Tillotson clarifies fraud conviction, denounces Hoppe

Thursday, March 29, 2012 | 8:14 p.m. CDT; updated 9:44 p.m. CDT, Thursday, March 29, 2012

COLUMBIA — With Tuesday's municipal election looming, Sixth Ward Columbia City Council candidate Bill Tillotson found himself explaining a case in which he pleaded guilty to fraud 36 years ago and then received a pardon from the governor 22 years later.

Tillotson pleaded guilty to charges of fraud in November 1976, according to a Missouri State Highway Patrol criminal history record provided to the Missourian. Execution of his original sentence of 60 days confinement was suspended and later dismissed after he served one year of probation without violation.

Additional documents indicate that Gov. Mel Carnahan granted him a full pardon from the crime in 1998, more than two decades later.

One of three types of clemency, a full pardon does not scrub charges from one's criminal record. It does, however, "restore all rights of citizenship" and nullify "any disqualification or punitive effect" that occurred consequent of conviction.

The documents left unspecified the type and the severity of the fraud to which Tillotson pleaded guilty.

After KMIZ aired a short segment on the matter Wednesday night, Tillotson's campaign produced a news release with further explanation.

According to the statement, Tillotson was a new insurance salesman when he was hired by a remotely operated firm in Salisbury. The company turned out to be a sham, and, in the absence of its orchestrator, Tillotson was charged with fraud.

He said he followed the advice of the prosecutor in pleading guilty but later sought and was granted a rare pardon when the charge became a hindrance to further professional licensure.

The release concludes with a condemnation of opponent Barbara Hoppe, calling her comment to the Columbia Daily Tribune that "(Tillotson's) conviction... should be something that weighs heavily on the voters" a betrayal of her career as a public defender.

Hoppe has retired after years of work with the Missouri Public Defender's Office.

Attorney David Tyson Smith delivered records pertaining to the Tillotson case to the Missourian. A campaign finance report the Hoppe campaign filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission on Monday shows that Smith donated $200 to Hoppe's campaign earlier this month.

Hoppe, however, said she is not responsible for disseminating information about the Tillotson case. She said Smith, like many members of the legal community, has been a supporter of hers.

"I'm an attorney. I know a lot of attorneys," she said, pointing to a recent set of campaign donations from fellow lawyers as evidence.

Smith said that other than the donation he is unaffiliated with Hoppe's campaign. He said he has not spoken to her about the Tillotson case.

Politics and preference aside, Smith said, criminal background is something "people need to know" about a candidate.

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Christopher Foote March 29, 2012 | 9:24 p.m.

I suppose integrity has a liberal bias. Also "my lawyer told me to plead guilty/I didn't know what I was doing" is a rather pusillanimous response. Perhaps that is just the sort of mindset the chamber of commerce envisioned controlling/backing.

(Report Comment)
Ed Ricciotti March 29, 2012 | 9:49 p.m.

Mr. Tillotson not only slandered Barbara Hoppe, which I understand because she is a public official, but he took the unprecedented step of attacking private citizens, questioning their integrity. When you demonize entire neighborhoods, you make quite a bit of political enemies. Don't act surprised when you reap what you sow.

(Report Comment)
Tim Dance March 29, 2012 | 9:59 p.m.

Okay, we have this felony conviction and the misdemeanor in 2004. Is that it?

BTW, there is a difference when an actual campaign goes super negative and a supporter gathering his/her own information.

I remember the Kespohl campaign distancing themselves from his supporters when they were bringing up domestic abuse charges on Skala. I believe there was even a packet that was mailed to either the Trib or KFRU. You cast your dirty sleaze net wide, expect to get dirty too.

(Report Comment)
Dan Goldstein March 30, 2012 | 9:15 a.m.

My Dog ate my homework! It was someone else's fault...
Is anyone else baffled by Tillotson's vague explanations for these things? He was on probation for a year because his dog didn't show up for court? Really? He was charged with fraud because his boss didn't show up? I have never heard of someone getting a years probation because their family Golden Retriever ran away once. What is missing in this story?
If you work for someone committing fraud, and you come forward as soon as the fraud is discovered and testify against your fraudulent boss you usually don't get convicted of FELONY fraud. I know life can be complicated, and sometimes bad things can happen to all of us just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but there is critical information missing here. Who was the unnamed fraudulent boss? Why has the name not been given?
And I guess the really big question on many voters minds now is, what next? Are there more skeletons in the closet? Is this why the campaign seems to be more worried about who is bringing forward information than explaining what happened?

(Report Comment)
Tim Dance March 30, 2012 | 5:02 p.m.

What ever happened to investigating reporting? Someone hands you a document stating that Tillotson was convicted of felony fraud and was pardoned. A pardon doesn't expunge guilt, it just allow the individual to have all rights of citizenship back. This man is trying to represent citizens of this city. Shouldn't you try to get to the bottom of it instead of waiting for people to hand you documents and fax you press releases. Reminds me of Stephen Colberts press dinner joke:

"The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put 'em through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration? You know, fiction!

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin March 30, 2012 | 5:57 p.m.

A reader mentioned the dog/probation stories about Bill Tillotson came up here but noted that the probation mentioned in this story is not the same as the probation Mr. Tillotson served in 2004:

(Report Comment)

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