Two former Bristol Virginia Utilities vice presidents and a former contractor have now all made their pleas for leniency to a federal judge, just days before they are scheduled to be sentenced in the public corruption case.
The three previously pleaded guilty to playing a role in an elaborate and pricey kickback scheme and have all since agreed to pay restitution.
Two of the three are hoping the judge will keep them out of prison, according to recently filed court documents.
As we reported last week, former BVU VP Jim Kelley is asking the judge for no more than two years in prison, since he has cooperated with authorities. However, his successor at BVU is hoping for much more leniency.
Former BVU VP David Copeland is asking for probation. Court documents reveal he says he only got involved with the conspiracy scheme, which gave him kickbacks in return for his approval of fake invoices, after losing $40,000 in a failed investment and around the same time he was in the midst of several family issues.
“There was a preexisting culture of impropriety in the BVU Field Operations department and in the Edwards Telecommunications relationship,” his sentencing memo says. “Unfortunately, after assuming the V.P. of Field Operations position, Mr. Copeland became a part of this culture.”
The memo goes on to explain how personal problems, including family health issues, helped lead to this situation.
“Of course, none of the hardships excuse his offense; they do, however, help to explain actions otherwise inconsistent with a lifetime of loyalty, hard work, and law-abiding citizenship. The conduct at issue here was not part of any pattern of wrongdoing.”
The memo also reminds the judge that Copeland has taken responsibility for his actions and has cooperated with federal investigators.
If the judge does not grant Copeland his wish for probation and instead sentences him to time behind bars, he is asking for less than two years and is asking the judge to place him in a minimum security prison camp in Pennington Gap.
Seven people wrote letters to the judge on Copeland’s behalf. That group includes family members, his pastor and one of his best friends and that man’s 13 and 16 year-old daughters.
The judge is scheduled to sentence one more person in connection to this case Thursday as well. Former contractor Michael Clark of Georgia is asking for probation and home detention instead of prison.
As we told you last week, the fourth person who has pleaded guilty so far won’t be sentenced until next month. James Todd Edwards, the former CEO of South Carolina-based Edwards Telecommunication, previously pleaded guilty to several charges after admitted to giving kickbacks to the two former BVU vice presidents as part of the conspiracy.
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