Tuesday, April 24, 2007
By RON WORD
April 24, 2007, 4:05 PM EDT
JACKSONVILLE -- James Crosby, the former head of Florida's prison system, apologized for his actions Tuesday moments before a federal judge sentenced him to eight years in prison for taking thousands of dollars in kickbacks from a prison contractor.
"I am truly sorry for what I did,'' said Crosby, 54.
"I failed a lot of people. I failed the people who worked for me.''
Crosby, a 31-year employee of the Corrections Department, also apologized to current Department of Corrections Secretary James McDonough, who also testified and called Crosby "a cancer'' on the DOC.
"Corruption had taken roots, vile things were done,'' he said.
U.S. District Judge Virginia Hernandez Covington said she was disappointed that Crosby had not paid any of the $130,000 he was ordered to pay in his plea agreement.
But his attorney said he had no money to pay because when Crosby was charged he lost more than $1 million in retirement funds.
But the judge was not swayed.
"The public's trust was violated. As head of the department, you have to suffer the consequences,'' she told Crosby.
"Government officials are held to a higher standard.''
Crosby was ordered to report to a federal prison within 30 days and asked the Bureau of Prison to evaluate him to see if he needed alcohol abuse treatment. He will be on probation for three years after he completes his sentence.
After the sentencing, McDonough said, "I think justice has been done.''
Crosby, and his friend and protege, Allen Clark, formerly a regional director for the department, pleaded guilty last July to accepting $130,000 in kickbacks from American Institutional Services, a company that sold snacks and drinks to prison visitors on weekends.
Prosecutors said Clark would accept kickbacks and deliver part of those payments to Crosby.
The kickbacks totaled as much as $12,000 a month. Clark made $94,300 a year at his job, and Crosby earned about $124,000 as head of the department.
David W. Moye, one of Crosby's attorneys, said of the $130,000 collected in kickbacks that Crosby had only received about $30,000, while Clark pocketed $100,000. Clark is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday.
Acting U.S. Attorney Jim Klindt said the government could ask for a reduction in Crosby's sentence based on his cooperation into the kickback scandal, which is continuing.
"We are pleased with the judge's sentence,'' Klindt said.
Wanda Valdes, whose ex-husband Frank Valdes, was killed in 1999 in a beating at Florida State Prison where Crosby was warden, was pleased with the sentence. Several guards were acquitted in two trials, but her family settled a civil case for $737,500 against Crosby and the corrections officers earlier this year.
"Thank God the system is finally working,'' she said. I am so pleased.''