Maureen O'Connor, the 66-year-old former mayor of San Diego, pleaded not guilty on Thursday to a money laundering charge stemming from $2.1 million she took from her late husband's charitable foundation.
According to the Associated Press, O'Connor took the money in the midst of a massive, decade-long gambling spree, in which she won and lost more than $1 billion. The not guilty plea came after O'Connor made a deal with the Justice Department to defer prosecution for two years while she attempts to pay back the foundation and receive treatment for her gambling problem.
O'Connor's lawyer, Eugene Iredale, said that his client's net gambling losses totaled more than $13 million. The former mayor inherited tens of millions of dollars from her late husband, the Jack in the Box fast-food chain founder, Robert O. Peterson, but is now living with a sister.
In a news conference, O'Connor said she intended to pay the money back, and, according to the AP, "appeared to blame her behavior on a brain tumor that was diagnosed in 2011."
"There are two Maureens -- Maureen No. 1 and Maureen No. 2," O'Connor said. "Maureen No. 2 is the Maureen who did not know she had a tumor growing in her brain."