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Jury deliberating charges against Grovetown councilman

Posted: April 3, 2013 - 4:24pm  |  Updated: April 3, 2013 - 4:26pm
A jury was deliberating federal bribery charges against Grovetown city Councilman Sonny McDowell late Wednesday.   FILE
FILE
A jury was deliberating federal bribery charges against Grovetown city Councilman Sonny McDowell late Wednesday.

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A jury is considering charges against a Grovetown city councilman after a three-day trial on federal bribery charges.

Testimony finished Wednesday in the trial of Leland J. “Sonny” McDowell and the jury began deliberations mid-afternoon, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Clark Morris, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office Middle Alabama District. The prosecution rested late Tuesday and McDowell’s defense presented its case Wednesday.

McDowell, who pled not guilty to the charges June 15, is accused of offering a kickback to a former Alabama Department of Public Safety employee in 2007.

McDowell and James E. Potts, of Montgomery, Ala., face a four-count indictment alleging bribery related to a program receiving federal funds.

Potts pled guilty to bribery as part of a negotiated plea agreement Monday morning and was expected to testify against McDowell, Morris said.

Part of Potts’ public safety job in July 2007 was helping the Alabama Department of Human Resources solicit bids for an electronic fingerprint system. At that time, McDowell owned Southern Detention Technologies, which sold fingerprint machines. He is now the owner of Grayco Detention Equipment.

McDowell said he sold the department a machine to be used for fingerprint-based background checks on people who were going to work with children, the elderly and otherwise vulnerable people.

The federal grand jury’s June indictment accused him of offering, and Potts accepting, a $1,700 check and $1 for every fingerprint scan related to the DHR, according to the statement.

If convicted, McDowell faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

McDowell was elected to Grovetown City Council in 2009, and his term runs through the end of this year. If he is convicted or pleads guilty to charges, he’ll be removed from the council, Mayor George James has said.

The Grovetown city council re-elected McDowell in January as the city’s mayor pro tempore.

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