Ex-Candidate Guilty of Faking Disappearance

Former congressional candidate says he's innocent, "saddened" by the verdict.

Feb. 21, 2008 — -- A former congressional candidate convicted this week of faking his disappearance to boost his faltering campaign maintained his innocence and told ABC News that his case is not over.

Gary Dodds, a New Hampshire businessman, was convicted Wednesday of falsifying evidence, causing public alarm and leaving the scene of a 2006 car crash.

Prosecutors said Dodds faked his disappearance after the crash, soaking his feet in cold water to make it appear that he'd been lost in the snowy woods.

He faces up to seven years in prison.

"I'm saddened and disappointed," he said in an emotional interview on "Good Morning America" this morning. "It's been a long, almost two-year ordeal."

Dodds, a Democrat, was on his way to Portsmouth, N.H., to meet with campaign staff when he crashed his car.

He claimed that he left the scene of the accident and wandered through the woods near where he'd crashed, confused from hitting his head. He said he nearly drowned in a river before collapsing in the woods.

His disappearance set off a massive manhunt, with state and local police and area fire departments searching with dogs, helicopters and marine patrol divers.

"I thought, 'Oh my God, I cannot sit here and watch them pull my husband's body from the river," Dodds' wife, Cindy, said.

But, when police found Dodds, something seemed amiss.

"I didn't see any dirt. I didn't see any bruises," said State Trooper Robert Quinn. "I didn't see, you know, his overall appearance was relatively clean."

Dodds' shoes and socks were wet and his feet were purple. The rest of his clothes were dry. A prosecution expert said Dodds' injuries were caused by soaking his feet in cold water.

Dodds denied the allegations. "You put your feet in cold, icy water for two minutes, I will give you $100," he said. "It can't be done. You can't do it."

Prosecutors said the event was a stunt to draw attention to his congressional campaign.

"It's just mind-boggling," said Dodds' lawyer J.P. Nadeau. "They have to believe Mr. Dodds staged a high-speed accident, crashing into a guard rail and risking his life in the process and have to further believe that for the next 25 hours he … in a warm room with his feet in buckets of very cold water, destroying his feet in the process."

Dodds said he didn't know whether he would run for Congress again.

The jury deliberated for six hours before finding him guilty.