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FRIDAY, MARCH 30, 2007

Birmingham businessman sentenced to 51 months in bribery case

BIRMINGHAM (AP) — A Birmingham businessman found guilty of bribing Jefferson County officials for sewer work has been ordered to spend 51 months in prison, pay a $750,000 fine and make $225,000 in restitution to the county.

U.S. District Judge L. Scott Coogler imposed the sentenced on F.W. "Pat" Dougherty and ordered his defunct engineering company, Dougherty Engineering Associates, to pay a $3.8 million fine.

The sentence Wednesday was the first of three to be handed down this week after an FBI investigation of corruption in the county's $3 billion sewer-rebuilding program.

Prosecutors contend the illegal activity occurred from 1996 through 2003.

"Bribing government officials to get business for your company at the taxpayers' expense should mean serious prison time and substantial fines," U.S. Attorney Alice Martin said.

Coogler issued the prison sentence after a hearing in which the prosecution and defense disputed the value of Dougherty's bribes. Prosecutors said the amount was $247,149, while Dougherty's attorney, Steve Salter, said it was about $51,000.

Dougherty, 64, declined to address Coogler before sentencing. "I don't know what I can say to make a difference," he said.

Salter said he plans to appeal.

Dougherty is to begin serving his sentence April 25. He and his company are among 11 sewer corruption defendants who chose to fight their cases at trial, while some others accepted plea bargains or pleaded guilty. Federal juries convicted all 11.

Three other defendants accepted plea deals after they were convicted on other charges in previous trials. Juries have found executives and their companies guilty of having extensive remodeling work done on former county commissioner Chris McNair's photography studio, and two houses belonging to Jack Swann, the county's former environmental services director.

Jurors convicted Dougherty and his company of conspiracy to commit bribery and bribery involving McNair and Swann.

Coogler will sentence Swann on Friday. U.S. District Judge Lynwood Smith will sentence McNair on June 30.


Information from: The Birmingham News

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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