Federal prosecutors seeking a lengthy prison sentence for former Hamilton County Sheriff Billy Long have requested that a court hearing scheduled for Friday be canceled.
The hearing is a chance for Mr. Long’s defense attorney Jerry Summers to make his case for why the government’s confidential informant, who helped authorities in their case against the former sheriff, should be subjected to a psychological evaluation.
Mr. Summers maintains that the Rev. C. Eugene Overstreet’s “manipulative personality” is what led his client to participate in a fake drug transaction and therefore should be used as a mitigating factor when the former sheriff is sentenced in October.
That drug transaction led to Mr. Long’s most serious charge — possession with intent to distribute cocaine — and carries with it a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 10 years.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Humble said late Tuesday that a hearing on the issue is not necessary, since each side’s arguments have been extensively documented in several court filings.
“We’ve said it all,” Mr. Humble said, and U.S. District Judge Harry S. “Sandy” Mattice can make his decision simply by reading the documents.
Judge Mattice has not yet ruled whether the hearing will be canceled.
Mr. Summers, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday, has campaigned vigorously for a lighter sentence for Mr. Long after the former sheriff pleaded guilty in May to 27 crimes involving money laundering, extortion, gun and drug charges.
Mr. Humble has stated in court documents that Mr. Long knew what he was doing when he “picked his friend, the (confidential informant), to be his partner in crime” and should be punished to the full extent of the law.
Authorities arrested Mr. Long in February after audio and videotaped evidence showed he had taken more than $23,000 in illegal payoffs from convenience store shakedowns and drug trafficking proceeds. He also was recorded giving a gun to Mr. Overstreet — someone he knew to be a convicted felon — and taking part in a cocaine transaction.
Before seeking Mr. Overstreet’s psychological evaluation, Mr. Summers also filed a motion with the court seeking the “safety valve” for his client.
An obscure aspect of federal sentencing guidelines, the “safety valve” can be used to get rid of mandatory minimum sentencing requirements when defendants meet certain criteria such as having no criminal record. A defendant also cannot have used a firearm in the commission of the crime to be eligible for the “safety valve.”
Although Mr. Long was carrying his Hamilton County-issued gun on the day the fake drug transaction occurred, Mr. Summers maintains it had nothing to do with the crime and that Mr. Long had a duty to carry it in his capacity as sheriff.
Mr. Summers filed an additional affidavit late Tuesday describing the sheriff’s department’s policies regarding gun use while on the job. According to the affidavit, sheriff’s deputies are considered on duty “at all times” and are authorized to be in possession of a firearm at all times “to prevent loss of life or felonious activity.”