PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) - Florida developer Jay Odom was sentenced to six months in federal prison Tuesday for lying about illegal contributions he made in the 2008 presidential primary.
U.S. District Judge Lacy Collier told Odom that his crime went to the heart of the nation's election system. Collier said he sentenced Odom to prison and levied a $46,000 fine because of the seriousness of the crime. Collier said he hoped the sentence would also serve as a deterrent to others who might consider tampering with election laws.
Odom's supporters sat on the front row of the courtroom and some cried as Collier announced his sentence.
Odom, who owns Destin Jet, had faced up to five years in prison and a $250,000 after pleading guilty to making false statements about illegally funneling $23,000 to the campaign of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Prosecutors said he circumvented federal campaign finance laws by repaying 10 associates who each gave a maximum $2,300 donation to Huckabee.
The indictment in the campaign-finance case came after Odom's dealings with former Republican Florida House Speaker Ray Sansom over an airplane hangar helped lead to Sansom's resignation. Samson resigned after allegations surfaced that he used state money to build an airplane hangar for Odom. Criminal charges in that case were eventually dropped.
Odom apologized in court on Tuesday.
"I'd like to say that I plead guilty because I am guilty and I am and deeply sorry for the pain I've caused my family, friends and employees," he said.
Prosecutors agreed to drop a charge of violating election laws in exchange for Odom pleading guilty to making false statements in the election case.
Prosecutor Randy Hensel argued on Tuesday that Odom should face prison time in part because of his status in the community and his violation of the public's trust.
"Those to whom much is given, much should be required," Hensel said, adding that Odom should be expected to adhere to federal election laws and face consequences for trying to circumvent them.
Collier, who ordered Odom to report to federal custody before noon on June 10, said he was also concerned that many of the letters he was sent in support of Odom suggested that tinkering with election finance laws was commonplace.
"The letters indicated that it was just one of those things that went on in the system," Collier said. "I hope and pray that this is not the case."
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