Topeka The trial of a former Junction City mayor charged with taking bribes got under way with prosecutors playing a tape in which Michael “Mick” Wunder admits taking $19,000 from a developer.
In a recorded conversation played Monday in court, Wunder told Lawrence attorney and developer Brennan Fagan that he took payments from David Freeman not as a bribe to influence a Junction City housing project, but to cover his wife’s mounting medical bills.
The case, which is being heard in U.S. District Court in Topeka, continued Tuesday.
Prosecutors played the tape as part of their case to show that Wunder abused his power for personal gain. Fagan was aware that investigators were recording the telephone call, but Wunder’s attorney, Michael Francis, said his client only needed money to pay for bills as his wife started losing her vision and that Wunder gave Freeman sports collectibles in return.
“I really don’t see the seriousness to all of this,” Wunder said in the conversation with Fagan. “I wasn’t just going to accept his money.”
Freeman has pleaded guilty to giving Wunder money in hopes of winning the right to develop new subdivisions in Junction City. The projects, worth $12 million, were sought as the community braced for an influx of soldiers and families from nearby Fort Riley.
Freeman, also of Lawrence, is expected to testify in the trial and is awaiting sentencing.
Wunder accepted the money in separate meetings from May 1, 2006, through March 2007. He said on the recording that he didn’t make a lot of money selling advertising for a cable company and part-time at a convenience store.
Prosecutors contend the payments to Wunder represent “an abuse of public trust” because they helped Freeman’s Big D Developments secure contracts with city government. Prosecutors said the developer had no experience building a project of such a magnitude and alleged that Freeman also helped another Lawrence company land a bid to renovate a Junction City opera house.