NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- A defendant who helped authorities crack a City Hall kickback scheme was sentenced to six months in federal prison Wednesday by a federal judge who turned down prosecutors' request that the man be allowed to remain free.
Terry Songy, 51, pleaded guilty three years ago to tax evasion and conspiracy to commit mail fraud. He was the first to plead guilty in a lengthy probe of City Hall contracts under former Mayor Marc Morial and prosecutors said his cooperation was key to getting convictions in the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jan Mann said Songy's aid to prosecutors, plus what she termed his sincere efforts to turn his life around -- she said he quit drinking and smoking and has worked hard at manual labor jobs while rededicating himself to his family -- should result in probation without a prison sentence.
"As much as anyone I've ever prosecuted, he has tried to make right what he did wrong," Mann told U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance.
Songy himself apologized, saying he had let down his family and the city. "I wasn't raised that way," he told Vance.
Vance said the six-month sentence was lighter than called for in federal guidelines. But, she said, mere probation would be too light. Prison was necessary as a deterrent for others who might try
to "rip off the city."
"The defendant did not get public spirited until he got caught," Vance said.
In addition to prison time, Songy was sentenced to two years of supervised release. Vance also ordered him to make restitution: more than $56,000 to the city and more than $13,000 to the Internal Revenue Service.
Songy had admitted taking kickbacks as a project manager for Johnson Controls Inc., overseeing a $65 million contract in which the company was supposed to save the city money by improving the efficiency of boilers, chillers, lights and other fixtures.
It was one of the largest and last contracts Morial signed as mayor. He was never accused in the case and is now head of the National Urban League. He was mayor from 1994 to 2002 and could not run for re-election because of term limits.
Three other major defendants, all of whom pleaded guilty in January 2007, got sentences ranging from 2 1/2 to 12 years.
Five subcontractors pleaded guilty in late 2005 and early 2006 to knowing about the scheme but not reporting it. They got probation. Some also were ordered to spend a few months in home confinement and fined $3,000 to $5,000 each.
Songy admitted taking kickbacks from subcontractors, participating in a larger kickback conspiracy with the city's director of property management, and failing to file federal income tax returns for 2001.
The property manager, Kerry DeCay; restaurant owner Stan "Pampy" Barre and construction company owner Reginald Walker all pleaded guilty to mail fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud. DeCay and Barre also pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice.
DeCay got a nine-year prison term and a lecture for failing to apologize or show remorse. Judge Carl Barbier was unimpressed by an apologetic letter DeCay sent afterward.
Barre got five years -- two years longer than prosecutors recommended -- and Walker 2 1/2 years. Barbier told Barre at his sentencing that he thought Barre was the "most culpable" of all the defendants charged in the case.
Besides money, prosecutors said subcontractors provided expensive appliances and even a Super Bowl ticket to DeCay and Songy. Prosecutors said DeCay, for instance, got a $1,300 ice maker and a $5,200 Viking refrigerator by threatening economic harm to one subcontractor.
In addition, prosecutors said the subcontractors routinely submitted false and inflated invoices to Johnson, with the city ultimately paying the freight.
The investigation also led to former city councilman Oliver Thomas pleading guilty last year to taking $15,000 in bribes from Barre, who wanted to keep a parking lot contract he had held under Morial's administration. Thomas is serving a prison term of three years and one month.
Here's a who's who in a $1 million kickback scheme involving a $65 million contract, and associates of former Mayor Marc Morial charged in other cases:
Terry Songy, project manager for main contractor Johnson Controls Inc. Pleaded guilty in May 2005 to income tax evasion and conspiracy to commit mail fraud.
Sent to prison:
Kerry DeCay, city property manager from 1994-2002. Pleaded guilty Jan. 14, 2007, to one count each of conspiracy, mail fraud and obstruction of justice. Sentenced June 22, 2007, to nine years in prison.
Stan "Pampy" Barre, restaurant owner. Pleaded guilty in January 2007. Sentenced July 9 to five years.
Reginald Walker, construction company owner. Sentenced July 9 to 2 1/2 years.
Subcontractors and their companies, the dates of their pleas, sentencing dates and sentences. All pleaded guilty to knowing about but failing to report a felony.
Roy Broussard, R.J. Broussard LLC, Nov. 16, 2005. Sentenced Feb. 26, 2007, to three years probation including four months home confinement and a $3,000 fine.
Owen Prestridge, Owen Prestridge Contractor, Nov. 16, 2005. Sentenced Feb. 15, 2006, to three years probation including three months home confinement, and a $5,000 fine.
Michael Farris, Specialty Machines Services, Dec. 2, 2005. Sentenced May 30, 2007, to two years probation and a $3,000 fine.
Randall Moore, National Contractor Services Inc., Dec. 21, 2005. Sentenced June 6, 2007, three years probation, fined $3,000.
Michael Garnett, Golden Hammer, Jan. 11, 2006. Sentenced March 8, 2007, to two years on probation and fined $3,000. Judge Martin L.C. Feldman ended probation early on June 6, 2008.
Morial associates charged in other cases:
Jacques Morial, the former mayor's brother, pleaded guilty Sept. 25, 2007, to evading income taxes. He was sentenced in January to six months of home confinement and three years probation.
William A. Schultz, a political consultant and once a member of former mayor Marc Morial's inner circle. Pleaded guilty to federal tax charges and agreed to pay nearly $187,000 in back taxes -- including taxes on money he made from companies run by Barre and Walker. Sentenced Feb. 7, 2007, to a year and a day in federal prison and fined $3,000.
Roy Rodney, a friend and close associate of the former mayor, charged March 3 with a misdemeanor count of failing to file an income tax return in 2002. He was a partner in various ventures with Barre.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)