Joe Waldholtz pleaded guilty Wednesday to reduced counts of bank, campaign and tax fraud in exchange for dismissal of 26 other charges and his agreeing to discuss any involvement in his crimes by his ex-wife, Rep. Enid Greene, R-Utah.
He and prosecutors said the deal ends investigation into him personally but not his ex-wife. And Waldholtz dropped big hints that he will say damaging things about her.But Greene's lawyer, Charles Roistacher, said he isn't worried. "There is nothing he could say about Rep. Greene that is incriminating that would be true. . . . Joseph Waldholtz has been a liar and a perjurer all of his life."
Waldholtz pleaded guilty to three felony counts - one bank fraud count for check kiting, one count of making false statements about his ex-wife's campaign finances and one count of assisting in the filing of a false tax return.
He also pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of filing a false campaign disclosure statement for his wife's 1994 campaign.
U.S. District Judge Norma Hol-loway Johnson of the District of Columbia accepted the guilty pleas in an hourlong hearing and scheduled sentencing for Sept. 19. Waldholtz will remain free until then.
Waldholtz originally faced 27 counts of bank fraud. Prosecutor William Lawler III said Waldholtz will still face about the same amount of jail time - he estimates 18 to 24 months under federal guidelines - as he likely would have if he were convicted on all other counts.
Waldholtz also agreed to forfeit $14,910 - the amount of checks he wrote to himself in what prosecutors say was a $3 million check-kiting scheme.
Lawler noted that Waldholtz's guilty pleas covered the three major areas of allegations that had been made against him - and Wald-holtz freely admitted his guilt and apologized to almost everyone imaginable, except his ex-wife.
"I would especially like to apologize to the good people of Utah for what I've done," he told reporters later - and he also apologized to his family, friends, baby daughter and even former Rep. Karen Shepherd, D-Utah - who was defeated with the help of his campaign violations.
Why didn't he also apologize to his ex-wife? "I don't think it's appropriate for me to comment on that," Waldholtz said.
His attorney, Barbara Nicastro, added he won't comment on what his wife may have known about his crimes publicly, because his plea bargain requires him to discuss such matters fully with prosecutors.
Waldholtz said, "I know that I have a long way to go before I can regain trust and respect. But I plan to cooperate fully and honestly with government authorities."
Lawler said Waldholtz should have plenty of incentive to cooperate honestly and fully. His crimes carry maximum penalties of up to 30 years in prison and $1 million in fines, and prosecution recommendations for leniency depend on his cooperation.
"Our goal is to find the complete truth," Lawler said. "Obviously, Mr. Waldholtz is in the best position to provide information."
Waldholtz arrived in court joking and acting brash - but that faded. When asked to sign the plea bargain agreement before the hearing, he dropped his pen. Later, when he had to first admit guilt, he leaned heavily on the podium and his face flushed red as he did.
The one bank fraud count to which Waldholtz pleaded guilty was for writing two checks worth $250,000 from a joint account he and his wife held at the Wright-Patman Congressional Credit Union for deposit into First Security Bank of Utah when he knew the account had insufficient funds.
Prosecutor Craig Iscoe said that was part of a $3 million check-kiting scheme in February and March of 1995. The plea bargain said Waldholtz eventually covered overdrafts by depositing money from Greene's father, D. Forrest Greene.
The false statement and false campaign form counts come from Waldholtz filing - as treasurer for his wife's election committee - her year-end 1994 disclosure form.
Waldholtz admitted funneling illegally $1.8 million into the campaign that had come in loans from Greene's father. The signed plea agreement says Waldholtz knew the money was not from his ex-wife's personal funds, which reports claimed.
He also admitted that he created ghost contributors to the campaign and "willfully reported false names and addresses of alleged contributors."
In the tax fraud count, Wald-holtz admitted giving his wife stock that did not exist to help her escape taxes she owed in 1993 from capital gains on other stock that she sold.
Why did Waldholtz commit such crimes? "It goes back to the election night of 1992, which I thought then was the most difficult time of my life," he said about the first election when Greene lost to Shep-herd.
He said watching "the person I loved most suffering" caused "circumstances" that caused a "great deal of stress for us" leading to the crimes. He would not elaborate beyond that.
While officials work on a pre-sentence report and while Waldholtz tells prosecutors what he knows, he will be free to travel between Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City and Washington.
He had wanted freedom to travel nationwide to say farewell to friends before he begins any jail term - but Johnson said she did not feel comfortable with that, even though prosecutors agreed to it.
"I'm not sure that I agree with you that he doesn't present a danger" of flight, she said. "Knowing of his propensities, as outlined in his pleas, I'm not going to let him travel wherever he wants."
She allowed travel to Pittsburgh, because he is staying with his father there; to Salt Lake City to deal with pending child custody matters; and to Washington for legal matters there.
Waldholtz told reporters he has learned many lessons. "The ends do not justify the truth. There is an absolute truth. And always, always tell the truth, particularly to those you love."
He also bid a public, tearful farewell to his daughter, Elizabeth. "While I won't be around the next couple of years to be her dad, I will always carry her in my heart," he said.