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Ex-Minnesota Senator Gets Probation, Fine Falsifying Expense Account Ended Durenberger’s Career

Former Sen. Dave Durenberger was sentenced to a year of probation and fined $1,000 Wednesday, ending the ethics case that destroyed his political career. He told the judge he already had “lost it all.”

The Minnesota Republican had pleaded guilty in August to five misdemeanor charges that he falsified his congressional expense account to steal $425 in public funds.

Before sentencing him, U.S. District Judge Stanley Harris called Durenberger a “fine human being” who had “accomplished a lot.” Harris refused the Justice Department’s request to place Durenberger on home detention.

Harris said he had received a “remarkable collection” of 101 letters from senators and other supporters of Durenberger.

Durenberger was indicted in 1993 on felony charges that he improperly billed the Senate $3,825 for nights he spent in a Minneapolis condominium he owned. The plea bargain agreement he reached with prosecutors reduced the charges to misdemeanors involving $425.

The charges stemmed from an ethics investigation that resulted in Durenberger’s being denounced by the Senate in 1990 and forced to pay restitution.

Under federal sentencing guidelines, he could have received as much as 10 months in prison or as little as four months of probation. He also could have been fined as much as $500,000.

Raymond Hulser, a Justice Department lawyer, argued that probation without home detention wasn’t a severe enough punishment for someone who “held a position of great power … and prestige.”

His voice breaking, Durenberger described how the case had disgraced him in the Senate, made him the subject of hundreds of embarrassing news stories, and cost him his law license. Worse, he said, he lost the confidence of voters. Durenberger did not seek re-election in 1994.

Durenberger, 61, remarried in August. He has been splitting time working as a consultant in Washington and teaching at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn.

After the sentencing, he told reporters he plans to become a lobbyist in January. Former members of Congress are barred from lobbying for the first year after leaving office.

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