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State Sen. McCoy not guilty of extortion

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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- A federal jury on Thursday found state Sen. Matt McCoy not guilty of attempted extortion.

McCoy was accused of threatening to use his influence as a senator to force a business partner to pay him $2,000.

The jury deliberated less than two hours before returning its verdict.

"The length of time the jury was out speaks volumes of this case," said Jerry Crawford, one of McCoy's defense attorneys.

Testimony began in the trial on Dec. 3.

McCoy, a Des Moines Democrat, had faced up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

Members of McCoy's family sitting in the courtroom sobbed after the verdict was read.

Outside the courthouse, supporters gathered around McCoy and let out a cheer.

McCoy was charged earlier this year with threatening to use his influence as a senator to force his former business partner, Thomas Vasquez, to pay him money to help distribute computerized home monitoring devices for the elderly.

McCoy has said the charge stems from a soured business relationship and his former partners turning against him.

Vasquez was paid by the FBI to act as an informant and secretly taped conversations with McCoy over several months.

U.S. Attorney Matthew Whitaker, a conservative Republican, has denied assertions of political motivation for pursuing the case. McCoy is a liberal Democrat and openly gay.

Whitaker released a written statement on Thursday that said he has complete confidence in the jury system and he accepts McCoy's acquittal.

"I would like to commend our trial team's presentation of the evidence in this case," he said. "All of the evidence was heard by the jury in open court and they have rendered their decision."

McCoy's co-counsel, F. Montgomery Brown, said 90 percent of federal court cases result in a conviction and the swift not guilty verdict indicates something was seriously wrong with Whitaker's case.

Brown said the problem was that McCoy committed no crime.

"He didn't do it," Brown said. "He was innocent."


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