NEW ORLEANS -- Prosecutors asked for 15 months behind bars based on the defendant’s “substantial” cooperation. The defense attorney asked for home incarceration.
But falling in line with a get-tough sentencing trend, U.S. District Judge Nannette Jolivette Brown rejected the pleas for leniency, sentencing a Kenner businessman to 20 months in prison Thursday for bribing former Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard.
William Mack, the owner of a Kenner telecommunications company, also was ordered to pay $60,000 in fines after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery in the scandal that helped end Broussard’s political career.
Broussard is now serving three years and 10 months behind bars for accepting the bribes from Mack, as well as for payroll fraud in giving his ex-wife Karen Parker a paralegal job for which she was not qualified.
Mack requested leniency in light of his cooperation with authorities in the case against Broussard. Mack detailed how he gave Broussard monthly payments of $1,500 over several years – $66,000 total – in exchange for Jefferson Parish contracts.
Mack confessed that Broussard rewarded him with contracts worth about $40,000 for his company, First Communications Co. Prosecutors said Broussard tried to rig another contract worth more than $200,000 for Mack, but it wasn’t approved.
While Judge Brown gave Mack a sentencing break, it wasn’t as much as he expected, or what prosecutors recommended. Federal sentencing guidelines dictated a 30 to 37 month sentence for Mack, but Brown gave him a break by approving a so-called 5-K letter requested by prosecutors for Mack’s “substantial cooperation.”
But in a move generous by federal court standards, prosecutors suggested a 50 percent reduction in Mack’s potential sentence, potentially dropping his jail time to as low as 15 months.
“Mr. Mack completely jumped in the deep end with us,” lead prosecutor Matthew Chester said in court at Mack’s sentencing. “He provided information that the government did not know.”
Mack’s attorney, Eddie Castaing, went even further, asking for home incarceration based on his client’s recent heart surgery. To qualify, a defendant’s sentence can’t be more than 14 months.
But like several of her colleagues on the federal bench in recent months, Brown didn’t buy it.
“What troubles me is that I keep seeing these 5Ks time and time again,” Brown said. “There must be consequences that reflect the seriousness of the crime.”
Brown’s unwillingness to fully grant prosecutors’ request for a lenient sentences was similar to that taken by judges in two recent high-profile cases.
In the case of former Plaquemines Parish Sheriff Irvin “Jiff” Hingle, prosecutors requested a 31-month sentence for mail fraud and bribery. U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance denied that request, giving Hingle 46 months behind bars.
And former Orleans Parish Purchasing Director John Sens was sentenced to 60 months in prison in a bid-rigging and bribery scheme, but U. S. District Judge Kurt D. Engelhardt took the rare step of going above the federal guidelines that called for a sentence between 46 and 57 months.
Chester warned Brown that rejecting the U.S. government’s request for leniency could have a chilling effect on getting other defendants to cooperate in public corruption cases.
“For the court to ignore the 5K sends the wrong message to potential cooperators,” Chester said.