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Probe of trips will continue

Prosecutors said Thursday the list of politicians charged with neglecting to disclose trips paid for by lobbyists will remain at 24 _ for now. Deputy State Attorney Tony Guarisco said the investigation will enter what he called phase three, which would include interviews with more lobbyists and examination of their records to find other unreported trips.

"The investigation is continuing and there could be more charges filed down the road," Guarisco said.

Twenty-four current and former state legislators are charged with second-degree misdemeanors for not disclosing the free trips on disclosure forms as the law once required. Fifteen are Democrats and nine are Republicans.

Seven have agreed to pay fines ranging from $250 to $1,250 and plead no contest, which is not an admission of guilt but allows for no appeal. Agriculture Commissioner Bob Crawford and House Speaker T. K. Wetherell, the two highest-ranking officials charged, both have agreed to plead and pay fines.

The settlements are contingent upon the pleas having no impact on any pension the politician might be entitled to.