ATLANTA – A former high-ranking Atlanta city official was sentenced Tuesday to serve more than two years in federal prison for accepting bribes in exchange for lucrative city contracts.
U.S. District Judge Steve Jones ordered former chief procurement officer Adam Smith to serve two years and three months in prison followed by three years of supervised release. Smith was also ordered to pay $44,000 restitution and a $25,000 fine.
Smith was charged as part of an ongoing federal investigation into corruption at City Hall. He's the fourth person and only former city official to have been charged so far as part of the investigation.
Federal guidelines called for a sentence ranging from nearly four years to nearly five years. But federal prosecutors, citing "substantial assistance" offered by Smith, asked the judge to reduce his sentence by 40 percent, and the judge agreed.
Smith recorded conversations he had with others before the FBI approached him and then recorded conversations at the request of the FBI, prosecutors said. He also met with the FBI multiple times and provided valuable information.
Federal prosecutors have not publicly identified the vendor they say gave Smith envelopes of cash at meetings at restaurants every other week for nearly two years, a total of more than 40 payments.
Smith's attorneys submitted about 70 letters to the court from supporters and called five people to attest to Smith's good character. All of them stressed Smith's unwavering commitment to his family and community and called his illegal behavior an aberration.
"What he did was a mistake," his brother Lance Smith said in court. "That is not the Adam Smith that we all know."
Smith had worked as the city's chief procurement officer from 2003 through his firing amid the federal investigation last February. He told the judge he was deeply remorseful and said he'd worked hard to improve the procurement office, but he let his guard down.
"I slipped. I made some mistakes. I lost my moral compass," he said.
Brian Steel, one of Smith's attorneys, didn't dispute that Smith had done wrong. But he stressed Smith's quick acceptance of responsibility and willingness to help investigators, as well as his commitment to the community and his regret for his actions.
"The depth of his sorrow is unmatchable," Steel said.
He asked that Smith be spared incarceration.
Prosecutor Jeffrey Davis acknowledged that Smith appears to have led an otherwise exemplary life, serving his community and family. But that's not what lands someone in federal court, he said.
"No amount of community service or charity or good will can excuse Mr. Smith's conduct," Davis said.
Smith knowingly and repeatedly broke the law and traded on the power of his high-level position for personal gain, Davis said. Violating the law more than 40 times does not qualify as an aberration, he said.
When imposing the sentence, the judge told Smith he had failed in his responsibility as a gatekeeper, the one charged with making sure everyone acted correctly.
"There are people who got very lucrative contracts because you didn't do your job," Jones said.
Smith was the third person sentenced in the bribery investigation. Two city contractors were sentenced in October after admitting to paying bribes for contracts.
Jones sentenced Elvin R. Mitchell Jr. of Atlanta to serve five years and pay more than $1.12 million in restitution. Charles P. Richards Jr. of Tucker was sentenced to serve two years and three months in prison and pay $193,000 in restitution.
Prosecutors have said Mitchell paid more than $1 million and Richards paid $193,000 to someone, believing some of the money would be paid to one or more unnamed city officials with influence over the contracting process. Prosecutors have not publicly identified who received the bribes.
A fourth man pleaded guilty in November to a federal obstruction of justice charge in the case. Shandarrick Barnes threw a concrete block bearing the message "ER, keep your mouth shut!" through a window in Mitchell's home and left dead rats on Mitchell's porch, on his car and in his mailbox, prosecutors have said. Barnes is to be sentenced in April.