Ramble On

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Presgraves' Sentencing

It has been a while since I posted anything about the Sheriff Presgraves affair. I wanted to wait a bit so that I could get a better feel for the facts of the case – especially if it went to trial, although I never expected it to. With 22 counts indicted, potential fines in the millions of dollars, and the prospect of decades in federal prison, Presgraves plead guilty to only two charges in August. He admitted that he had used inmate labor illegally and had tried to persuade witnesses to lie about his conduct.

I read the Harrisonburg paper and a Washington Post site for more details, where I learned that last Friday, a federal judge sentenced [Presgraves] to 19 months in prison a fine of $1,000. He forfeited $75,000. Compared to what he was up against, it isn’t much, frankly – the Post adds a note: “Despite the lenient sentence, federal prosecutors say the prison term sends a message to public officials.”

While following the case, I found the twists and turns very interesting, and when Jerry Kilgore, a former Virginia attorney general and candidate for governor, joined Presgraves’ defense team, I thought it was unusual. Then I learned more about the Sheriff’s political activities, now summarizing from the Post:

“After first winning office in 1999, Presgraves handily beat back challengers and cozied up to some of Virginia's most prominent Republicans, including former governor George Allen, former attorney general Jerry W. Kilgore and Rep. Eric Cantor, now the House minority whip." (I found an AP photo linked in a previous post of Presgraves and Cantor together - and there is information about exchanges of campaign contributions easily found online.)

“When President George W. Bush went to Shenandoah National Park to give a speech in 2007, Presgraves was front and center to welcome him.”

Presgraves is a colorful local character, and he has his fans as well as his detractors – there seems to be a wealth of accomplishments mixed in with all the bad news in this story – but now he is a federal convict. There just isn’t any excuse that can be made for this behavior or for his crimes. Yet, he’s young enough, at 47, that he could learn a lesson from all of this, and return to public life as a role model for the good, but not in any official capacity. That’s the outcome I’ll hope for, anyway.

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