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Judge avoids drug, other charges in deal

PAMELA HARTMAN Citizen Staff Writer

All drug-conspiracy and money-laundering charges against former Cochise County Justice of the Peace Ronald Joseph ”Joe” Borane have been dropped, the Arizona Attorney General’s Office said today.

In exchange, Borane, 63, pleaded guilty today to two felong counts related to fixing a speeding ticket for an under cover FBI agent.

Borane could have faced up to 12.5 years in prison if he had been convicted of all the original counts in his indictment.

Instead, he faces up to two years in prison on each of the two counts, said Pati Urias, an attorney general’s spokeswoman.

”These are felonies,” Urias said of the guilty plea. ”These are serious charges.”

He appeared in Cochise County Superior Court today to enter the plea. Sentencing was set for May 30.

Beginning in 1998, the FBI conducted an 18-month sting in Douglas, opening a surplus goods store in downtown Douglas and placing an undercover agent as its owner. The agent coaxed Borane into investing $10,000 in a purported drug- and money-laundering operation, authorities said.

Borane was arrested in September 1999, and the case was given to the Attorney General’s Office.

Video and audio taps recorded dozens of Borane’s conversations with the agent and with Borane’s business associates. At one point, the Attorney General’s Office released 2,000 pages of investigative documents, including dozens of taped conversations involving Borane.

Borane’s lawyer, William Walker, called the plea agreement a clear victory for his client.

”The resolution of the case is a clear defeat for the FBI and the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, who obviously had a vendetta against Borane,” Walker said. ”Anyone with half a brain can see now that the government had no case against Borane which could withstand scrutiny.”

Borane pleaded guilty to tampering with a public court document and to attempted fraud. Both counts involve the fixed speeding ticket.

Borane also agreed to pay the government $87,500, including cash he allegedly illegally invested in the drug scheme.

”Eighty-seven thousand dollars is not minor,” Urias said of the fine. ”I think most people would agree that’s a huge chunk of change.”

In March, Borane stepped down as JP and Douglas magistrate and agreed not to run for public office again. In exchange, a judicial commission dropped its own investigation.

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