ATLANTA (AP) — Bill Campbell, the former mayor of Atlanta convicted in March of tax evasion but exonerated of corruption charges, will make a last stand for his freedom Tuesday in a federal courtroom.

His attorneys will remind the sentencing judge of Campbell’s lifelong record of public service, which began at age 7, when Campbell became the lone black to integrate the Raleigh, N.C., public school system. He became the two-term mayor of Atlanta, presiding over the city’s boom in population and prosperity that included the 1996 Summer Olympic Games.

Prosecutors will continue to try to paint Campbell as a corrupt politician who approached his office with a “What’s in it for me?” attitude.

The conflicting views of Campbell’s character will be crucial in determining his sentence, which those familiar with the case say could range anywhere from probation to no more than three years of incarceration. Like Campbell’s seven-week trial — which unfolded to reveal a high-rolling, jet-setting, womanizing lifestyle during his time in the mayor’s office — the outcome of Tuesday’s sentencing hearing is uncertain.

“The same kind of drama that attended the trial will attend the sentencing,” said University of Georgia law professor Ron Carlson, who has been following the Campbell case.

Campbell faced seven counts of racketeering, bribery and fraud during his trial and more than 60 prosecution witnesses took the stand against him — including two women who admitted being romantically involved with the married mayor. The government spent millions of dollars on a seven-year investigation into city hall corruption, which also led to the conviction of 10 of Campbell’s subordinates.

During trial, prosecutors had hoped to prove Campbell had taken more than $160,000 in illegal campaign contributions, cash payments, junkets and home improvements from city contractors while he was mayor from 1994 to 2002. Instead, he was convicted March 10 on just three counts of federal tax evasion, and acquitted on racketeering and bribery charges — a verdict he and his attorneys painted as a vindication.

Jerry Froelich, one of Campbell’s attorneys, said the decision will benefit him during sentencing.

“Clearly, it limits his exposure. If you get convicted of corruption, you’re looking at 15 years,” Froelich said, adding that Campbell is likely to face much less time on the tax evasion charges, which carry maximum penalties of up to nine years in prison and $300,000 in fines.

Froelich declined to comment as to who will testify on Campbell’s behalf, or what sentence Campbell’s defense team will recommend. The U.S. Attorney’s Office, through spokesman Patrick Crosby, also declined to comment on the hearing.

Campbell’s longtime friend, attorney Michael Coleman, said Monday it is likely that Campbell will make a statement during the sentencing hearing.

“He’s very anxious about it, nervous about it,” Coleman said of Campbell’s feelings about the hearing. “He knows this is a big day.”

Coleman pointed out that Campbell is unlikely to face a long sentence, but could pay substantial restitution. How much Campbell may be required to pay is unclear, since it’s unclear exactly what his full income in 1997, 1998 and 1999, when he allegedly accepted payments from contractors. During trial, prosecutors said Campbell’s attorneys could not explain at least $20,000 of his income from that period.

Coleman expects the government to seek the maximum penalty against his friend.

“Prosecutors lost the corruption and RICO (racketeering) elements on this trial. They’re desperately trying to get some redemption from the sentencing process,” Coleman said.

Carlson estimated that Campbell’s sentence could be as minimal as probation or somewhere between 27 and 30 months in prison, based on sentencing guidelines. However, Judge Richard W. Story does not have to follow those guidelines, and can sentence Campbell to more or less time than recommended by the attorneys.

Whether Campbell — a former prosecutor who is now a practicing attorney in Stuart, Fla. — loses his Florida license to practice law or not must also be determined. His license is in jeopardy because he was convicted of a felony.

“There are a lot of things hanging in the balance for the former mayor,” Carlson said. “I’m certain nobody is more anxious than him about what Judge Story is going to do.”

React to this story:

0
0
0
0
0

Tags

Recommended for you