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NC5 Investigates: The Inside Story

Cooper Case About More Than Abuse of Power

(Story created: 6/7/07)

The case against Jerry Cooper that's been playing out in a federal courtroom in Chattanooga is not just about whether he used his position as a state senator to help himself.

If it were, it might be a very different case.

As we first reported, the Senate chairman was in deep financial problems, and he owned a sawmill in Warren County that he had not been able to sell.

Then, he convinced state officials who reported to his committee to commit $300,000 of your money to build a railroad connection to his land.

The federal case, however, is about bank fraud. It's about whether Cooper got a real estate appraiser to go ahead and include that rail spur in an appraisal before it was built - all to inflate the value of his land and help his buyer get a big bank loan.

Cooper's lawyer has argued that bank officials knew that the railroad connection had not yet been built, and that it was likely to be built at some point anyway. In other words, there was no fraud upon the bank.

So, on one hand, you have the question of whether Cooper committed bank fraud, but there's still the question of whether the senator abused his power to help himself. That one may have to be left for the court of public opinion.

I'm Phil Williams, and that's The Inside Story.

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