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Developer gets prison time in Orange Beach corruption case

MOBILE (AP) — A federal judge sentenced developer Ken Wall to a year in prison, plus a $250,000 fine, in the Orange Beach corruption case, and gave the ex-mayor’s wife 180 days of home confinement and two years on probation.

U.S. District Judge Kristi DuBose on Friday sentenced Wall for mail and wire fraud convictions in a case centered on former Orange Beach Mayor Steve Russo.

The ex-mayor, former Orange Beach City Attorney Larry Sutley and Wall were convicted by a federal jury on public corruption counts after a two-week trial in September.

Russo’s wife, Crystal Russo, was convicted of obstruction of justice.

As part of a plea deal in September, she admitted that she helped her husband try to hide money that prosecutors had targeted for forfeiture.

Wall, 55, was convicted of conspiracy, two counts of mail fraud and three counts of wire fraud in a real estate deal that netted Steve Russo $400,000. The judge earlier threw out the conspiracy conviction.

The charges arose from one of a number of corrupt schemes that prosecutors contended the mayor ran to enrich himself. Russo and Sutley will be sentenced next month.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Butler objected to the “insufficiency” of Wall’s sentence and indicated prosecutors might appeal. Prosecutors had sought a 2-year prison sentence.

“This case, like any public corruption case, strikes at the core of our democratic process — which is the right to honest government by our elected officials,” U.S. Attorney Deborah Rhodes said in a statement.

At sentencing, Wall maintained his innocence. He told the judge that the criminal charges have wrecked him financially.

He said he earned no regular income in 2006 and had to sell assets to pay loans that lenders called as a result of the indictment. He said his bank has given him a 90-day extension to pay the mortgage on his own home.

Turning to face 40 or so friends and relatives who packed the small courtroom, a visibly emotional Wall said, “The only joy I felt in the last 10 months is the love and support and shoulder that you folks have offered to me.”

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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