Crime

John Bujak has just one ‘guilty’ on his resume; now he aims to get rid of it

Former Canyon County Prosecutor John Bujak served as his own attorney, cross-examining witnesses in his 2012 felony trial for misusing public funds.
Former Canyon County Prosecutor John Bujak served as his own attorney, cross-examining witnesses in his 2012 felony trial for misusing public funds. Idaho Statesman file

Former Canyon County prosecutor John Bujak stood trial five times between 2012 and 2014 on felony charges, and no jury found him guilty.

But midway through that cluster of trials, Bujak admitted to misdemeanor criminal contempt in a plea deal that dropped felony charges of manufacturing false evidence and computer crime. Those charges had resulted in a mistrial, as had the larger case they were linked to — alleged misuse of more than $300,000 in public funds from a contract for Bujak to also handle misdemeanor prosecutions for Nampa.

Now, Bujak says that guilty plea has prevented him from getting numerous jobs, and he is asking a judge to set aside his plea and dismiss the contempt charge. That move is necessary, he says, in order for him to pass background checks and gain security clearance for federal jobs he seeks — including a current application to the Secret Service.

Prosecutors strongly object, including Shelley Akamatsu, the deputy Ada County prosecutor who served as special prosecutor in Bujak’s false-evidence case and pressed the contempt charge.

“The defendant does not have a protected right to work in a job with a security clearance,” she wrote in a lengthy response filed Wednesday to Bujak’s motion. “This conviction,” she later added, “was the result of behaviors and qualities directly contrary to being trusted with a security clearance.”

Bujak had been charged with sending an anonymous fax in 2012 to the special prosecutor in his abuse-of-funds case, including an allegedly fake email to county commissioners from a supporter of Bujak’s who had since died. According to Akamatsu’s motion, the email “made it look like the county commissioners had given him permission to keep the public’s money in 2009.”

In Bujak’s motion and supporting declaration filed June 20 in 3rd District Court, the former prosecutor admitted a “willful violation of a discovery order entered by the court” but said he successfully completed his contempt sentence by paying more than $2,900 in restitution and serving six months of unsupervised probation. And, he said, it’s been hard to earn a living since he gave up his law license in 2015 amid Idaho State Bar efforts to discipline or disbar him.

“The conviction in this case has been a factor in eliminating me from consideration from some of the positions for which I have applied,” he said in his court declaration. “I am currently being considered for a position with the U.S. Secret Service ... (that) requires a ‘top secret’ clearance.”

Bujak’s plea admitted to poor behavior in return for a sentence that allowed him to avoid jail time, and he should not be able to drop his part of the deal, Akamatsu wrote. Her response called Bujak’s motion “essentially a request for leniency” but said it “failed to show any injustice in the sentence.”

Bujak told the Idaho Statesman on Wednesday he has been consulting and doing other contract work since giving up his license. “I am looking to change gears and return to a career in public service,” he said.

All Secret Service jobs require “top secret” security clearance, according to the agency’s website.

The Secret Service operates a field office in Boise with “a small contingent” of agents and support staff who provide investigation and protection services throughout the southern portion of the state, Resident Agent Bob Harrell said. Secret Service operations in North Idaho are handled by the Spokane field office, he said.

Harrell said he could not disclose the number of employees in the Boise office, and there are no immediate plans to hire anyone new here. However, he noted, the Secret Service is in the middle of “a big hiring push” nationwide that is generating many applicants. Most of the new hires will likely go to large field offices, such as those in Seattle and Denver.

Bujak said the position he has applied for would not be based in Idaho.

A hearing on Bujak’s motion is set for 1:30 p.m. July 14.

Kristin Rodine: 208-377-6447

The many cases of John Bujak

January 2009: John Bujak takes office as Canyon County prosecutor. In April, he puts in a winning bid to take over Nampa’s misdemeanor prosecutions. Payments from the $600,000 annual contract are directed to the county general fund.

September 2009: At Bujak’s suggestion, the contract is amended so payments are sent to a trust account only he can access. County commissioners approve the move, believing all funds will ultimately go to county coffers. Bujak says he will not profit.

May 2010: Nampan Bob Henry sues to get access to trust account records. Bujak and the county fight it, saying the account is Bujak’s private property. A judge agrees. The Idaho Supreme Court later agrees with Henry that the contract records are public.

Summer 2010: Bujak says at a county budget hearing he is allowed to profit from the contract after meeting his obligations to the county. Concerned that the county has received no money from the contract beyond expenses and salary bumps, a commissioner asks Bujak to begin payments. He pays $171,000.

September 2010: Unable to pay the approximately $300,000 commissioners say he still owes, Bujak resigns. A criminal investigation begins. Bujak files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in November.

December 2011: Bujak is charged with two counts of grand theft. In March, the complaint is amended to felony misuse of public funds.

June and July 2012: Grand juries indict Bujak on three felonies: grand theft for his handling of an estate before he took office, and preparing false evidence and computer crime, both related to the misuse of public funds case.

November 2012: Bujak goes on trial for misuse of funds. The jury deadlocks. The prosecutor says he’ll try again.

January to March 2013: Bujak goes through three trials — for grand theft in the estate case, for preparing false evidence and computer crime, and the second trial for misuse of county funds. Twice, he’s acquitted. The false evidence case ends in mistrial; Bujak later pleads guilty to criminal contempt and the felony charges are dropped.

January 2014: A federal grand jury indicts Bujak on bankruptcy fraud, concealment of assets, making a false statement under oath, money laundering and obstruction of justice. A trial jury finds him not guilty in May.

March 2014: Bujak files to run for Idaho governor as a Libertarian. He drew 4 percent of the November vote.

September 2015: Bujak gives up his law license in response to an Idaho State Bar complaint seeking to disbar him. He won’t be able to seek reinstatement until early 2020.

June 2017: Bujak files a motion to dismiss his contempt conviction.

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