Kleptocracy, Indeed: 11th Circuit Upholds Gary White Conviction

By Robyn Hagan Cain on November 30, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed former Jefferson County Commissioner Gary White's sentence this week, finding that there was sufficient evidence to support White's corruption conviction, and that the corresponding prison sentence was reasonable.

Eleventh Circuit Judge Earl Carnes started the court's decision on White's appeal with a definition of "kleptocracy." While that signaled bad news for White, it was good news for those of us who delight in unusual vocabulary lessons in court opinions. (Thanks, Judge Carnes.)

Why the kleptocracy vocabulary lesson? Because Alabama's Jefferson County Commission only has five members, and, between 1998 and 2008, five current or former members of the County Commission were convicted on corruption charges. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has denied appeals from four of those commissioners, including White. One did not appeal.

White, who served on the County Commission from 1990 until 2006, was responsible for the Jefferson County, Ala. sewer program. A federal jury convicted White for conspiring with, and accepting bribes from, U.S. Infrastructure's Sohan Singh in exchange for sewer contracts between 2003 and 2005. U.S. Infrastructure received more than $11 million in sewer-related contracts with the county, including "no bid" contracts, during that time.

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals rejected White's insufficient evidence argument, noting that the record contained "ample evidence of White's corrupt intent to be influenced or rewarded."

The court was equally unforgiving regarding White's sentence, finding that Judge L. Scott Coogler did not abuse his discretion in sentencing White to 120 months in prison. The Eleventh Circuit didn't offer a detailed explanation why Judge Coogler's sentence was reasonable; it just copied his explanation for the sentence into its own opinion, and added "Indeed" to the end.

Kleptocracy, indeed.

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