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GUILTY: Grovetown councilman convicted of bribery

Posted: April 4, 2013 - 5:18pm  |  Updated: April 4, 2013 - 5:59pm
A jury convicted Grovetown city Councilman Sonny McDowell of federal bribery charges Thursday.  FILE
FILE
A jury convicted Grovetown city Councilman Sonny McDowell of federal bribery charges Thursday.

Twitter @ValerieRowell

 

A jury convicted a Grovetown city councilman of federal bribery charges Thursday.

A federal jury convicted Leland J. "Sonny" McDowell of two counts of bribery after a three-day trial in Montgomery, Ala., according to U.S. Attorney Clark Morris, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office Middle Alabama District.

"We are just shell-shocked," McDowell said. "This is not what anyone expected up until the moment of the verdict."

Testimony ended Wednesday afternoon and the jury deliberated several hours Thursday before reaching the verdict.

McDowell said he plans to return home to Grovetown Monday, when he plans to resign from Grovetown city council. He can't serve on the council after being convicted of a felony.

"He'll have to resign and we'll have to fill his seat until November when the election comes up," Mayor George James said.

McDowell was elected to Grovetown City Council in 2009, and his term runs through the end of this year. The Grovetown city council re-elected McDowell in January as the city's mayor pro tempore.

Because there is less than a year left of his four-year term, city officials can appoint a replacement instead of holding a special election, James said.

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

McDowell and James E. Potts, of Montgomery, Ala., faced 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 testified 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.

McDowell faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each charge, Morris said. McDowell said he was released on his previous bond and was told to expect a sentencing hearing to be scheduled in about 90 days.

"I'm really disappointed knowing the background and how everything went down," James said, "how anybody in the world could convict him for it," James said.

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