Gary White sentenced to 10 years in prison

Former Jefferson County Commissioner Gary White (source WBRC video)
Former Jefferson County Commissioner Gary White (source WBRC video)

TUSCALOOSA, AL (WBRC) - Former Jefferson County Commissioner Gary White was sentenced Thursday to 10 years in prison for his role in the county's sewer debt crisis.

Federal judge Scott Coogler handed down the sentence Thursday afternoon in a federal courtroom in Tuscaloosa. Federal prosecutors had asked Judge Coogler to sentence White to at least 15 years in prison, while White's attorneys asked for an alternative sentencing plan in which White could perform community service at the Birmingham Zoo, Botanical Gardens or Humane Society.  In the end, Judge Coogler denied the defense motions.

"The law requires that i send you to prison," Judge Coogler said.

White was convicted in 2008 on conspiracy and bribery charges related to the county's sewer debt crisis. The conviction was later overturned on appeal, but in December the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals re-instated the original conviction.

Before the sentence was handed down, White asked for mercy.

"I exercised very poor judgement by allowing him to pay me in cash," White told the judge. "I deceived my wife and kept this from her and I ask for the court's mercy and leniency. My career has been tainted."

Judge Coogler said the 10-year sentence was "well below" the maximum sentencing guidelines.  He said he felt the 10 years was appropriate.

Judge Coogler set a tentative date of Aug. 30 for White to report to prison.

Judge Coogler also ordered White to pay $22,000 plus interest in restitution to the Jefferson County Commission and to forfeit $22,000 to the government as proceeds of illegal activity.

Several people spoke on White's behalf Thursday, including White's wife. She became tearful at times as she pleaded with the judge for leniency.

A federal jury in January 2008 convicted White of conspiring with and accepting bribes from Sohan Singh between 2003 and 2005 while White was an elected commissioner with oversight of Jefferson County's Environmental Services Department. Singh's company, U.S. Infrastructure, had numerous "no bid" professional services contracts with the county for sewer projects.

Prosecutors said Singh regularly gave White thousands of dollars in $100 bills in white envelopes. During the time period of the conspiracy, Singh's company received more than $11 million in sewer-related contracts with the county.

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