Ariz. man accused of stealing PTFP funds pleads not guilty

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The Arizona man indicted on charges of embezzling federal funds that were given to start a Native radio station pleaded not guilty April 26 in the District of Arizona U.S. District Court, according to online court records. The attorney representing the defendant, John Bittner, said he may file a motion for Bittner to be mentally evaluated. A jury trial was set for June 5.

As Current reported April 23, Bittner is alleged to have used $322,364 in Public Telecommunications Facilities Program funds on personal expenses, including a car, medical costs, child support payments and a trip to Las Vegas. After his indictment, Bittner attempted suicide and spent time in a hospital in Flagstaff, Ariz., his hometown.

Correction: An April 23 article about John Bittner, an Arizona man arrested on charges of stealing federal money intended for a Native radio station, incorrectly stated that KGHR, a Native-operated radio station in Tuba City, Ariz., is off the air. The station went silent in November 2010 after a lightning strike, but resumed broadcasts last September, according to a station official.

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