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Ex-commissioner Kevin White likely headed to prison, but for how long?

TAMPA — Former Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin White is probably going to prison when he is sentenced Monday on federal bribery and corruption charges.

The question remains: For how long?

White's attorney, Grady Irvin Jr., filed a sentencing memorandum on Thursday with the first concrete hint of the time behind bars White may face under U.S. sentencing guidelines.

The U.S. Probation Office, which presumably has no allegiances to either the defense or prosecutors, filed a report with the court saying a guideline sentence for White is 41 to 51 months, Irvin's memo said.

But neither Irvin nor prosecutors agree with that figure.

Prosecutors, the filing said, say guidelines call for a prison term of 51 to 63 months. Irvin disagrees, and said the guideline sentence should range from 21 to 27 months.

The sentencing range is only advisory, and U.S. District Court Judge James Whittemore is free to impose a lesser or greater sentence. In fact, Irvin still could argue for a sentence of probation or house arrest.

Judges rarely depart from the guidelines. Irvin and U.S. Attorney Robert O'Neill have declined to comment about the case.

But in the case of a high-profile public official, there is always an element of unpredictably. Statutory maximums on White's convictions are 20 years, though if history is any guide, it is unlikely the judge would impose a sentence close to that.

A jury found White guilty in November on seven charges, including bribery, wire fraud and lying to the FBI. Prosecutors said White, when serving as the chairman of the Public Transportation Commission, traded his influence for cash.

The PTC regulates vehicles for hire, and prosecutors said White agreed to help get PTC licenses for tow truck operators who wanted to be placed on a lucrative towing list used by law enforcement.

Federal sentencing guidelines are complex and are based on numerous factors, from a defendant's prior record (White has none) to the amount of money obtained in an illegal act.

Irvin said in his memo that prosecutors and probation officials have misapplied the law in calculating guidelines.

First, Irvin said, prosecutors maintain that White obtained more than $10,000 in bribes. The law calls for a longer sentence for anything at or above that figure.

But Irvin said prosecutors in their calculation used a 2003 Lincoln Navigator that White's father received from an FBI informer, a transaction the defense says had nothing to do with the son. Also, the father made a $1,500 down payment for the vehicle, which indicates it was not a bribe, Irvin said.

Sentencing law also calls for harsher sentences for some public officials. But Irvin said White did not, by himself, have decision-making authority over the PTC, and therefore a longer sentence is not warranted.

William R. Levesque can be reached at levesque@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3432.

A federal judge Thursday denied without comment a request by former Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin White to extend his sentencing hearing Monday by 90 minutes.

Attorney Grady Irvin Jr. asked the court for the extra time because so many people wanted to speak on White's behalf before his sentencing on bribery and corruption charges. Irvin said as many as 15 people may want to speak, and the lawyer said the half-hour scheduled isn't enough to accommodate so many speakers.

But U.S. District Court Judge James D. Whittemore denied the request, though he did not say why, court records show.

The judge denied the request "without prejudice," which essentially left open the possibility he may reconsider and allow more time on Monday.

Ex-commissioner Kevin White likely headed to prison, but for how long? 03/08/12 [Last modified: Thursday, March 8, 2012 10:00pm]
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