Cooper Faces Trial Over Questionable Land Deal - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

NC5 Investigates: Capitol Hill Corruption

Cooper Faces Trial Over Questionable Land Deal

Cooper, right, with member of legal team Cooper, right, with member of legal team

(Story created: 6/3/07)

State Sen. Jerry Cooper goes on trial Monday in federal court in Chattanooga.

The Warren County Democrat is charged with bank fraud, mail fraud and conspiracy over a questionable land deal.

That deal was first uncovered by a NewsChannel 5 investigation.

Back in 1998, the financially troubled Cooper sold a Warren County sawmill that he owned -- only after convincing state officials to approve a $300,000 grant to build a railroad connection to his land.

Documents show the grant was approved at the request of "J Cooper."

The indictment says that Cooper then directed an appraiser to prepare an inflated appraisal for the sawmill, including the rail spur before it had even been built.

In addition, it says that part of the scheme was that Cooper "would and did use his political contacts, connections and influence" to help his buyer get a loan from a bank whose owners included then-Lt. Gov. John Wilder.

Cooper's buyers, Anthony and Teresa Auyer have already pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges and are cooperating with the government.

The veteran lawmaker was indicted last August and, under Senate rules, was forced to give up his position as chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee.

Cooper has pleaded not guilty.

He also faces DUI charges in Rutherford County, stemming from a violent crash of his SUV back in February.

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