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Former prosecutor accused of fondling men in body checks

BIRMINGHAM (AP) — A former North Alabama district attorney has been indicted on federal charges accusing him of fondling four young men who were unclothed for body searches that he personally conducted.

John Pilati, 41, of Russellville was indicted by a federal grand jury Wednesday on four misdemeanor counts alleging illicit sexual contact with the men when he was district attorney in Franklin County.

Authorities said the investigation was a spinoff of an earlier case that led to Pilati's guilty plea in May 2004 to a charge of giving false information to an FBI agent probing corruption in the county.

Federal prosecutors said fondling of a sexual nature occurred from 2001 to 2004 when Pilati served as district attorney. FBI agent Pat Stokes told the TimesDaily of Florence that the males ranged from 17 to 20 years old. Pilati denied charges, according to his attorney, George Andrews.

"These charges are a total fabrication," Andrews said.

We expect Mr. Pilati to be fully exonerated," Andrews told the TimesDaily.

The four misdemeanor counts charge Pilati with deprivation of rights under the color of law, a civil rights violation. Each carries a sentence of up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine if convicted.

"Citizens who are brought before law enforcement authorities are entitled to have their basic civil rights respected," U.S. Attorney Alice Martin said in a news release. "When a district attorney or anyone else in law enforcement uses his position to satisfy his own desires, great damage is done to the justice system and to the individuals subjected to the abuse."

Pilati, who was elected district attorney in 1998, resigned in April 2004, near the end of his six-year term, after he was indicted for lying to federal agents. After his guilty plea, he was sentenced to six months in federal prison and fined $5,000.

Pilati had been accused of lying to federal investigators when he denied agreeing to recommend reduced charges or lighter sentences in exchange for payments by defendants to his office, which was dealing with tight state budgets.

Released from prison, Pilati worked as a newspaper reporter in Franklin County before becoming general manager of a Russellville radio station, the TimesDaily said.

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Information from: TimesDaily, http://www.timesdaily.com/

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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