NEW ORLEANS -- Aaron Broussard is preparing to head to prison for three years and 10 months for conspiracy to commit bribery and theft from a program receiving federal funds.
"I apologize for disgracing my office," said Broussard shortly after he learned of his sentence.
The former Jefferson Parish president had previously pleaded guilty to giving his ex-wife Karen Parker a paralegal supervisor position even though she lacked the proper credentials to do the work, and giving former Parish Attorney Tom Wilkinson generous raises to go along with the scheme.
Broussard also admitted to receiving tens of thousands of dollars from businessman William Mack in exchange for telecommunications contracts.
"I apologize for disgracing the government I served. The people that elected me trusted me to do my best, not my worst," said Broussard. "My future begins by walking through the prison doors, and that's when I can begin to reinvent myself."
Legal expects expected Broussard to receive a sentence in the five to eight year range. The Texas judge handling Broussard's sentencing said prosecutors had double counted his bribe payments.
Judge Hayden Head also appeared to downplay the hiring of Broussard ex-wife Karen Parker as a paralegal supervisor even though she lacked the proper credentials to do the work.
He said from the bench: "This was not a sophisticated operation. It must be common procedure to put people on the payroll."
The apparent light sentence caught many court-watchers by surprise, given the nature of the public corruption charges.
"He gave a lecture to the U.S. Attorneys Office, to the probation department and he calculated the sentencing guidelines differently than the probation office had calculated them and that worked to the benefit of Aaron Broussard," said Eyewitness News legal analyst Donald "Chick" Foret. "He was not impressed with the payroll portion of the case which dealt with Tom Wilkinson and Karen Parker. It was almost like he was trying to talk Tom Wilkinson out of his guilty plea at times."
Both Wilkinson and Parker got three years of supervised probation for knowing about a crime and failing to report it.
U.S. Attorney Dana Boente said federal prosecutors wanted more more jail for Broussard.
"We made our position, I think quite clear in the papers, that we took a different position than the judge eventually accepted, and that's just part of the process. Sometimes we don't all see things the same way."
Boente said he hopes the Broussard case serves as a message that his office will continue to vigorously pursue public corruption cases in the area. "This sad end to Aaron Broussard’s career is a self-inflicted wound resulting from his venality, corruption, and deceit," said Boente. "The citizens of Jefferson Parish deserved honest, effective government, and Mr. Broussard made the decision to line his own pockets. This prosecution should serve notice that this office will continue its robust and vigilant investigation of public corruption.”
In addition to his time behind bars, Broussard must repay the parish more than $280,000. The judge put Broussard on a payment plan of $500 a month.
"I hope to come out and be able to serve some useful purpose in society, particularly helping others in any way I can," said Broussard.
The judge ordered Broussard to report to prison April 8.