By MALLORY MOENCH, Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A federal judge sentenced former Alabama House Majority Leader Rep. Micky Hammon to three months in prison for felony mail fraud on Thursday, rebuffing a prosecution recommendation for Hammon to spend no time behind bars.
Hammon, a Republican from Decatur, pleaded guilty last year to using campaign funds for personal expenses. Hammon was ordered by .S. District Judge Myron Thompson to forfeit nearly $51,000 for reimbursement to victims who had donated to his campaign and could face being forced to forfeit more money.
Thompson said in sentencing Hammon that he wanted to send a message to other officials about the seriousness of the crime.
“This is a man who served in the legislature. People put their trust in him. They contributed to his campaign. He used those funds for personal gain. He abused their trust,” Thompson said.
Hammon served in the legislature from 2002 until he was removed last year after pleading guilty to the felony charge.
Prosecutors originally asked for three years of probation and a $40,000 forfeiture because Hammon cooperated with the investigation.
The judge said he saw no justification for lack of prison time.
Sentencing guidelines for the crime ranged from eight to 14 months in prison but Thompson said he reduced the prison time because of Hammon’s health. The 60-year-old former lawmaker said in court that he takes medication for anxiety, high blood pressure and blood clots.
Hammon will enter prison on March 29 and will be on probation for three years after he serves his sentence.
Hammon was joined for his sentencing in the nearly empty courtroom by his wife, other family members and his lawyer. The former lawmaker apologized before the judge.
“I want to say that I’m sorry to the court and mostly to my family. I’m sorry for the embarrassment I brought to you,” Hammon said as he motioned to six family members seated in the back of the courtroom. “I apologize to my constituents and all the people of the state of Alabama. I ask for forgiveness.”
Hammon pleaded guilty to writing himself checks from his campaign finance account for personal expenses. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Montgomery said it was investigating another matter when it found the transfers. U.S. assistant attorney Jonathan Ross declined to comment on any ongoing investigation on Thursday.
The government reached out to all of Hammon’s campaign donors whose donations had been used for personal expenses, but Ross said most did not respond. The 3M company and Exxon Mobil were among donors who requested the return of their donations. The Alabama Power Company waived its right for restitution. Ross said the company’s donation will go to a crime victims’ fund.
After the sentencing, Alabama House Speaker Rep. Mac McCutcheon said in a statement that “justice is being served” but added that “my prayers are with Micky Hammon and his family.”
McCutcheon, a Republican who is a retired law enforcement officer, said Hammon’s conviction demonstrates that Alabama is dedicated to rooting out corruption.
Hammon joins a list of Alabama lawmakers removed from office or convicted for ethics violations in recent years.
Former state Rep. Oliver Robinson, a Democrat, pleaded guilty in a bribery scheme in September 2017.
In 2016, a grand jury convicted former Alabama House Speaker Rep. Mike Hubbard, a Republican, on 14 felony charges including corruption and using his position for personal gain.
In 2006, Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, a Democrat, was convicted on felony corruption charges. He was sentenced to seven years in prison but released early on supervised probation.
Last year, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, a Republican, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor campaign finance charge and stepped down amid a sex scandal with an aide.
This story has been corrected to show that that Hubbard was the House Speaker, not the majority leader, and that he was convicted in 2016, not indicted that year.