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THURSDAY, MAY 17, 2007

Jasper banker gets 15 months in prison in college probe

BIRMINGHAM (AP) — A Jasper banker was sentenced Wednesday to 15 months in federal prison for disclosing federal grand jury subpoenas in Alabama's two-year college investigation.

A jury convicted Phillip Grace on Feb. 1 of a felony obstruction of justice charge and
a misdemeanor obstruction charge. Both charges involved him telling Winston Hayes, a target of the investigation, about the existence and contents of federal grand jury subpoenas that were sent to First National Bank of Jasper.

Besides the 15-month sentence, District Judge Lynwood Smith order Grace to serve two years of supervised release. Smith sentenced Grace the day after denying his request for a new trial.

Grace, 44, is scheduled to report to prison in late June.

"Bank officials are aware that leaking knowledge of a grand jury subpoena is against the law," U.S. Attorney Alice Martin said. "This significant prison sentence should serve as a deterrence to others contemplating an attempt to obstruct a grand jury investigation."

Grace was a loan officer handling accounts for Hayes, who owed the bank more than $3 million when the subpoenas were issued in 2004. Prosecutors said Grace's tips allowed Hayes, owner of The Access Group software company, to destroy records of his dealings with presidents of Alabama's two-year colleges.

Hayes later began cooperating with prosecutors and was a witness at Grace's trial. He produced audio and videotapes of Grace discussing the subpoenas in early 2005.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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