution arguments.

While Sundquist has never returned NewsChannel 5's calls, he tells the Tennessean that he is "confident I'm not under investigation," saying he has not been questioned by investigators.

But after Stamps' guilty plea, prosecutors refused to give Sundquist the all-clear.

"In this case, the investigation will lead where the investigation takes us," Assistant U.S. Attorney Eli Richardson said. "That's where we continue to go."

Ganier, who goes on trial next month, has said he had nothing to hide when he tried to delete computer files during the on-going contracts investigation.

That's why prosecutors are hinting they may introduce evidence about the involvement of Sundquist and other high-level administration officials.

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