O'Donnell: "I can't imagine going through anything like this"

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Sedgwick County Commissioner Michael O’Donnell spoke publicly, at-length, for the first time since a jury found him not guilty on a majority of money laundering and wire fraud charges he was facing in federal court.

“This was the worst experience of my life and probably anybody that would go through indictment, especially with 26 felonies,” O’Donnell said to KAKE News Investigative Reporter Greg Miller. “I can’t imagine going through anything like this.”

Prosecutors accused him of misspending more than $10,000 in campaign contributions. They alleged he was paying personal friends inappropriately. But O’Donnell’s attorney called a state ethics expert to the stand during the trial to testify that what he did was legal.

“There are no laws that I’m aware of, and this is the person who ran the Kansas Government Ethics Commission, saying that it was wrong under any law or standard,” said Mark Schoenhofer, O’Donnell’s attorney.

O’Donnell said he and his attorneys were never even asked about campaign spending during the initial investigation, which included members of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, IRS and other federal agencies.

“They never once interviewed me about anything in this indictment,” O’Donnell said. “They never asked a single question about the indictment.”

When asked what they were asking about instead, neither O’Donnell nor Schoenhofer would comment any further.

“Bottom line, we’re not comfortable talking about other people on-air,” Schoenhofer said.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office wouldn’t respond to O’Donnell’s remarks – saying the agency cannot comment on any ongoing investigations. O’Donnell himself said the case has taken a toll on him both personally and financially.

“I personally, would still have a life savings if it wasn’t for the fact that they rushed to indict,” O’Donnell said. “It all could have been avoided.”

He said he’s grateful the process is over, so there isn’t a legal cloud lurking as he work on the County Commission.

“I’m just happy that I can actually be back at work and not have this cloud over me,” he said. “that’s why we were relieved the government asked the judge to clear the remaining counts. So I can be done with it.”

O’Donnell admitted to being nervous – referring to statistics that show the U.S. Government typically has a very high success rate in federal court.

“I’m proud I stuck to my guns,” he said. “I didn’t shy away from a camera, I didn’t shy away from the public. I have a job to do. I take that seriously.”