published Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Former Hamilton County Sheriff Billy Long wins appeal on sentence

  • photo
    Former Hamilton County Sheriff Billy Long leaves the Joel W. Solomon Building in September 2008.
    Photo by Tim Barber /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that former Hamilton County Sheriff Billy Long should receive a new sentence based on an error in his original sentencing.

In May 2008, Long pleaded guilty to 19 counts of extortion, six counts of money laundering, one count of providing a firearm to a felon and one count of cocaine possession.

U.S. District Court Judge Harry "Sandy" Mattice sentenced the former sheriff to 10 years for the drug charge and 14 years for the remaining charges; both sentences to be served at the same time.

But the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals' opinion states that a pre-sentencing report erroneously attributed 26 kilograms of cocaine to Long, an amount that pushed Long into a higher sentence range.

The U.S. District Court now must review and resentence Long, and the judge cannot use the large amount of cocaine attributed to Long to determine the sentence.

No hearing for resentencing had been scheduled Tuesday.

Mattice sentenced Long on Nov. 24, 2008; Long's attorney, Jerry Summers, filed a notice of appeal two days later.

The change in sentencing range likely will reduce Long's prison time, but it is unclear exactly how much. He has served three years.

FBI agents began investigating Long after receiving information from local pastor and funeral home owner Eugene Overstreet about his involvement with Long in possible illegal campaign contributions.

During Long's trial, Summers also fought a ruling against his request to have Overstreet psychologically examined. The appeals court denied that argument.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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