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N.J. senator’s case goes to ethics panel

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WASHINGTON — Lawyers for Sen. Robert Torricelli say the "false accusations" of a one-time friend and supporter were at the center of a three-year federal probe into the political and personal finances of the New Jersey Democrat.

In her final week in office, Mary Jo White, the U.S. attorney in New York City, said she decided against criminal charges after an exhaustive investigation by her office, the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service and the Customs Service.

Prosecutors referred their information to the Senate's ethics committee which will begin its own noncriminal inquiry.

Torricelli called the referral routine and said it "will yield the same result."

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., expressed pleasure with Thursday's announcement. "My confidence has been justified, and I'm pleased that Senator Torricelli can return his full energies to the continued representation of his constituents and service to the Senate," Daschle said in a written statement.

Torricelli, a leading Democratic fund raiser, complained last year that federal investigators had leaked damaging and inaccurate allegations about him to the press.

He remains a powerful figure in New Jersey politics, and several prominent Republicans already have backed away from challenging him in November.