BOISE -- Three days after a Canyon County jury found former Canyon County Prosecutor John Bujak not guilty of misuse of public funds, he sat down with KTVB to tell his side of the story. A judge's gag order had prevented him from speaking about allegations until his case was over.
On Monday afternoon, John Bujak told KTVB's Jamie Grey, that he didn't want to focus on vindication or revenge, but rather just wants to share his view of what happened while he was in office. He believes his troubles started when a contract with the city of Nampa for prosecution services quickly turned into, in his words, a political hot potato.
Bujak still stands by the contract that started it all
After resigning in 2010, Bujak was later accused of illegally profiting from that contract with Nampa. Commissioners said Bujak wasn't supposed to get any money, though Bujak has always maintained that was understood.
"Generally speaking, I think people should be paid for their hard work. In this case, I just thought we should have stuck to the deal that we agreed to," Bujak said.
Bujak believes the contract at the heart of his case, a prosecution contract was, and is, a good idea for the county, one that saved money and allowed him to be compensated for his work.
"The Nampa contract and the arrangement has been kind of clouded by this negative connotation. Everyone thinks it was somehow a bad thing. But the reality is it saved everybody a lot of money and made prosecution better in Canyon County. Every year it's been in effect, the taxpayers have saved $150,000," Bujak said.
Bujak: 'I was the guy...left on the battlefield to take the heat'
Once the contract came into question, specifically after some public records requests were made, Bujak believes he was caught in the middle. He says the acquittal signifies the citizen representatives agreeing with him, and doesn't feel like he 'got away' with anything.
"I think we had politicians get nervous, and everyone ran for cover, and I was the guy who was still left on the battlefield to take the heat. I don't feel like I 'got away' with something. I feel like I stood on what I believed was the right thing to do," Bujak said.
Court costs for the county fighting issues related to Bujak have neared a half million dollars, much of it on Bujak's special public defender and computer expert. He says it was a necessary cost, and he maintains that with his recent bankruptcy declaration and cost of the case, he couldn't afford to pay to defend himself.
"I don't have any doubt that the state and their representatives took it seriously. I certainly took it seriously, and when you have a case of this magnitude being taken seriously on both sides, resources are going to be expended. So it costs what it costs," Bujak said. "I regret that it costs that much. I regret that those many resources were spent because it does cut into some of that legacy from the Nampa contract and some of that money that's saved ended up not being saved because they came after me so aggressively."
Did Bujak intentionally throw another case into mistrial?
Since resigning and throughout months of legal battles, Bujak has been accused of a lot, but says he hasn't been scheming or plotting. Recently, the judge declared a mistrial in a related falsifying evidence case because Bujak did not disclose some of his evidence to the prosecution. KTVB asked Bujak if he did that on purpose to change the order his cases would be heard.
"No, it wasn't anything that I had planned. I think that some people believe I sit in some small room and wring my fingers and try to think about ways to be conniving or plan some kind of grand strategy here. But in the end, I just want to get to justice," Bujak said. "Quite frankly, it doesn't matter what order the cases come in, but if I could have picked it, it would have been the email [falsifying evidence] case, Littleton [an estate theft case he was found not guilty of in January], and then the misuse case."
Bujak plans to attempt getting back into law
Looking back over the past three years, Bujak says he has learned a lot about government service and things he would do differently. For one, he wishes he would have been more transparent with the contract and finances early on.
"If I could do it all over again, where I initially took the stance that the Nampa contract was my private contract, because by law that's what I believed it was at the time... If I could rewind the clock, I would have just put it all on the table at the beginning, the same way I put it on the table for the jurors during the trial and just let everyone know what I was doing," Bujak said. "At the time, it felt like an infringement of my privacy, but now I believe that would have been the right thing to do."
Looking ahead, Bujak tells KTVB he wants to use his experience as the accused and try to get his law license back and go back to being a lawyer.
"Being the person facing these kinds of criminal consequences, you realize that in the past maybe you didn't have the best bedside manner. At least for me personally, I don't think I ever appreciated just how scared the people who were my clients sitting in a criminal courtroom at trial, at sentencing, or otherwise, really were," Bujak said. "I went to court every day wondering if I was coming back home in the evening. So you say goodbye to your fiancé, or your kids, or your mom and dad... and you wonder if that's the last time you're going to be able to physically touch them and say I love you, thank you for being here."
Bujak on reputation: 'To some people, you'll always be that guy'
Bujak says it remains to be seen how much his reputation is impacted as he attempts to rebuild a law career.
"I think anybody who is accused of committing a crime, especially one as serious as the crime as I was accused of committing, it's tough to ever bounce back from that because to some people you'll always be 'that guy'. Here's the elected prosecutor that did something wrong. Although memories may fade about the specifics, there are always going to be people out there with negative things to say," Bujak said. "Certainly, my reputation has taken a hit. I don't know that I'll ever be able to revive my reputation in full. I'll certainly never be the same man that took office as the Canyon County prosecutor those years ago. But I'm not looking forward to anything but a bright future at this point in time."
Bujak got engaged just after the not guilty verdict on Friday, and he's still figuring out what exactly he wants to do with his career. He says he's not ruling anything out just yet, and that could include public service if all the factors were right.
Bujak set for another trial this fall
Bujak still faces one more court trial this September with allegations he falsified evidence related to this recent case.
An extended version of Bujak's half hour interview with KTVB will air on Sunday at 9 a.m. after Meet the Press.