Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Thursday, December 01, 2011

White: Jefferson County Commissioner Convictions Affirmed

In U.S. v. White, No. 10-13654 (Nov. 29, 2011), the Court affirmed convictions and the sentence for conspiracy and federal funds bribery of a former Jefferson County, Alabama Commissioner.

The Court rejected a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, pointing out that the owner of a contracting firm whose contracts were approved by White on behalf of the County testified that he made cash payments to White “to keep him pretty much happy” with his firm.

The Court also rejected White’s challenge to his 120-month, below Guidelines, sentence. The Court rejected White’s argument that he should not have a received a 16-level enhancement based on the over $1 million the contracting firm received in fees from the County, because the amount of the cash payments to White were only $22,000, and because the County would have hired the contractor regardless of the cash payments White received. The Court rejected this argument, finding that the evidence of White’s involvement – his votes to approve the contracts – sufficed to show that the company’s professional fees were a benefit “received in return for” the payments, as the Guidelines provided.

The Court also rejected a substantive reasonableness challenge to the sentence, pointing out that, under U.S. v. Irey, 612 F.3d 1160 (11th Cir. 2010) (en banc), vacatur on this ground is only granted if the Court is “left with the definite and firm conviction that the district court committed a clear error of judgment in weighing the § 3553(a) factors by arriving at a sentence that lies outside the range of reasonable sentences dictated by the facts of the case.”