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NC5 Investigates: Friends In High Places

Court Allows Evidence Against Sundquist Pal

(Story created: 11/15/06)

The prosecution of a close friend of former Gov. Don Sundquist appears back on track.

A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that potentially damaging evidence against Al Ganier can be admitted.

It all stems from our "Friends in High Places" investigation of state contracts.

This evidence was considered so important that Al Ganier's lawyers fought to keep it out -- and prosecutors put their entire case on hold to try to keep it in.

Now, the prosecution has won.

Al Ganier found himself at the center of a criminal investigation after NewsChannel 5 first exposed how the friend of the governor cashed in on his political connections.

Last year, Ganier was about to go on trial -- accused of trying to obstruct that investigation -- when prosecutors revealed that a last-minute search had uncovered new evidence.

They said that evidence, from Ganier's computers, proved that he had deliberately search for -- and deleted -- files relating to the investigation of insider state contracts.

Ganier's lawyers convinced the judge to keep the evidence out.

"It was our position that the law required them to give that to us earlier," Ganier's lawyer Aubrey Harwell said after the judge's decision.

But prosecutors halted the trial and appealed.

Now, a federal appeals court now says the judge went too far.

"The government may have been negligent in waiting until the day before trial to investigate search terms, but negligence does not, by itself, warrant suppression," the court wrote.  (Read the opinion.)

Right now, another friend of the governor -- John Stamps -- sits in a federal prison, as does former Sundquist appointee Joanna Ediger.

Now, Al Ganier will finally get his day in court.

The question: when will that be? That will be up to the judge.

But courtroom observers say the best guess would be late winter or maybe spring.

As for the overall investigation of the Sundquist administration, a lot has been on hold, pending the outcome of this appeal.

So, this decision could give it a big boost.

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