Matt McCoy believed he was about to run for governor or congress when the FBI agents knocked on his door one morning in 2007. He soon learned that he was facing a court case by a US attorney for the southern district. Iowa called Matthew G. Whitaker.
The case has now become another topic of controversy for Whitaker, whom President Trump has named Wednesday as attorney general.
McCoy said in an interview Friday that he thought Whitaker, a conservative Republican, had targeted him because he was an openly gay Democrat, an accusation that Whitaker's spokesman denied.
Whitaker, who served as a US lawyer from 2004 to 2009, announced the case against McCoy with much fuss, arguing that the senator had used his office to extort about $ 2,000 from a local company that installed motion sensors in the homes of the elderly to monitor their health. Prosecutors claimed that McCoy took advantage of his position as a senator to request a $ 100 commission on each unit.
The case has been controversial since the beginning, partly because McCoy's lawyer has accused the prosecutors of misconduct for not disclosing that an informant had been paid. The judge dismissed McCoy's request to close the case, but granted a continuation that allowed McCoy to find more witnesses, according to McCoy's attorney, Montgomery Brown.
In the end, the case collapsed. McCoy said he was involved in a normal deal, and a jury agreed, acquitting it after two hours of discussion.
The case sparked a fire storm in the local media. Rekha Basu of the Des Moines Registry wrote a blistering column at the time when the Whitaker case "was based on the words of a former collaborator represented as a drug addict, a deceased and a women molester, a man so shady that even his sponsors Alcoholics Anonymous named him a "pathological liar." Basu noted that McCoy is a gay Democrat, while Whitaker is a Republican who "has ties to the evangelical Christian community".
McCoy, in a Friday interview with the Washington Post, said the case cost him $ 100,000 in legal fees and changed his life.
"I was a rising star in the party, and people believed I had a future to nominate to the governor or Congress," McCoy said. "I do not think he liked homosexuals, and I was a straightforward Democrat," he said, when asked why he thought Whitaker had brought the case.
A Justice Department spokesman, who was not authorized to speak in this way, denied that Whitaker targeted McCoy for the charge.
"Whitaker had a responsibility to uphold the rule of law and pursue credible allegations of illegal activities," the spokesperson said. "The Justice Department signed the case, the FBI conducted an independent investigation and career lawyers handled the case throughout its duration." The jury's verdict does not annul the obligation of forces of the order to open cases when they establish that the laws may have been infringed. "
McCoy was re-elected as state senator and was just elected county commissioner, a position that begins in January.
Julie Tate and Alice Crites contributed to this relationship.