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Fla. Sheriff Gets Prison for Corruption

Friday, November 16, 2007

By CURT ANDERSON, Associated Press Writer

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — 

The former head of the largest sheriff's office in Florida was sentenced to a year and a day in prison Friday after pleading guilty to federal corruption charges.

Ex-Broward County Sheriff Ken Jenne, 60, had pleaded guilty in September to tax evasion and mail fraud conspiracy charges involving a series of questionable transactions, including getting money and favors from Broward Sheriff's Office vendors and payments made on his behalf for a Mercedes-Benz convertible.

Jenne was taken into custody immediately and will likely serve his term at a minimum-security prison camp, possibly in the Miami area, said his attorney, David Bogenschutz.

With good behavior, Jenne could be eligible for release in as little as nine months, his attorney said.

Federal prosecutors had asked U.S. District Judge William Dimitrouleas to impose a two-year sentence, the maximum possible under sentencing guidelines, saying Jenne had done immense damage to the office.

"The people of Broward County shouldn't have to choose between leaders who are effective and those who are law-abiding. They are entitled to both," Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Axelrod said.

But Jenne, a former state senator and long one of Broward County's leading Democratic politicians, sought a lenient sentence involving no prison time. He has already agreed to pay the IRS about $46,000 in back taxes, interest and penalties and has spent most of his life doing good works for Broward County, Bogenschutz said.

"Like no other public official in this county's history, Ken Jenne has left an imprint that will be felt and enjoyed by generations to come," Bogenschutz said in court papers.

Jenne was praised during Friday's hearing by a who's who of public figures, including former state Attorney General Bob Butterworth, former Senate president Jim Scott and many others who asked for leniency.

In arguing for no prison term, Jenne said he didn't take taxpayer money, just got help from friends and associates. He noted that pleading guilty had already severely damaged his reputation and career.

But Dimitrouleas said Jenne's crimes, committed by the county's chief law enforcement officer, deserve at least some prison time.

"It's a sad day for Broward County," Dimitrouleas said. "It doesn't promote respect for the law if the public views someone as getting a slap on the wrist."

Although Dimitrouleas insisted on jail time, he also gave Jenne a break because inmates must serve every day of a one-year prison term. By making it a year and a day, the judge made Jenne eligible for release in as little as nine months for good behavior, Bogenschutz said.

"Judge Dimitrouleas did a very kind thing," Bogenschutz said.

U.S. Attorney R. Alexander Acosta in Miami issued a news release saying Jenne got off too lightly.

"If as a community, we believe that public corruption and white collar crimes cause as much harm as violent crime, we must insist on significant terms of imprisonment for public and corporate criminals," Acosta said.

Jenne resigned Sept. 4. He had served as sheriff of Florida's second-most populous county since his appointment in 1998 by then-Gov. Lawton Chiles to replace an incumbent who died. Jenne was re-elected in 2000 and 2004 to run an agency that has some 6,300 employees and an annual budget of nearly $700 million.

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