Home Birmingham Press Releases 2009 Former Jefferson County Commissioner Sentenced for Obstruction of Justice

Former Jefferson County Commissioner Sentenced for Obstruction of Justice

U.S. Attorney’s Office November 12, 2009
  • Northern District of Alabama (205) 244-2001

BIRMINGHAM—U.S. District Judge Inge Johnson today sentenced former Jefferson County Commissioner MARY MILLER BUCKELEW to three years' probation, 200 hours community service with the Jefferson County Board of Education, and a $20,000 fine for obstruction of justice, announced U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance, FBI Special Agent in Charge Patrick Maley, and IRS Special Agent in Charge, Criminal Investigations, Reginael D. McDaniel.

Buckelew, 63, of Columbiana, pleaded guilty in October to obstructing justice by lying to a special federal grand jury investigating financing for Jefferson County’s sewer system. In her plea, she acknowledged receiving Italian designer shoes, purses, a spa treatment, and other gifts from Montgomery investment banker William Blount.

Blount pleaded guilty in August to conspiracy and bribery in connection to money and gifts he paid former Birmingham Mayor and Jefferson County Commission Chairman Larry Langford in exchange for bond business with the county. Blount testified for the government in Langford’s October trial, which ended in Langford’s conviction on 60 counts of conspiracy, bribery, fraud, money laundering, and filing false tax returns.

“Mrs. Buckelew violated her oath by accepting bribes and then lying about such conduct to the federal grand jury. As a result of her conduct, she is now a convicted felon and her time in public office is forever tainted,” said United States Attorney Joyce White Vance. “Despite the sentence handed down today, this office will continue to vigorously investigate and prosecute public corruption in this district.”

BUCKELEW was elected to the Jefferson County Commission in November 1990 and served on the commission until November 2006.From late 2002 until November 2006, she served on the committee tasked with overseeing the county’s finances.

About 1996, the Jefferson County Commission entered into a consent decree and agreed to renovate the county’s sewer system. To fund the improvements and other county functions, the county participated in numerous bond offerings and entered into numerous swap agreements totaling billions of dollars. As a county commissioner and member of its finance committee, Buckelew participated in the approval of these transactions.

Buckelew, other Jefferson County Commissioners, certain non-elected county officials, financial advisors to Jefferson County, and Blount traveled to New York City on several occasions to discuss financial transactions with credit rating agencies and other firms. Blount’s firm, Blount Parrish & Co., participated in Jefferson County financial transactions and received millions of dollars in fees.

On Dec. 11, 2003, during a trip to New York related to a Jefferson County financial transaction, Buckelew found shoes and a purse she admired at Salvatore Ferragamo, an upscale boutique located on Fifth Avenue in New York City. Blount bought these items (totaling approximately $1,500) for Buckelew and had them mailed to her office at the Jefferson County Courthouse. Similarly, on another trip to New York City in November 2004, in relation to a county financial transaction, Blount bought about $1,119 worth of items for Buckelew from the Salvatore Ferragamo store and had them mailed to her office at the Jefferson County Courthouse. On that same trip, Blount paid about $1,400 for a spa treatment for Buckelew. On Aug. 11, 2008, Buckelew testified before a special federal grand jury. When questioned specifically about items purchased for her by Blount, Buckelew attempted to obstruct, influence, and impede the grand jury’s investigation of the bond transactions by denying that Blount bought items or services for her. Buckelew later admitted that Blount did buy her items from Salvatore Ferragamo and a spa treatment, and that her grand jury testimony was untruthful.

“Politicians should hear the message loud and clear. There is no acceptable level of corruption and there is no place for corruption in our political system,” said FBI SAC Maley.

This case was investigated by Special Agents of the FBI and IRS.Assistant United States Attorney George Martin prosecuted the case.

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