BOISE – Former Boise Mayor Brent Coles’ felony record has been cleared and his civil rights have been restored, three years after he pleaded guilty in a City Hall travel and spending scandal.
Coles pleaded guilty in 2003 to felony counts of misusing public funds. Fourth District Judge Thomas Neville granted Coles a “withheld judgment” in 2004, which meant his record could be cleared if he completed all terms of his probation.
Coles, who served three terms as mayor and was president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, spent five weeks in the Ada County Jail in early 2004 and wrote a public apology for his role in the scandal as part of his sentence. He completed his three-year probation term this month.
Deputy Attorney General Stephen Bywater, whose office initially did not support a withheld judgment, told Neville it did not oppose dismissing the charges.
“To the surprise of no one, Mr. Coles is an excellent probationer,” Bywater said.
Withheld judgments are not uncommon for people with previously clean records who plead guilty to nonviolent felonies.
In most cases, the guilty pleas are cleared and the case is dismissed if the person successfully completes the judge’s terms.
“Have you been able to salvage your life?” Neville asked Coles during a brief court hearing Monday.
“Yes, sir,” Coles replied, saying he is living and working in Boise and doing well.
The judge’s dismissal of the case means Coles was never convicted of a felony, so he will not have to list a conviction on future job applications. Coles is once again able to vote and to possess a weapon, said his attorney, Mark Manweiler.
Coles acknowledged filing a false reimbursement expense for tickets to a Broadway show in New York City in fall 2002, when he and his former chief of staff, Gary Lyman, traveled together and allegedly used taxpayer money to pay for airfare, lodging, meals and car rental.
Lyman pleaded guilty in 2004 to two counts of misuse of public money, one count of presenting a fraudulent bill and one count of wiretapping – all felonies. He spent six months in the Ada County Jail and has just completed the third of his five years of probation.
As part of Lyman’s sentence, 4th District Judge Deborah Bail ordered him to pay the city of Boise $50,000 – about half of what the city spent on a forensic audit to uncover other spending and travel abuse in Coles’ administration. According to jail records, Lyman has paid roughly $10,500.
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