Former Hamilton County Sheriff Billy Long officially has asked a federal judge to show leniency when he is sentenced for pleading guilty to 27 crimes including extortion, money laundering and drugs.
Of all the charges Mr. Long pleaded guilty to on May 5 — 19 counts of extortion, six counts of money laundering, one count of providing a firearm to a convicted felon and one count of possession with intent to sell cocaine — only the drug charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence and threatens to put away the former sheriff for at least 10 years.
Mr. Long is set to be sentenced Aug. 18, but a scheduling conflict for the defense attorney is expected to change that date. No new date has been set.
Defense attorney Jerry Summers argues in his motion, filed in U.S. District Court Tuesday, that Mr. Long qualifies for the obscure “safety valve” outlined in federal sentencing guidelines — a mechanism judges can use to disregard mandatory minimum sentences when defendants meet certain criteria.
Mr. Summers says his client meets four of the five requirements for a safety valve. Mr. Long, he says, does not have a prior criminal history, did not organize or supervise the drug transaction, did not cause the death or serious injury of someone else and has provided all information about the crime to the government.
At issue, Mr. Summers said, is the requirement that states Mr. Long should not have been carrying a dangerous weapon during the drug transaction.
When Mr. Long was caught trying to sell drugs during a February police sting, the weapon he carried in his position as sheriff was in his truck, authorities said.
“It is clearly improbable that Mr. Long’s service weapon was connected with this offense,” Mr. Summers said. “Mr. Long carried this service weapon in his official capacity as sheriff and this offense had nothing to do with him carrying that gun.”
Mr. Summers also suggests Mr. Long falsely was lured by the government to commit the crime.
“It’s our position that this was a reverse sting and there was no crime committed in the first place,” Mr. Summers said.
Local defense attorney John C. Cavett Jr., who is not associated with the case, told the Times Free Press earlier this year that judges rarely grant the safety valve simply because most defendants do not qualify for it.
Still, Mr. Cavett conceded, “Any lawyer worth anything at all is going to look at every case where (the safety valve) might apply and work really hard to make it apply.”
Mr. Long was arrested in February after a lengthy sting operation. 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 someone he knew to be a convicted felon and taking part in a cocaine transaction, evidence showed.
The extortion and money laundering charges carry sentences of up to 20 years each plus a $250,000 fine, while the gun charge carries a maximum of 10 years plus a $250,000 fine.