Updated: Bujak pleads not guilty to federal charges, gets public defender

krodine@idahostatesman.comJanuary 23, 2014 

Former Canyon County prosecutor John Bujak entered not guilty pleas in federal court Thursday to six felonies including bankruptcy fraud, concealing assets and money laundering.

Trial was set for March 25. Bujak was freed on his own recognizance but agreed to surrender his passport and avoid contact with his ex-wife and her parents, who are expected to be witnesses against Bujak at trial, except as necessary on issues of child care and custody.

U.S. District Judge Ronald Bush also agreed to Bujak’s request for a public defender, although he initially showed hesitance and closed the courtroom to discuss Bujak’s affidavit of finances with the defendant. Later Thursday afternoon, the judge filed an order appointing a federal public defender on the basis of Bujak’s sworn affidavit.

Bujak, who stood trial in state court four times in 2012 and 2013 without a guilty verdict, was indicted by a federal grand jury Jan. 14 on charges related to his bankruptcy proceedings and, particularly, the alleged concealment of a Rolex watch and sale of that watch.

The new charges of bankruptcy fraud, concealment of assets and making a false statement under oath are each punishable by up to five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. Money laundering carries a possible penalty of up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $500,000. Bujak’s two charges of obstruction of justice are each punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.

Bujak took office as Canyon County prosecutor in January 2009 and soon secured a contract to handle Nampa's misdemeanor cases. Over the next year and a half, that $600,000 annual contract sparked a public records lawsuit and other concerns about where the funds went and why Bujak did not forward as much money to the county as city and county leaders expected.

In September 2010, unable to pay about $300,000 county commissioners said he still owed, Bujak resigned. He was later charged with felony misuse of public funds and had two jury trials on that charge, One ended in a hung jury and the other in a not guilty verdict.

A related charge of falsifying evidence also went to trial and ended with a hung jury. And a jury found him not guilty in an unrelated grand theft case concerning an estate Bujak represented before he was elected prosecutor.

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