Thursday, April 26, 2007
Sun staff writer
JACKSONVILLE - Former Department of Corrections Secretary James Crosby was sentenced to eight years in federal prison Tuesday for taking kickbacks.
Crosby's former protege is scheduled to be sentenced today in connection with the same financial scheme.
Crosby, 54, and his former best friend, Allen Clark, 41, pleaded guilty in July to accepting at least $130,000 from American Institutional Services. During a meeting with the company in November 2004, Crosby and Clark agreed to allow the firm to operate the canteens in the prison visiting parks on weekends, with the expectation that the two prison officials could realize up to $12,000 a month in return - about 40 percent of the anticipated profits, according to court records. At the time Crosby and Clark cut their deal with the company, Crosby was being paid about $124,000 by the state and Clark about $94,500.
James Klindt: James McDonough:
Acting U.S. Attorney James Klindt said Crosby told federal officials his motive for getting involved in the scheme was not financial reasons but as a means to be involved socially with the other people participating in the scheme.
Klindt, however, told U.S. District Judge Virginia M. Hernandez Covington he saw Crosby's participation as being "all about the money."Under oath, Crosby apologized for his actions Tuesday but did not explain them.''I am truly sorry for what I did,'' Crosby said when he took the witness stand. ''I failed a lot of people. I failed the people who worked for me.'' Crosby apologized to current prison Secretary James McDonough "for the job I left for him to do."
McDonough was the prosecution's only witness during the 45-minute sentencing. McDonough recalled for Judge Covington what it was like to report to the prison system headquarters his first day on the job.
"My office was a crime scene," McDonough testified, referring to the crime scene tape across the secretary's office door. The tape was put there by federal and state agents who searched the office minutes after Crosby's firing. McDonough said he agreed to testify at the sentencing because under Crosby, "The senior leadership of the department did great damage to the department."Crosby was a 31-year veteran of the prison system when he was fired.
After being raised in Bradford County and graduating from the University of Florida with a degree in journalism, Crosby was hired as a classification officer for the prison system. He continued to live in and around Bradford County for many years and served as mayor of Starke.
Crosby's prison career included stints as warden at Cross City, Lancaster and Tomoka Correctional Institutions before being named warden at Florida State Prison at Raiford, the state's flagship prison and home to most male Death Row inmates.
During Crosby's tenure as secretary of the state's largest agency, the department of 27,000 employees was rocked with scandals, including officers convicted of steroid abuse, money disappearing from employee clubs, misuse of inmate labor and a reputation for heavy drinking and raucous parties, especially after sporting events between department teams.Before pronouncing the sentence, Covington chastised Crosby because he was in a leadership position involving public trust."The public trust was violated," Covington said.
"As the head of the department, you have to suffer the consequences."
While Covington was handing down the sentence, Crosby sat tilted back in his chair, slumped slightly to the right and occasionally wiped the palm of his hand across his face. Covington said that because of his position as head of the prison system, he would likely create security concerns if taken into custody immediately and taken to a county jail. Instead, Covington gave Crosby until May 24 to report to federal prison.
Crosby left the courtroom declining to comment. Crosby's ex-wife, however, had something to say to McDonough.
Leslie Crosby divorced Jim Crosby three days after he pleaded guilty and he handed over $200,000 of his retirement fund to her. Shortly afterward, she bought the modest home in Starke where the couple now live.
Leslie Crosby confronted McDonough at the end of the sentencing and in a choked voice asked, "How can you live with yourself?"
She was pulled away by Kenneth Lampp, a former warden who was fired by McDonough.
Lampp put his arms around Leslie Crosby and steered her toward the door saying, "Leslie, come on, don't do this."In the hallway outside the courtroom, Jim Crosby paused long enough to accept a hug from Len Register, the former 8th Judicial Circuit state attorney who is now an assistant U.S. attorney in the Panhandle.
"I am here as a private citizen," Register told The Sun. "We grew up together and have known each other all our lives, and I am here to support him."Tuesday's sentencing may not be Crosby's last appearance in court.
Crosby has not yet paid the $30,000 he agreed to pay as his part of the restitution he accepted responsibility for in his plea deal. Covington had no sympathy for Crosby when his attorney, David Moye, said Crosby has probably lost $1 million in retirement money as a result of his legal problems.
''The public's trust was violated,'' Covington said. ''Government officials are held to a higher standard.''
Retirement money can be withheld when someone is convicted of committing a crime as a part of their state employment. Florida is now suing Crosby to recoup the retirement money that he paid to Leslie when they were divorced.
Another reason why Crosby may be asked to return to court is if he is needed as a witness in future proceedings against others. Prosecutor Klindt said Crosby has been cooperating with an ongoing investigation. Outside the courthouse, Klindt would not say how far the investigation might extend or who may be involved. Klindt mentioned he would likely ask a judge to reconsider Crosby's sentence at some future point based on the cooperation.The sentence also includes three years of probation and calls for Crosby to be evaluated for alcohol abuse. Federal prison officials have said that inmates who participate in substance abuse programs have had as much as a year taken off their prison sentences.
McDonough, who has harshly criticized Crosby for various circumstances uncovered around the department after Crosby's firing, said he was satisfied with the sentence Crosby received.
"I think justice has been done," McDonough said.