After a nearly two year long ordeal, former State Representative Terry Spicer, Country Crossing Developer Ronnie Gilley and Lobbyist Jarrod Massey were sentenced Monday in Montgomery by Judge Myron Thompson.
Witnesses for all three men had the opportunity to address Judge Thompson on Monday before the sentencing to help shed some light on the defendants' character and lifestyles.
These testimonies gave Judge Thompson and the court a glimpse at the home life of Spicer, Gilley and Massey before, during and after the news of the crimes broke.
"Mr. Spicer showed a progression of slippage into illegal conduct." - U.S. Probate Officers
Witnesses for Terry Spicer were the first to address the court. Family friend, Michelle Gerlach, Editor and Publisher of the Andalusia Star News, told the court that Spicer was a family man who was also well respected for his political role in the state.
"He was very good for his district…always looking out for the greater good of others."
Gerlach explained that Spicer was a devoted husband and father as well as someone focused on bettering the community.
"There is good and bad in all of us. In this case the good outweighs the bad."
Spicer's wife, Maxceina Spicer, was the next to address the court.
"Ceina" explained her fight with a debilitating case of Rheumatoid Arthritis and said that her husband was her primary caretaker.
"My eyesight is limited, I have limited mobility, lifting and driving…I felt like this [diagnosis] was the beginning of the end for me," explained Ceina.
She pleaded with Judge Thompson for leniency partially because her husband is her primary caretaker. At times she relies on him for cleaning, washing, cooking, shopping and care of their two children. She tearfully related her difficult time emotionally with the disease and said that ultimately the decision would affect the family as a whole.
"I feel so insecure and scared that Terry might not be at home to care for our kids…that is the issue at hand. It is vital that he be at home to care for our two sons."
Spicer himself then had the opportunity to speak to the court. In his own words, he said he felt like he needed to offer "clarity on his part."
"I have accepted full responsibility for the things I've done wrong," said Spicer.
He went on to detail his friendship with Jarrod Massey and Ronnie Gilley. Spicer said ultimately, that's how everything started.
"The three of us were able to do some great things for our communities. And not for financial gain. We did it for our areas of the state."
Spicer said that he asked for money from Jarrod Massey because his family was in financial straits and they "needed help to get through the month." The payments continued, Spicer said he never considered them as payments from a lobbyist to a lawmaker, he looked at the situation as a friend helping out a friend. Spicer called Massey the "brother I never had" and said he knew Massey was starting his own lobbying business and wanted to help him with contacts and getting the word out.
"I didn't look at any of this as selling votes."
Spicer explained that he has always voted pro-gambling and pro-referendum. He always knew that if he needed help, he could go to Jarrod Massey for help. It was through Jarrod Massey that he met Ronnie Gilley.
"Ronnie was kind enough to help me with a campaign debt."
Spicer said that he forgot the report the debt and the $20,000 check from Ronnie Gilley to the ethics commission. He said it was an "oversight" on his part.
He went as far as to say that he might not have pleaded guilty if he felt like he could have afforded a better team of attorneys. Judge Thompson immediately sat up in his chair and asked, "Does that mean you don't think you're guilty?" Spicer quickly said no, he was guilty.
"I'm not a bad guy. I've just done some bad things. I'd just like to be left at home alone to tend to that situation."
Federal Prosecutor Kendall Day said that Spicer, even in his statements to the court, offered nothing but excuses. The money taken from Massey was used as the down payment on a new boat and a $10,000 ski trip. And the 'campaign donation' from Gilley wasn't used for political reasons. The check was deposited into his personal account for his own expenses.
"Spicer shows a real lack of contrition at the end of the day," said Day.
"My ego has raised out of control and I was brought to my knees. I'm on my knees now and I ask for mercy." - Ronnie Gilley
Five witnesses spoke on behalf of Country Crossing Developer Ronnie Gilley before Gilley had the opportunity to speak out in his own defense.
Michigan lawmaker and past president of the NAACP Alabama Conference, Edward Vaughn, spoke about how he met Ronnie Gilley and thought he was a visionary. Vaughn was impressed by Gilley's entrepreneurial spirit, assistance to the community, and statements in favor of a better distribution of wealth in the wiregrass.
Both Gilley and Vaughn were honored with an NAACP Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010.
The next witness to address the court tearfully described how Ronnie Gilley helped him in a time of need.
Tevin McNair, a 20-year-old psychology student from Enterprise said Gilley brought McNair and his brother into Gilley's home after DFS stripped custody rights from their mother.
McNair tearfully described how Gilley provided them with food, clothes, supplies, a place to stay, and even their very expensive diabetes medication.
"He worked to instill responsibility and respect into me. I consider him a father figure," said McNair. "I love him."
Ronnie Gilley's wife, Deidra Gilley, fought back tears as she described the losses her family has faced since charges were filed against her husband. They've lost vehicles, equipment, their own home as well as their beach home, and the feeling of safety and security.
Deidra said after their home was foreclosed on, their children lost their personal things and the family forced to move into a two bedroom cabin. The family has received threatening phone calls at night, people have pulled up to their home and parked in their driveway, she's been followed home by unfamiliar cars from court proceedings in Montgomery and voices have been heard outside their home late at night.
At one point, Ronnie Gilley found a decapitated rabbit waiting for him outside of his truck before he went to work one morning. The family has hired security guards to monitor their home due to the large volume of safety threats.
"I have no doubt in my mind it's all related to what is going on here," said Deidra.
Deidra detailed her husband's immense work in the community. She described numerous instances of giving to people in need, including visiting needy families on Christmas. She said her husband has bought groceries, clothes and gifts for people even though he did not know them. She described her husband's work following the tornado that struck Enterprise in 2007. Deidra said her husband put together a crew and went in to clear debris and recover survivors and ultimately, victims' bodies from the decimated school.
She explained the change she has seen in her husband since his release from jail.
"I know that he's a changed person. I know that he was in a very deep, dark place and he has learned what's important in life. It's our salvation in the lord."
Deidra told that court that Gilley started a bible study group inside the Montgomery City Jail. She said that her husband knows that he got involved with the wrong crowd, and since being released from jail he's thrown himself in to other projects.
She explained that they now hold a prayer group at their home on Tuesday nights that anyone can attend. He's thrown himself into the development project at BamaJam farms.
She also said that she's been forced to rely on her husband due to her own health issues. Deidra Gilley was diagnosed with two rare lung conditions that make normal activity difficult.
"I need him daily like a wife needs her husband and a child needs their father."
Deidra Gilley tearfully pleaded with Judge Thompson to be lenient in his sentencing of her husband.
"I feel that we have been punished enough. Everyone knows that he is sorry to everyone. I want to go home to my boys and tell them that we can go back to living a normal life. I feel that we have suffered enough."
The final two witnesses for Ronnie Gilley knew him through his BamaJam Farms development. An architect for the development, Larry Donnell Johnson told the court that Gilley was a "visionary" and that he had never seen anyone with such passion.
"Ronnie is not a menace to society," said Johnson. "I believe it would be a detriment to incarcerate someone like Mr. Gilley."
Gerald "Chuck" Taylor testified about the economic impact study done on the BamaJam Farms project and the countless jobs it would bring to the area. Taylor said that despite his past indiscretions, it was clear that Gilley was "moving on and doing positive things in the community."
Gilley then took the stand and addressed the court and Judge Thompson directly. He described the many losses his family has suffered since his indictment and guilty plea, as well as attempts to rehabilitate himself.
"I am a grown man. I made a conscious decision to jump off a cliff and I committed crimes…I allowed my ego to rage out of control - it's had a destructive affect on my personal life and my family. It's a constant struggle to get by."
Gilley says he believes that he's been rehabilitated and that he's had to pull himself up by his bootstraps. He assured the court and Judge Thompson that he will never break the law again because he wants to set a good example for his children and the community. He ended his plea by asking for mercy from the court.
Prosecuting Attorney Kendall Day told the court that Ronnie Gilley demonstrated "extremely serious conduct, unparalleled in scope." The government did request a 50% sentence reduction from the guideline for Gilley due to his "value of cooperation" however added, "A sentence of substantial incarceration is appropriate."
Gilley's own attorneys recommended an alternative sentence that included house arrest, a large amount of community service and only weekends in jail citing, "The wiregrass area needs this man. We need him really bad."
"What I did wasn't about money. It was about winning. And what I described as winning for almost 18 months wasn't winning. Because I lost…big time." - Jarrod Massey
Witnesses for Jarrod Massey were the last ones to voice their case for his sentencing.
His first four witnesses, while having known him for a long time, all described a marked change in him after the nearly nine months he spent in federal prison.
"I've been amazed at his maturity through this whole thing," said church friend Hunter McDonald. "He's not dodging responsibility."
A priest and Massey's spiritual advisor added that at one point, Gilley introduced himself to a church group by saying, "My name is Jarrod Massey and I am a confessed felon."
After his release from prison, multiple people testified that Massey spent much more time with his wife and children. One of his activities became coaching and mentoring a boy's baseball team. Friend Scott Chambers told the court that it was clear Massey's incarceration was a strain on the whole family and that Jarrod was trying to do the right thing.
Family friend Terry Davis told the court that Massey took the boys on his baseball team under his wing and lectured them using his own bad choices as examples. Davis said Massey taught the boys about "character, choices and commitment" as he pointed to his time in prison.
"I know that my son is better for it," said Davis.
Massey's mother-in-law took to the witness stand to plead for mercy on behalf of Massey's sons.
"I really, truly believe he's repented," said Anita Wilmoth. "And I'm probably his worst critic as I believe all mother-in-laws are."
Wilmoth added that after his time in prison, Massey worked to surround himself with different people. She said he has a better support system, better friends, and he was overall a better person than he was three years ago.
"His actions speak louder than any words. He's changed."
F.B.I. Special Agent John McEachern was asked to testify on Massey's behalf. McEachern told the court that he felt Massey to be truthful, his information useful, his demeanor cooperative and remorseful.
McEachern said that in dealing with criminals in the past, he's seen those that are sorry they got caught, and those that are sorry about what they did. He believed Gilley fell in the latter category.
Massey's two sons and his wife also spoke to the court. Due to their ages, his sons can only be identified as Mr. K and Mr. J.
Mr. K told Judge Thompson, "Kids need a father to love, to have, to hold and to watch you grow up." He asked for leniency for his father. Mr. J said, "I was angry at my dad when I found out he did all those things. But I'm proud of him, too." He added he was proud of his father for stepping forward and said when his dad got back from prison, "everything changed."
Jarrod Massey's wife, Sharon Massey, detailed what life was like while he was working on the legislation and while he was in prison.
"The passing of this legislation was extremely intense," she said. "Jarrod was working night and day."
She added that it became clear after that F.B.I. visited her home that there had been something else going on.
"Devastated would be too easy a word to describe the situation. I didn't know how hard it would be."
She explained that Massey spent the full time he was in prison, nearly nine months, in solitary confinement. He had no pillow, his prison-issued underwear and socks were stolen on a regular basis. He wasn't allowed to visit the prison library so family members would mail about 50 pages of a book to him at a time so he would have something to do to keep himself occupied. He lost nearly 30 pounds as a result of eating the prison food - pork and beans, turnip greens and an occasional can of peaches. She doesn't believe he was ever served "real" meat and the only things available for purchase were junk food items. She said he wasn't allowed a razor so he couldn't shave, and very rarely could he get a haircut. He was allowed a 10 minute phone call a day to his family.
"We used those phone calls to keep ourselves together. I lived for those 10 minutes a day to talk to him."
Sharon Massey said they never dreamed those personal phone calls would be used as evidence in court. She said as a result, their whole lives played out in the media and that caused Jarrod's angry demeanor on the witness stand during the first gambling corruption trial.
"Much has been made about Jarrod's demeanor during that time in court. And Judge Thompson, you got a bad taste. I'm sorry for that," she said. "What he did was wrong. And there's consequences when you do wrong. But Jarrod's not the person you saw on the stand."
She then explained some of the hardships the family would face should her husband be sent back to prison. She said, to provide the basic necessities to their children, she would have to take a second job. She worried that since she was the boys' stepmother, their biological mother might attempt to gain custody.
She said there have been bomb threats made against their home. Unfamiliar cars have followed her around the neighborhood on her evening walks.
She ended her testimony by stating that nine months was a long time in solitary confinement - she requested the court's leniency.
Jarrod Massey was the last one to take the stand in his own defense.
He emotionally told the court, "I am absolutely guilty of what I pled to. I lost my way. I had everything going for me."
Massey went on to say that it wasn't about money; it was about being on top. And as difficult as admitting guilt and surrendering to prison was, he knew it was the right thing to do.
He offered an apology to Judge Thompson for his conduct during the first trial and said he wished he'd quit working for Ronnie Gilley at one point.
"I don't want to shy away from what I've done. I can't fix this one. And I've come to grips with the fact that the only thing I can do is to be accountable."
He tearfully told his baseball team that they were an outlet for him during his tough time. Many of the members were in the courtroom to support him.
Massey ended proceedings by saying he was committed to letting this serve as a lesson to others.
Massey's attorneys argued with prosecutor Kendall Day over the 20% sentence reduction recommended for their client. They stated that Massey offered significant assistance and without his cooperation they would not have Gilley's confession to work with - and pointed out that the government offered Gilley a 50% sentence reduction for his cooperation. Attorneys went so far as to call the government's agreement "disingenuous" and "unfounded."
Judge Thompson took 30 minutes away from the courtroom to make the final adjustments to his recommended sentences.
When he returned, he brought each defendant and their attorneys to the stand individually to read his ruling.
Sentencing guidelines for former State Representative Terry Spicer called for a sentence ranging between 57 and 71 months in federal prison.
Judge Thompson sentenced Spicer to the lower end of the guideline. He will spend 57 months, which breaks down to four years and eight months in a federal prison as close as possible to his hometown of Elba, Alabama. Following the end of this term, Spicer will spend three years on supervised release and he must complete 80 hours of community service. As part of his plea deal, Spicer must pay a forfeiture of $40,000 - prosecutor Kendall Day said during proceedings that Spicer would be able to fulfill that by selling the boat he paid for with the money given to him by Jarrod Massey.
Sentencing guidelines for Ronnie Gilley suggested a period of 210 to 267 months in federal prison. Due to his "significant assistance" the bottom end of that guideline received a 50% reduction, making the minimum sentence suggestion 105 months.
Judge Thompson told the court that he was impressed by Gilley and found him to be "contrite." Gilley was sentenced to serve 80 months, which breaks down to six years and eight months in a federal prison near his hometown of Enterprise, Alabama. Following the end of his prison term Gilley will serve three years of supervised release. No fine was levied due to Gilley's inability to pay; however, his plea agreement stated that he must pay a $200,000 forfeiture.
Judge Thompson told the court that he felt Jarrod Massey's assistance to the investigation was far more significant than to warrant a 20% downward departure from the sentencing guidelines. Thompson increased that departure to 40% and ultimately sentenced Massey to 65 months in a federal prison, which breaks down to five years and five months. Massey must also pay a $20,000 fine.
In light of Massey's admitted financial issues, Judge Thompson asked if that fine would require Massey to sell his home. Massey's wife could be heard saying, "Oh, yes!" from the back of the courtroom. Thompson clearly did not want it to come to that and allowed Massey to set a low monthly payment that would not have to start until the completion of his prison sentence.
Attorneys for Massey requested that he be able to serve his time in a facility where he could receive substance abuse counseling due to the fact that he has been "self-medicating with six to eight beers every night." Judge Thompson mandated that Massey be housed at a facility where he could receive such treatment, as well as counseling for depression. He also stated that Massey needed to continue that treatment while on three years of supervised release.
Both Ronnie Gilley and Jarrod Massey will get credit off of their proposed sentence for time already served in prison. All three men have waived the right to an appeal and must appear at their designated prison facility on or before 2 p.m. on August 27, 2012.
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